WATCH: Performances of Bengal Patua, Phad & Tholubommalaata

Part of the Spotlight feature Storytelling in India

The best storytellers live the story. Some eldritch combination of actor, singer, dancer and puppet-master, these super-humans use their whole bodies to inhabit a tale and make you feel it in your bones. Let’s face it, these stories are not new. But when they’re told in their traditional form, they acquire a freshness that makes your breath catch in your throat and your heart beat a bit faster. Quick, let’s find our seats in the audience and watch the masters at work.

For a quick primer on these art forms, click here

Pabuji ni Phad

Find out how these canvases are created and how the stories are staged in this video by Curo Carte, a web boutique for Indian craft products

Watch Phad artist Kalyan Joshi narrate the story of Pabuji in meticulous detail in this video by Sahapedia


A tholubommalaata performance is a lively, raucous affair. Catch glimpses of the action through this short film by Wilderness Films India


Each tholubommalaata performer operates as many as 8 puppets over the course of a staging. Follow Kande Ramadasu and his troupe in this film shot by Neela Bhasker in Dharmavaram, Andhra Pradesh


Bengal Patua

Joydeb and Moyna Chitrakar tell the story of the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 in this short film for Tara Books

Women chitrakars from a village in Bengal are using the Patua to tell more contemporary stories today. Visit their world in the preview of the documentary film, Singing Pictures — Women Painters of Naya