From the Jacket
Shadow puppetry has for ages been a popular mode of entertainment in rural India. It has taken varied forms in various parts of the country. Among the liveliest of those extant being Tolu Bommalata of Andhra Pradesh, the subject of this illustrated monograph.
This is a brief but comprehensive study of Andhra shadow puppetry-its history, themes, techniques and presentation. The author also tells of its traditional practitioners, relating their history to aspects of their art. He documents the present state of the art, the dangers from without, suggesting ways and means for its preservation and promotion.
Nagabhushana Sarma is Professor & Head, Department of Theatre Arts, Osmania University, Hyderabad.
Tolu Bommalata, the shadow puppet play of Andhra Pradesh, is one of the earliest Telugu folk theatre forms which contained in it the "live" potential of a stage performance and the engaging luminosity of a colour film. Etched in multiple colours, the mythological and imaginary figures at once create a rare combination of nearness and distance through their translucence behind a white screen the product being a series of aesthetically satisfying pictorial designs coming to life through movement, song and word. Many of the fascinating features of these puppet shows-especially the creative exuberance of the manipulator-singer-performers-engrossed me for over twenty years. I accompanied various troupes and introduced them to different audiences all over the country and, in the process, became an involved practitioner of the art myself. I thank the numerous performers who never begrudged me their time, more so their art. My thanks are especially due to the late Anaparti Balaji, a versatile singer-performer-teacher who not only thrilled thousands of audiences all over the country with his agile manipulation of the figures and his musical virtuosity but instilled a confidence in people like me that the puppet plays are as relevant today for entertainment and instruction as they were eight centuries ago.
I humbly dedicate this monograph to those versatile puppeteers-Angaparti Balaji, Thota Nagabhushanam and Anaparti Peda Krishna Murty, all the them deceased now, to those great women singers and performers such as Thota Nagamma, Rangamma, Chittemma and Sindhe Santhamma, and to Kumara Raja Rao and Sindhe Narayanappa-who are equal, in their professional excellence, to any great actor, either of the present day or of the past.
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