Downtown

Bringing stories and strings together in a beautiful union

Seetha Lakshmi and her troupe will be visiting South Africa and Germany soon. Photo: Jennifer Sharmila   | Photo Credit: Jennifer_Sharmila



At a time when puppetry is losing its patronage, the art gets a new sheen in the hands of puppeteer S. Seetha Lakshmi. Hailing from a family of puppeteers from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, she learnt the art from her maternal uncle M.V. Ramanmurthy, her mentor and guide.

She came to Chennai at the age of nine in 1954 along with her troupe for a show at Island Grounds. On that day, it so happened that Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy — wellknown as Mrs YGP — and renowned Sanskrit scholar of those days V. Raghavan were among the audience.

“They were impressed with our performance and wanted us to organise many such shows in the city and they also did the needful. Mrs. YGP arranged for shows in various institutions.”

Again lady luck smiled on her when acclaimed leather technologist Nayudamma was among the audience at a show at Museum Theatre in Egmore. He offered Seetha Lakshmi and Ramanamurthy jobs at Central Leather Research Institute. “He wanted people to understand the cultural associations of leather through puppetry. From then on, our career changed. We got invitations from various nations to conduct shows there. Also, to conduct training workshops and deliver lectures in puppetry,” says Seetha Lakshmi who has visited France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, UK, USA, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland.

“Whenever we go abroad, people will be shocked to see the huge trunks that we carry for our puppets. Our puppets are life-size ones and we have nearly 1,500 puppets for Ramayana alone. A single character may require a number of puppets. For instance, there are 200 puppets for Hanuman. Hanuman crossing the ocean; carrying mountain; setting fire to Lanka and so on,” she explains.

Seetha Lakshmi recalls a resounding applause her troupe received in Austria for staging a performance which generally requires nearly 20 artistes and they did it with just three. It included her uncle, herself and her sister.

“In the late 1990s, CLRI researchers came up with a solution for the safe disposal of chrome which is a by-product of tanning. They manufactured chrome leather and our troupe made use of this leather, which is of inferior quality, to make lampshades, wall-hangings and chandeliers,” she adds.

Today, Seetha Lakshmi’s entire family — her son, daughter, daughter-in-law and grand children — is involved in puppetry. She has been a recipient of the Kala Saraswathi Award from the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Kalaimamani Award from the Tamil Nadu Government. She has also received citations of international repute.

At present, she heads The Indian Puppeteers, an association of professional puppet troupes, which provides training in the making of puppets.

Now, her troupe is getting ready for a show in South Africa in July and in Germany in August. They will be performing Ramayana, Mahabaratha, and Ayyappa Charitham.

Those keen on learning puppetry may call her at 97909 73414 / 98400 74589.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 11:30:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/bringing-stories-and-strings-together-in-a-beautiful-union/article7386714.ece

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