The end of the era of puppet masters

Most performers agree that television played a crucial role in ending people’s fascination with puppet shows. — Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam   | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

Years ago, before the advent of television and satellite channels, puppet shows held a magnetic appeal for children. Puppet show artistes were in great demand in those days as children loved to see puppet figures of their favourite characters from legend and other stories enact their adventures. But, with cartoon channels, gaming and innumerable other entertainment alternatives emerging, several indigenous art forms that entertained people are facing a crisis.

From ventriloquism and shadow puppet play to puppet shows with strings, most of these forms may as well be fairy tales as far as today’s children are concerned.

M. Kalaivanan, founder, Kalai Araperavai Kalaivanan Bommalatta Kalaikuzhu, who has performed more than 6,000 puppet shows, does not foresee a bright future for this art form. The creator of a puppet art form using gloves and voice improvisations, the artiste has been performing shows with social messages for the past 40 years. His programmes, with background music and voiceovers, have been performed in villages, colleges and educational institutions. “The demand has considerably declined,” he rues.

Also facing a crisis are ventriloquists and performers of the shadow puppet form called ‘ Tholpavakoothu’, where the puppets are held up by a thin stick in one hand with the limbs manipulated by a thinner stick held in the puppeteer’s other hand. There are also puppet art forms performed using strings.

Jaiganesh, a ventriloquist with 17 years of experience, also blamed the change in entertainment preferences of people. . “Earlier, I used to perform 10 shows a month, but now, the number of bookings has drastically declined,” he adds.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 8:08:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-end-of-the-era-of-puppet-masters/article6634129.ece

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