On the southwestern coast of India, an extraordinary
performing art has evolved over many centuries.
is known as Tolpava Koothu--"the Play of Leather Shadows." Performed
in special outdoor theatres facing temples of the goddess Bhadrakali,
it enacts the story of the Ramayana, the most sacred of Hindu epics.
excerpt from "Borrowed Fire"
Krishnankutty Pulavar was the last of the masters who have devoted their lives
to this art. "Borrowed Fire" is
the story of his lifelong struggle to keep his art alive. It is also
the story of those who undertake the marathon task of performing
the play with him. In the quiet solitude of night, lit only by the flickering
light of oil lamps, shadow figures of gods and demons dance in the hands
of ordinary men. Verses from their ancient text written on
palm leaves echo through the night as the puppeteers perform--for twenty-one
nights, all night, until dawn, to enact their story from beginning
to end. And, most astoundingly, they do this even in the complete absence
of any human audience, for, as they believe, they are performing for
the gods themselves.