FRIDAY REVIEW The Hindu, 12-10-07
Tracing the life of Gandhiji
The Kavalappara troupe of puppetry will stage a show on the life and times of Gandhiji.
In Gandhiji’s footsteps: A puppet made for ‘Gandhikkoothu.’
The shadow puppetry of Kerala, Tholpavakkoothu, is experimenting with non-traditional themes in order to preserve and make the art form relevant.
The Kavalappara troupe of puppeteers under the guidance of K.K. Ramachandran Pulavar is slated to stage their show at Munnar on December 26 with a new theme – the life and times of Gandhiji.
||Christened ‘Gandhikkoothu,’ the one-and-a-half hour performance would herald a new beginning for the folk art that is now being performed mainly in the Koothumadam of Bhagavati temples during Pooram festivals in Palakkad and parts of Thrissur and Malappuram.
Puppet of Gandhiji, made by French puppeteer Ivana
Christened ‘Gandhikkoothu,’ the one-and-a-half hour performance would herald a new beginning for the folk art that is now being performed mainly in the Koothumadam of Bhagavati temples during Pooram festivals in Palakkad and parts of Thrissur and Malappuram.
Although traditional artistes have been staging special programmes of Tholpavakkoothu outside the confines of temples and even abroad for the last few decades, the centuries-old ritual art has not swerved from its traditional theme of narrating stories from the Ramayana.
“Devotees hope to please the Devi by sponsoring puppetry shows that are held on the premises of the temples. We, therefore, are not envisaging radical changes from its ritual moorings even when we adopt new themes,” says Ramachandran Pulavar.
Although the puppeteers of Kerala are patronised by the temples for nearly four months every year, it has not been easy for them to sustain their livelihood by performing shows in the traditional style.
“Puppetry, in myriad forms, is found everywhere in India and in other countries. It is only in Kerala that we attach a ritual significance to it. In the absence of a permanent theatre, the going is tough for us,” explains Ramachandran Pulavar .
The Gandhi being unravelled in ‘Gandhikkoothu,’ which has been scripted by novelist Nandan, is some one who embodies a number of noble ideals. For Ramachandra Pulavar, it is a tribute to his father, Krishnankutty Pulavar, who had ardently desired a change in the traditional character of the folk art by adopting the life of Gandhi. Unfortunately Krishnankutty failed to secure a script for the purpose.
In 1999, the Kendra Sangeet Natak Academy exhorted the puppetry artistes of the country to come forward with novel themes.
At the first-ever national-level competition of puppetry shows at Udaipur in 2000, which was organised by the Sangeet Natak Academy, Pulavar’s troupe staged a 60-minute play titled ‘Panchanana Punerjani’ (‘Resurrection of Lion’). Even though the theme was taken from the ‘Panchatantra,’ the message conveyed was of communal harmony.
The Academy’s initiative in providing a stage for the country’s puppetry artistes has since then been of great help to the art form. Two French puppetry artistes had visited the troupe in mid-2005. One of them, Ivana, made the puppet of Gandhiji that is going to be used in the show.
“We would need about 42 puppets to represent Kasturba Gandhi, Manu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahadev Desai, Sarojini Naidu, Patel, Abul Kalam Azad, Pyarelal, Kelappaji, Nathuram et al. In the traditional format of Tholpavakkoothu, the story of Rama is being told through 182 puppets,” says Ramachandran Pulavar.
The show will begin in the traditional style with Ganesavandanam and Kalarichint. Performed in a flash back mode, ‘Gandhikkoothu’ would feature the important episodes in Gandhiji’s life such as his brush with apartheid in South Africa, relations with his wife, Kasturba, the Dandi March and his death at the hands of Godse.