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Chikamatsu Monzaemon, considered by many to be Japan's greatest playwright, gave up writing Kabuki plays and focused exclusively on the puppet-only Bunraku plays.
Initially consisting of one puppeteer, by 1730 three puppeteers were used to operate each puppet in full view of the audience.
The language used in Tholpavakoothu performances is a dialect of Tamil along with Sanskrit and Malayalam words.
Performances are traditionally accompanied by musical instruments from Kerala such as the chenda, madhalam or ezhupara (a cylindrical drum made out of jackfruit wood and covered with calf-skin on both ends), ilathalam (cymbals), shankha (conch), chengila (gong), kurumkuzhal (a double reed wind instrument) and cherukuzhal.
Puppetry is a form of theatre or performance that involves the manipulation of puppets – inanimate objects, often resembling some type of human or animal figure, that are animated or manipulated by a human called a puppeteer. The puppeteer uses movements of her hands, arms, or control devices such as rods or strings to move the body, head, limbs, and in some cases the mouth and eyes of the puppet.
The puppeteer often speaks in the voice of the character of the puppet, and then synchronizes the movements of the puppet's mouth with this spoken part.
About 160 puppets are used for the complete version of the Kamba Ramayana, representing 71 characters in four main categories (sitting, standing, walking, fighting), as well as puppets to depict nature, battle scenes and ceremonial parades.The actions, gestures and spoken parts acted out by the puppets are typically used in storytelling.There are many different varieties of puppets, and they are made of a wide range of materials, depending on their form and intended use.Tholpavakoothu puppet plays are based on selected verses from the Tamil epic Kamba Ramayana.
As a ritualistic art form, Tholpavakoothu is performed at more than 100 temples in the Palakkad, Trichur and Mallapuram districts of Kerala from January through May on specially constructed stages called koothumadams.Japan has many forms of puppetry, including the bunraku.