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  • The friendship between František Salaba and Chittaprosad Bhattacharya (1915–1978), that developed in the 1950s, was based on their common enthusiasm for theater and puppet plays.
  • Theatre
  • Khelaghar

  • Puppet Theatre
  • 1957
  • Ruby Terrace, Kurla Road, Andheri, 96 AS Bombay (now Dadabhai Cross Rd Number 3, Navpada, Irla, Vile Parle West, Mumbai)(residence).

  • The friendship between František Salaba and Chittaprosad Bhattacharya (1915–1978), that developed in the 1950s, was based on their common enthusiasm for theater and puppet plays.

    Word Count: 25

  • Between 1954 and 1957, František Salaba worked as an assistant to the trade commissioner of Czechoslovakia in Bombay. Chittaprosad (who went by his first name in his professional life) and Salaba met at a rehearsal of the Little Ballet Troupe in Bombay. The Little Ballet Troupe was founded by Shanti and Gul Bardhan. Chittaprosad had designed costumes for some of their plays. The artist had a passion for puppets and stages. During the time that he worked for the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), which was formed in 1942 as part of the “cultural left”, Chittaprosad designed panels for IPTA’s performances that toured all over India with the aim of reaching the “people”. He also worked with a group of Rajasthani village puppeteers.
    Salaba, while in Bombay, organised an exhibition of Czech toys and puppets of which Chittaprosad famously became very fond. Subsequently, Salaba gifted him some puppets and showed the artist how to animate them. Chittaprosad made the marionettes’ heads from empty coconut shells and Salaba then delivered a whole stage to his home in Bombay Andheri. This is how Chittaprosad founded Khelaghar, the puppet theatre through which he performed for the children of his immediate and impoverished neighborhood. In the life of the artist Chittaprosad, the Khelaghar period was a happy and promising one.
    As a member of the Communist Party in India (CPI), Chittaprosad became quite popular during the Bengal famine of 1943 and 1944 by reporting and illustrating the tragedy for the CPI’s official organ, People’s War and People’s Age. After that, he lived in dire poverty, neglected and almost forgotten by India’s art world. His Czechoslovak connection therefore offered him an opportunity to stay connected internationally and to be acknowledged.
    Although Chittaprosad was invited to travel to Czechoslovakia several times, he never did. While his work was shown at a number of solo exhibitions in Prague, Bratislava, Litomerice, and Brno, the artist’s engagement with this faraway socialist country can at best be called an “imaginative geography” (Wille, 2019). The puppet theatre and his Czech contacts – many of whom visited him regularly in Bombay Andheri – helped him establish a temporary territory where he could perform for those that he thought deserved it most – the slum children of his immediate neighbourhood.

    Word Count: 376

  • Photograph by M. Krása, as inscribed on the back, we see Chittaprosad in the middle and M. F. Husain on the left outside Ruby Terrace animating puppets, Bombay, n.d. (Courtesy of Mrs. Helena Bonušová and the Krása family).
  • Mallik, Sanjoy Kumar. Chittaprosad: A Retrospective 1915–1978, vol. 1 and 2, exh. cat. Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011.

    Sunderason, Sanjukta. Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization (South Asia in Motion). Stanford University Press, 2020.

    Wille, Simone. “A Transnational Socialist Solidarity: Chittaprosad’s Prague Connection.” Modernism in Migration, special issue of Stedelijk Studies, no. 9, Fall 2019, n.p., Accessed 15 March 2021.

    Wille, Simone. “Chittaprosad’s Linocut Prints at the National Gallery Prague: Understanding Indo-Czech cultural Relations in the Postwar Era.” Bulletin of the National Gallery in Prague, vol. 30, 2020, pp. 6–21, Accessed 15 March 2021.

    Word Count: 100

  • Simone Wille
  • Bombay
  • No
  • Simone Wille. "Khelaghar." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 08-09-2021.
  • Růžena Kamath
    TranslatorCultural Manager

    Růžena Kamath – originally from Czechoslovakia – has lived in Bombay since the late 1940s. There, she acted as a link between the artist Chittaprosad and his Prague friends.

    Word Count: 28