Andhra Pradesh

‘Tholu Bommalata’ loses sheen

Pupeteers from Darsi perform in Ongole.—Photo: Kommuri Srinivas  

‘Tholu Bommalata’, the shadow puppet theatre tradition, has lost lustre with only a handful of families fighting against odds to nurture the art-form practised by their ancestors for centuries, in the wake of the western cultural onslaught.

This ancient folk art was very popular in the district for centuries before radio, movies, and television replaced them. Villagers used to enjoy it continuously for days at a stretch as puppeteers narrate stories from the twin-epics of Ramanayana and Mahabharata with animated movement of arms and hands to give a three-dimensional effect.

The temple festival in each and every village will not end without a puppet show bringing to life the mythological characters, recalls Janapada Kala Vedike president U. Devapalana. Puppet show is considered a must by the villagers for their well-being, he adds.

Without adequate patronage to the folk tradition in the era of globalisation, members of GenX are now in a dilemma, whether to perform the dance of leather puppets or quit it altogether, says 45-year-old Rekanar Kotilingam, who has introduced ‘Narakasasura Vadha.’

‘‘We pull the strings to entertain people. But we ourselves have become puppets in our lives,” adds co-artiste Vanparti Venakteswarulu whose son now sells clothes during daytime.

“Our children do odd jobs for a living. However, we teach them the art during night at least for an hour. We want them to continue the great cultural tradition of ours,” adds another co-artiste Vanaparti Chinna Narayayna after giving a scintillating performance, manipulating the puppets to create an illusion of the characters in the epics walk, sway, hop and fly through the air.

Their ancestors used the skins of antelope, spotted deer and goat to make the Vigrahams (puppets). Now-a-days we use mostly goat skin, adds another artiste Rekanar Ramanamma. The proposal to set up an academy to protect the folk art for posterity has not materialised, laments yet another artiste Vanaparti Rama Rao. The government should involve them in popularising welfare schemes and during Brahmotsavams at big temples on a regular basis, they add.



We pull the strings to entertain people. But we ourselves have become puppets in our lives

Vanparti Venakteswarulu

Co-artiste




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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 5:40:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/tholu-bommalata-loses-sheen/article7605301.ece

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