After a difficult day, Bommala Narsimhulu and his troupe of artistes reached the house of a dora (landlord) in Jangaon Mandal, Warangal, to perform. The landlord, Satyanarayana, was impressed by their singing and asked, 'What more can you do?' Narsimhulu then showed him their wooden puppets. The puppets weren’t that nice to look at and so the dora offered to get new wooden ones made. That was how the Koya bommalata (cane wooden puppetry) came into being.
In the tiny village of Ammapuram, Jangaon, a group of artists still continue to go on trips to various villages. But most of the time they wait for a government sponsored programme to come their way.
Centuries ago what was once a thriving art form is today limited to two groups travelling in a desperate attempt to keep the art alive and to make a decent attempt at a living. Whereas they used to be in high demand and have programs almost around the year in earlier times, they are now struggling for survival with only a handful of programs in a month.
The bommalollu (puppeteers), however less in number, hold their culture close to heart. 'Our puppets are over a century old. These were passed on to us from my grandfather, Narasimhulu. We have used them for more than a few hundred shows. For every show, we dress the puppets according to the roles and repaint them when they look old. We have never made new puppets. Our puppets will die with us.' In the olden days, puppeteers were part of weddings, celebrations and even deaths. They used to be summoned to perform after a few days after a funeral, usually when a lunch is hosted. In the days before television and cellular phones, the form of entertainment they provided, enacting meaningful stories about Hindu epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and the stories of Prahlada and Ramadasu among others.
This insightful documentary raises awareness about this dying art form and the struggles of the community that is trying to keep the art alive, while still surviving in the modern world.