In the shadow of Covid, a puppeteer tells a safety message | Chennai News


Chennai: You might be familiar with the funny issues of popular TV animation characters Motu and Patlu, but here’s a chance to see the duo play a serious role. Laxmana Rao, a fifth generation puppeteer, presents Motu and Patlu through his shadow puppets to raise awareness of the safety measures people need to follow to control the spread of Covid-19.
Motu and Patlu are the main characters in the 10-minute play Rao directed. “I haven’t had a program for the last three months because of the lockdown. But I want to use shadow theater to raise awareness about the pandemic. A small gesture from me to help people,” said the journalist based in Theni. folk artist, who won the Kalaimamani Prize in 2019.
Thol Pavai Koothu (leather puppet show) is an ancient form of theater dating back to the year 1000, once popular in southern India. Handmade puppet shadow images are created on a screen. The person who moves the puppets imitates the dialogues followed by percussion instruments. Traditionally, storytelling in shadow theater involves mythological characters, but over the years contemporary issues have become part of its narrative. Rao, once used this dying art form to raise awareness for coastal conservation, vulture protection and other environmental issues.
In Rao’s current creation, the story begins with Motu and Patlu being arrested by the police for not wearing protective masks and are therefore asked to return the bike. In the second scene, Yama (god of death) asks one of his servants why the death rate on earth is high. Motu and Patlu land before Yama, and Yama advises them to use sanitizer and a mask. “I try to provide a basic message to follow to prevent the spread of Covid-19. I chose Motu and Patlu because they are popular with children and adults,” he said.
Rao’s grandfathers once led shadow puppet shows across Tamil Nadu, but his popularity gradually faded after the advent of television and other modes of entertainment. this art form to convey messages that are relevant today,” said Rao, who is facing financial hardship as performances have come to a halt due to the lockdown. “There are more than 20 members in my family. We are going through a difficult time because of the lockdown. We hope things will get better,” he said.


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