Arc lights were dimmed and the curtain was slowly raised. A coarse voice welcomed the audience to the beating of the drums. And on a thin white back ground, silhouettes appeared to the sound of music. My little girl sat by my side clutching my hand, in anticipation of what was going to happen on the stage in front. We were in Thirunelveli District in the southern most part of India, and in a quaint little shack that evening I witnessed one of India’s most amazing puppet show – Thol Bomallattam.
“Thol Bomallatam” is a one of a kind shadow puppet show. Brightly colored puppets are made out of goat skin and are about 5 to 6 feet in height. With colors on both sides they throw colored shadows on the screen. They are animated with the help of rods and perform and dance to the tune of classical music. The theme and story of the show is drawn from the great Epics of the country-Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. All through the show, one does not get to see the artists who manipulate the puppets or even the puppets directly.
The only thing visible is a backlit white cloth screen against which the puppets are placed from behind so that one sees the shadows on the screen.
My little girl sat enthralled through the show. I was glad that at least for a moment I was able to take her away from television and the virtual world, to an art form that seemed so real.
We are in a generation that is surrounded with gadgets. Entertainment is just a touch or click away. And trying to find some place amidst this ever growing world of handheld entertainment, are traditional art forms such as Thol Bomallattam.
Despite having existed for years, these art forms with not many patrons anymore, are slowly seeing their decline. Sad but true.
So have you witnessed any breath taking traditional art form in the recent past? Would love to hear about it.
This is a part of my journey exploring 26 lesser known shades of a country called India, with the #AtoZChallenge 2016!!!