Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Puppeteer of Monipally | Untold

Photo Courtesy of Untold
The portal website of Untold is a veritable trove of photo stories of endangered traditions and art forms of India, and one that piqued my interest is The Lone String Puppeteer of Monipally.

Monipally is a small and peaceful village in Kottayam district, Kerala, and according to Wikipedia earns the sobriquet of 'The Spicy Virgin Village', but no further explanation is given.

The photo story of The Lone String Puppeteer of Monipally is of a 15-year-old women named Renjini, who is said to be the only person in the world today that can maneuver the entire epic of Ramayana on the tip of her lips – on a pole of string alone. Renjini and her grandmother are the only practitioners of this delicate ancestral art.

In Kerala, a centuries old legacy comes to life with wooden string puppets that tell the entire Ramayana and Mahabharata. The art form is called Nokku Vidhya Pavakalli,  and is an indigenous puppet theatre form practiced for centuries in Kerala.

The puppets are perched atop a pole that rests vertically on the upper lip of the puppeteer squatting on the floor. The puppets are animated with the help of strings held by the artiste. The act of balancing the puppets and animating them call for extreme concentration and practice, as the puppets are made to move in tune with the tempo of the accompanying music.