Leather puppetry in India has its genesis in an ancient folk world. And remains a living, creative medium -- which, though on a declining track, survives even today against many odds, specially against the lethal onslaughts of cinema and television. Karnataka''s art of leather puppetry, in focus here, too shares the fate of other folk arts; notwithstanding the worldwide attention it is believed to have seized in the past.
Developed from over three decades of the author''s persevered research into this fast-disappearing art, involving his extensive travels and interviews with performers, artisans and art enthusiasts, the book focuses on leather puppetry in Karnataka, south India -- which now finds its variants styles not only in its neighbouring states, like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but even in far off Asian countries, like Java, Bali, Indonesia, and China. The author examines, in detail, all relevant aspects of leather puppetry in the region, underscoring how Karnataka developed an idiom, all of its own and closely allied to the shadow-theatre.
Leather Puppetry in Karnataka unveils new vistas of art appreciation, addressing a range of questions like, for instance: What was the nature of interaction between ''folk'' and ''traditional'' art forms? Why did the leather-puppet shows depend almost exclusively on the great epics (the Ramayana and the Mahabharata), ignoring altogether folktales or folklore? Or, does life, as represented in art, consist of events, ideas, or ideals? Thus, in a larger effort, Nanjunda Rao''s book marks a take-off point for inquiries into the nature and function of art in human society, and not merely restrict itself to Karnataka''s once widely popular leather puppetry.
Beautifully illustrated from cover to cover, the book, observes Professor Ramachandra Rao (of the University of Mysore), fills a niche that would otherwise have remained a glaring void.
Professor Nanjunda Rao, an artist and author of wide repute, is the founder of the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath; a premier art institution of the Karnataka State, and has been the first Principal of the Parishath''s Art College, affiliated to the University of Bangalore.