He quit his job as a lecturer and walks out of the comfort zone, just to keep alive the legacy of his ancestral profession which dated back to nearly 2000 years, that is 'Tholpavakoothu' (art of making leather puppets), a traditional dying artform in Kerala.
Vipin Viswanath is the youngster who has dedicated his life to protect this ancient art. He claims, its only his family today in Kerala who still practiced the legacy of performing 'shadow puppet' and making puppets.
'Three decades ago nearly 25 families were engaged in making leather puppets in Kerala. But at present its only our family continuing the legacy. Money doesn’t matter for me, I want this art to be introduced for next generation and have a sense of satisfaction in this work,' he said.
Viswanath who has completed MA in English, is now pursuing master's in Social Work. He says, studying helps him to enhance the knowledge, which helps him to take the art form for foreign countries.
They have already given more than 5000 performances not just in India but also abroad including countries like China and Thailand. In the coming days they will be touring France and America.
He makes puppets using hides of goat and ox which are then painted using natural dies. 'Watching the shadow play with these intricately designed puppets is an exquisite visual treat for the eyes. Shadows float across the screen illustrating a tale in all its grandeur and majesty. We are hosting shadow puppet shows matching the traditional theater to modern times,' he adds.
The new generation have further improvised the story lines of the shadow plays by including not just stories from the myhtological Puranas but also stories of modern day which have social relevance, for example stories of freedom fighters.
'Tholpavakoothu is now performed in an abridged form, where instead of playing the whole epic as was done in the olden days, it is reduced to a short episode, showcasing the main events, to be completed within a span of short time, but without losting its ancient charm. Keeping in stride with the modern times, the short version was introduced his by grand father late KL Krishnakutty Pulavar, who received the National Award twice in his lifetime', said Vishwanath proudly.
Vishwanath has exhibited his works in Mysuru, as part of ‘Rainbow’ a national tribal and folk painting demonstration workshop' , organised by Indira Gandhi Rastriya Manava Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) located at Wellington House, Irwin road.