TN artists takes to puppetry to spread awareness, squash fake news on COVID-19

Chennai-based 'Bommalattam' artist Mu Kalaivanan has chosen this folk art to spread awareness among the public
Image used for representational purpose only (Pic: Google Images)
Image used for representational purpose only (Pic: Google Images)

Calling out fake news in these desperate times of COVID-19 scare and spreading awareness on the disease have assumed significance more than ever and a veteran puppet artist in Tamil Nadu has chosen the ancient folk art form to do just that.

The three-minute skit debunks false claims such as development of medicine for curing coronavirus and stresses on the importance of staying at home during the ongoing lockdown to check the spread of the deadly infection through the captivating performance using the little puppets.

The man behind the timely and educative play, 62-year old Mu Kalaivanan, a city-based 'Bommalattam' (puppet) artist, says people do accept the message if it is shown in a quality and an imaginative way.

"It took a whole day for me to develop the setting and the entire voice over, including that of the house wife character, has been given by me," Kalaivanan told PTI. He took up the project on a request from a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) which wanted to create awareness on the coronavirus pandemic across ages.

The skit, whose plot revolves around a family of four, parents and two children and set in the present scenario of national lockdown, has been videographed and uploaded on social media platforms to ensure it reaches maximum audience.

Kalaivanan hails from a family of artists and his father Muthu Koothan was a lyricist and had penned many songs for matine idol-turned politician M G Ramachandran's films.

Having performed over 6,700 puppet shows since 1976 when he took it up as a career, the man now teaches the nuances of the art form to those interested, besides conducting similar awareness events.

"As soon as I got the message from the NGO CAG, I started to work upon the script and developed it as a skit," he said.

His sons Mutharasan and Pagalavan, both graduates, helped him in developing the concept and then set up the studio, scored the background music and edited the video. "I have been doing puppet shows since 1976 along with my father and since then whenever voice of woman is required I used to do it and later further developed that skill. I can speak in voices of children as well as elders," Kalaivanan said.

Asked about patronage to the folk art, which used to be part of temple festivals in rural areas, with the advent of digital media, he said he had been laying thrust on quality and had been successful.

"In our shows, I have ensured we neither use indecent dialogues nor attack any individual nor inclined toward any political party. It is through this medium I have been successful," he said.

In the skit, the lead character, the family head, explains to his wife, son and daughter-in-law, that spread of coronavirus was very fast and only because of that the government has announced the lockdown and tells them not to venture out for sundry things. He also says no medicine has been found so far for curing coronavirus and ask them not to believe in viral messages to the contrary.

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