Tholpavakoothu or shadow puppetry is an art form of Kerala. In Malayalam, Thol means leather, pava means puppet and koothu, the play. About 300 puppets are needed for a full performance. The puppets are made from deer hide. The hide is first cleaned and dried. After this an outline is drawn and the puppets are carefully chiselled out. The visual beauty of a performance largely depends on the perfection in shape and expression of a puppet.
The puppets are usually made by the performers themselves. However, this delicate job is done by the most skilled and seasoned among them.