The Last Day of the Magic Slum - India, 2012
In the maze formed by the stinking and unhealthy alleys of Kathputli slum, the strange, the unconventional or event the magic can strike at any moment. Nearly half a century ago, the members of the Bhatt family, gypsy puppeteers from Rajasthan, put their tents in the middle of a wasteland in the northern suburb of Delhi.
Following the independence of India and its entry in a new form of modernity, the Maharajas and the rich merchants in rural areas started to lose interest in these nomad artists who for centuries had animated the great events of their family life in their palaces and their rich homes. For the Bhatt family, the new el dorado was the capital city of Delhi. Soon other artists joined them in this no man’s land and Kathputli became the house of bear tamers, dancers, magicians, acrobats, drummers and hundred of families from the lowest castes of India.
Kathputli now has over 15.000 inhabitants living in overcrowded wooden houses or tents and in an unimaginable poverty. Despite the quick grow of Kathputli population, the earth of the slum still belongs to the gypsy artists that came from Rajasthan half a century ago. The term “Kathputli” refers to these puppets they build out of wood and to who they give life with their hands of virtuosos.
In this amazing place where horror and wonder can be seen side by side, the promiscuity between artists has helped to protect and to perpetuate to this day multitude of forms of ancient art that have disappear in India. Since a few years the City of Delhi intends to recover “his land” to build instead of Kathputli slum an ultramodern commercial complex. Since months, the thousand of families living in Kathputli are under a constant threat of an expulsion. The magic slum lives perhaps his last day before a tragic and violent closing scene that will most likely means the death of an invaluable popular artistic tradition…