When tongue takes over the talk

Ventriloquist Janardhan uses his umpteen puppets to make the art exciting for youngsters

By Author  |  Published: 29th Apr 2018  12:35 amUpdated: 28th Apr 2018  5:52 pm
— Photo: Hrudayanand

There was a time when family gatherings, get-togethers used to be incomplete without a mimicry or magic show or a ventriloquism programme made the moments fun-filled and memorable. This was when the elders and young children in the family would gather around and enjoy the event equally, thanks to the jokes cracked by the ventriloquist via his puppets.

But with changing times, the tastes of people have changed too. Cultural progammes are also being replaced by other options. However, thanks to the efforts of a few people in the city who have been conducting workshops on ventriloquism to ensure the art doesn’t die, it still retains some of its charm.

Remember the song Junior Junior… from the film Idi Katha Kaadu? To let Suhasini (played by Jayasudha) know his heart Janardhan (Kamal Haasan), the ventriloquist uses a puppet used in the film. Not only the leading lady but even the audiences are excited about the song and the sequences involving the puppet.

Trying to create a similar exciting environment in real life is the city-based mimicry artist and ventriloquist Janardhan. The ventriloquist, who has trained many present generation radio jockeys (RJs) in developing a good voice culture and presentation, says, “This is a rare and entertaining art form where people need to have the brains to crack jokes on oneself and one’s alter egos. Learning the techniques involved in it is pivotal to learning this art.”

Are you among the lot whose child-like enthusiasm and innocence made you believe that the puppets in the ventriloquist’s hands were communicating with you? Janaradhan explains that ventroloqiusm is nothing but creating an illusion. The first and foremost technique that is taught in the workshop is how to pronounce the letters ‘pa, pha, ba, bha, ma and va’. “We use a substitute letter for each letter that involves joining the lips. The presenter has to first practice how to talk without moving the lips. That’s it! The most important technique is learnt. The rest is all about practice and hand movements,” he shares.

Earlier, buying the puppets was “a big deal” as the ventriloquists had to depend on people who visited other countries to get the dolls. But now, most of the puppets are available online. However, in India only puppets of monkeys are manufactured; if one has to buy human figures, they have to get it from abroad. The price ranges from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh depending on the quality. “I have three human puppets, frog, teddy, cartoon characters, drawing board wherein you draw anything, it will talk,” says Janardhan.

While Fred Russell is known as ‘The Father of Modern Ventriloquism’, the first person to introduce the art to Telugu people was Mimicry Srinivas. That was around 30 years ago and his efforts in keeping up this art and sustaining it till date cannot be forgotten. No wonder, he found a pride of place in the textbooks of class VIII. “He was instrumental in introducing me to this art,” says Janardhan.

Earlier, magicians whose act involved illusions were performing this art. But now, the field opened up a world of opportunities, making it easy for anybody to learn this art. “As people are forgetting this art, we are conducting these workshops in Hyderabad. I am teaching this art to spread clean comedy. I want women to learn this art as well. I have noticed a few people cracking vulgar jokes in the name of ventriloquism, says Janardhan who feels that the vulgarity will come to an end if women come forward to learn this.

“To spread awareness that women can learn this art, we invited renowned woman ventriloquist Indushree to Hyderabad who mesmerised the audience and motivated many. The sincerity of learning the art is more in women than men,” concludes Janardhan.