This is an art form where puppets are moved with the help of either hand, fingers, string, legs and a story is narrated. The spoken part of the puppet is done by the action and gestures of the puppet controlled by some media. This is a very ancient art form and comes from Ancient Greece, during 5th century BC. There are around 30 types of “Puppetry” which is reported across the world and is a unique form of entertainment.
There is a form of Puppetry which is on the verge of fading away which is String Puppetry also known as “Nokku Vidya Paava Kali”.
District Kottayam in Kerala has a very small village – Monipally that has agriculture based economy. A class eighth student, 16 years old, K.S. Renjini is a resident of this village and is taking forward the legacy of a fading form of puppetry – Nokku Vidya Paava Kali.
In this form the puppets are balanced on sticks, which are held in the groove of the upper lip of the artist. The artist has to sit on the floor, legs stretched out, and keep looking up the balance and at the same the maneuver the moves of the puppet on the music and story from the background.
Renjini learned this art from her grandmother – Moozhikkal Pankajakshi, who herself learned it from her grandparents at the age of 12 years. Moozhikkal, once the lone performer of this art in the world, gradually stopped performing due to her poor health. When she lost her front teeth it was over for her, as she could no longer balance the puppet.
Renjini took it over from there and is practicing under the careful and strict supervision of her grandmother. She remembers how painful it used to be when she started practicing, but for the loving guidance from her grandmother, she kept her enthusiasm. She started balancing baby coconuts, just like her grandmother did.
When her grandfather died, also died the art of making dolls for the performance, and today they are forced to use the ones last made by him. Both of them have not looked back since last four years and they now perform along with her uncle, who sings and her brothers who assist her during the play.
Renjini performs the epic – Ramayana and Mahabharata on the tip of her upper lips with the same ease as by her grandmother. She performs all the magical acts like – balancing a hexagonal star-shaped diya stand and lighting a candle with one hand. All these need a lot of focus, concentration, balance and hours of practice. Moozhikkal is happy that this ancestral ancient art form is been taken up by her granddaughter.
Indeed it’s a matter of proud that today Renjini is the only performer of this art form in the world and we must take inspiration from it. It is the duty of today’s youth to keep this legacy alive and pass on to the next generation. In the fast-paced world of today, Renjini is an example of dutiful, responsible and dedicated youth.
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