Shadow puppets in Thailand

  “Life in a small village as a child was simple,” said the elderly Suchat Sabosin, reclining in a chair at home. His home is 600 kilometers south of Bangkok, in a beautiful town in Nakhon Si Thammarat on the Gulf of Thailand. “When I was 14 years old, I was determined to become a famous shadow puppet artist. I wanted to be a big star!” Suchat, now 73, has undoubtedly realized his dream. He is now recognized as a self-taught master of shadow puppetry, more precisely Nandelon shadow puppet master. There are two kinds of shadow puppets in Thailand: “Nang Yai” and “Nang Delong”. Nan Yai shadow puppetry (nang yai) is a common entertainment method in Ayutthaya (also known as Ayutthaya), and it is mostly performed at night; Nang talung is a kind of shadow puppet that is more common in southern Thailand, and it is mostly performed during the day. Over the years, Suchat has won many awards for his virtuosity and preservation of the art of shadow puppetry. He has traveled to Germany, the Netherlands, India and Japan to perform, and has also performed shadow puppets for the King of Thailand.
  The Nandrom shadow puppet show is based on the Ramajian mythology. “Ramajian” is an ancient Thai literary script, not derived from the classic Hindu epic “Rama Biography”. The most complete version was written by King Rama I of Thailand. Rama II compiled the story into a traditional drama, changed the scene to the scene of the Dayu Kingdom at that time, and changed the character names to Thai style without changing the story. plot. From this point of view, the myth of Ramajian is also the Thai version of Rama. The story recounts the joys and sorrows of Rama, the prince of the king of Ayutthaya, and his wife Siddha: After Prince Rama was persecuted by his stepmother and forced into exile, Siddha was kidnapped by the evil demon king Tosakhan with ten heads and twenty arms, and was imprisoned in Lan. On the island of Kar, the Demon King forced her to marry Rama after divorce. Rama and his brother Pura set out to find it, going through hardships and getting help from the white monkey god Hanuman on the way. Hanuman and his army of monkeys built a bridge to Lanka Island. After a fierce battle, the demon Tosakhan was killed and Siddha was rescued. The whole story preaches responsibility in social relationships. During the Ayutthaya Dynasty in Thailand, shadow play existed for a long time as the main entertainment activity. At that time, the stories of the gods it recounted became a means of conveying the important values ​​of Thailand in a changing world. In addition, the Nandelong shadow puppet is smaller in size than the Nanya shadow puppet, looks very beautiful, and only moves part of the arm, leg or jaw. Shadow puppeteers are usually some trained singers and comedians. They sit and play with the dolls. The puppet is controlled by a single wooden stick, with strings attached to the hands and joints of the shoulders, elbows and wrists. While telling stories, the shadow puppeteer makes rich and vivid body movements, and music such as oboe, drum, gong and castanets accompany the performance of shadow puppetry. While shadow puppetry has been seen as a dying art in Thailand today, Suchat has moved with the times by giving these traditional stories a modern twist, making them humorous, complemented by airplanes, mobile phones, etc. small props.
  Suchat is unique not only in his skilled acting skills, but also in his ability to make well-designed puppets himself. The process of making a traditional Nandrom puppet is fascinating. The puppet is 70 cm long and has movable limbs. The production time varies from two days to a month, depending on the specific details. The material used is generally cowhide, but Suchat has used tiger and bear skins. He made countless leather puppets and hung buffalo skulls all over his home. This eerie sight can also be seen in a beautiful museum not far from his home. This museum was built by him to promote the art of shadow puppetry for tourists.
  ”Once the skin is peeled off the animal, it has to be cleaned, and then soaked in vinegar for three days. The skin is then flattened, spread out, and left to dry outside,” Suchat explained. Which character is it?” The
  characters are divided into the categories of gods, royal family, hermits, devils and harlequins. Intricate patterns are painted on the leather and then engraved. Once the long process of drawing and engraving was completed, it was followed by coloring the skin people and tying bamboo poles to enable the figures to move.
  Suchat realized that the folk art of Nandrom shadow puppets is gradually disappearing in Thailand today, so he took it as his responsibility to continue this disappearing art. He seems to be trying to separate acting from puppets. Suchat said: “The shadow artists behind the scenes are performing ‘performances’, and puppets are works of art. Even if the Nandelon shadow puppet show ceases to exist one day, the only thing that will remain will be the puppets I made. .”
  In order to continue this traditional art, in addition to teaching students the craft of making puppets at local art schools in the south, Suchat also regularly performs in his hometown and other parts of the country.
  ”The monarchs of the past and our present king have been very interested in the Nandelon shadow play, the stories and lessons it tells are very important to our religion, culture and politics, so I am very worried about this art form one day. It may not be popular in Thailand anymore. Whenever I play a Nam Delong, I am proud of the opportunity to tell these stories to the younger generation.”