City-based Trivi Art Concerns’ muppet show, staged during the Onam week celebrations at Kanakakunnu, has won many fans

Kanakakkunnu Palace was packed with Onam festivities last week. And the crowds who thronged the sprawling campus had a surprise in store – a muppet show staged during the course of the week-long celebrations. Organised and staged by city-based Trivi Art Concerns, a group of theatre artistes, stage technicians and art enthusiasts, it narrated the all-time favourite fairytale ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in Malayalam, titled ‘Chuvanna Kuppaayamitta Penkutty’.

It was more of an experiment on the part of Trivi Art Concerns’, which was registered just a year ago. A reason why the members were surprised by the tremendous response. “We didn’t go for much publicity since we weren’t sure how things would turn out. But, from just one show every evening, we had to make it three during the last couple of days of the celebrations,” says Bandu Prasad, one among the brains behind Trivi Art Concerns.

The group – Bilas Nair, Manu V.R., Jayesh L.R. and Baiju S. – made the muppets (muppets are a group of puppet characters made by American puppeteer Jim Henson) with the limited resources they had (such as plastic balls for eyes) and learnt the manipulations (movement) by trial and error. Bandu came up with the script based around five characters – the narrator, the girl, her mother, the wolf and the woodcutter. They acted out the tale with a voiceover in the backdrop, supported by suitable background score and sound effects. They also made shadow puppets to depict the forest, butterflies, flowers, dragonfly, the wolf and the girl.

The idea was born out of Trivi Art Concerns’ primary aim – popularising theatre among the younger generation, especially children. “We are a group of art enthusiasts, who’ve been working with different theatre organisations in different capacities. We wanted to take art to the masses, primarily children who aren’t exposed to theatre like we were during our childhood. And we are not talking about big productions. Instead, we are taking compact and portable theatre pieces, which are meant to make theatre a habit for the present generation,” says Bandu.

Before Trivi Art Concerns was officially registered, the members had been holding workshops at various institutions, an example being the one at the Juvenile Home in the capital city. “It was an eye-opener for us. At the end of the workshop, they came up with a production, in which 30 out of the 60 children present participated. Actor Murali, who was then the chairman of the Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi was so impressed by their performance that he promised he would arrange for their performances across the State. Unfortunately, he passed away soon after that,” says Bilas, who has been associated with leading theatre groups. After its official take off, Trivi Art Concerns held workshops for hearing and/or speech-impaired children at Teachers’ Training Institute in the city.

Trivi Art Concerns had another objective as well – to revive the significance that Manaveeyam Veedhi once had in the theatre culture of the capital city. “This stretch of road used to host a lot of street theatre. But it rarely happens now and instead you have folk songs or magic shows. So, we felt that we’ve a responsibility to regain the lost glory of that stretch,” say Bilas and Bandu. So, in July this year, they staged a puppet show, based on two stories from The Panchathanthra. “We made the figures using waste material. The response was mixed since it was an amateurish affair. And when we decided to give a try at the Onam celebrations, we chanced upon Jim Henson’s muppets, studied about the making, design and watched videos,” says Bilas. Felt cloth, sponge and cardboard have gone into their make. “Instead of two hands, we went with one. Also, we’ve given an Indian touch to the girl and the mother,” he adds.

Now that the 15-minute show has exceeded their expectations, Trivi plans to take it to schools. Meanwhile, the members, who are closely associated with leading art and cultural events, are extending support to theatre and performing arts in their tours and publicity as well.