Kerala Puppetry Festival 2017

Salini Venugopal | Jul 01, 2017 | Vol 09 | Issue 04
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Report on the second edition of Kerala Puppetry Festival which was held on 29 May 2017 at Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, Thrissur

The second edition of Kerala Puppetry Festival concluded with colorful performances by traditional and contemporary puppet theatres from around Kerala. The festival provided a platform to share the ideas, various techniques and applications in puppetry and there by educate the public on it. Exhibition of puppets, seminars, discussions, documentary screening and performances were conducted as part of the festival. Scholars, academicians and puppeteers from different parts of Kerala took part in the festival.

Kerala Puppetry festival was held on 29 May 2017 at Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, Thrissur. The festival inaugurated by Shri A Radhakrishnan Nair, Secretary of Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, was followed by seminars and paper presentations on various subjects related to puppetry.  A documentary film on Kerala puppet traditions 'Journey with Puppets' directed by Ajithkumar was also screened at the festival. Performances of traditional and contemporary puppet theatres from different parts of Kerala were staged in the afternoon session.

Kerala Educational Puppet Theatre (KEPT), contemporary string puppeteers from Pattambi, initiated by Thadam Parameswaran performed Noolpavakoothu. The performance included a set of plays with themes of social relevance as well as the traditional performing arts of Kerala- Kathakali,  Chenda melam, Oppana etc.  The performances were led by the master puppeteer P T Kunjhiraman from Vatakara.

Nokku Vidya, one among the rarest performances of the festival, was performed by a young girl K S Renjini, granddaughter of the master puppeteer Pankajakshi Amma from Monipalli in Kottayam. They are the only family who still practice the traditional age old puppetry form Nokku Vidya, categorized as rod puppetry.  In Nokkuvidya, the puppeteer balances a rod between her nose and lips and moves the puppets attached to it according to the musical rhythm.

The puppeteers M M Joseph  (Mekkozhur, Pathanamthitta), Subin (Kozhikode) and Vijayakumar (Thiruvananthapuram) presented  their respective contemporary glove puppet plays.

Pavakathakali, the centuries old glove puppet tradition of Kerala, was performed at the festival by Natanakairali, Irinjalakkuda. The puppeteers use miniatures of Kathakali characters recreated on wooden puppets and narrate the stories of Kathakali, the classical dance drama of Kerala. The troupe led by K Srinivasan of Natanakairali includes the traditional artists K.V. Ramakrishnan, K.C. Ramakrishnan and V. Thankappan from Paruthipulli.

Rajiv Pulavar premiered Chandalabhikshuki, their latest production in puppetry, inspired by the poem with the same title by the great Malayalam poet Kumaran Asan. The production used a modern approach to the traditional shadow puppetry, incorporating contemporary techniques and technology that included actors and other puppets.  Rajiv Pulavar, who was recently honoured with Ustad Bismillah Khan Award for Young Talented Artist (2016) by Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, was accompanied by Rahul, Arunkumar, Lakaskman, Manoj, Prabhod and Aswathi.  Rajiv Pulavar and his father Ramachandra Pulavar are the traditional performers of Tholpavakoothu-  shadow puppetry.

Kerala Puppetry Festival was organized by Krishnankutty Pulavar Memorial Tholpavakoothu & Puppet Centre based at Koonathara in Palakkad district.   The centre, established in memory of renowned puppeteer K L Krishnankutty Pulavar, is headed by his son Ramachandra Pulavar. The main objective of the centre is to promote and popularize the art of puppetry to the contemporary world.  The first edition of Kerala Puppetry Festival was held in October 2013 at Thrissur.

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