Massimo Schuster’s puppets retell the Mahabharata in contemporary light

Like many visitors to India, puppeteer and storyteller Massimo Schuster professes his love for the country. ‘‘I’ve been visiting India for the past 15 years, but I don’t love India blindly,’’ he says.

Schuster is the president of UNIMA, an international body of puppeteers, and is in the city to perform his puppet show Mahabharata, at National School of Drama’s Abhimanch Auditorium, today. As he instructs the light men at NSD, lights bathe the decidedly Western looking, child-sized puppets fashioned by the noted Italian artist Enrico Baj. "The idea was to make the puppets partially Indian and partially Western. While there is no attempt to copy Indian art, the costumes use Indian shawls," says Schuster. He performs alone, relating the stories, as light and sound create an effect on the stationary puppets

Mahabharata has completed 100 shows and toured Africa, the US, and most of Europe. But does his largely Western audience relate to these quintessential Indian stories? "True, Mahabharata is the spirit of India, but for the Westerner, it gives a peek into what other cultures have developed as their value system," he says, emphasising on the need of such stories in an increasingly "Americanised" world.

"We need epics today. We live in a world driven by money. Epics speak about the human spirit, about values and culture," he says.