Moozhikkal Pankajakshi who won the honorable Padma Shri award for this year is the only practitioner of a unique form of puppetry called Nokkuvidya Paavakkali which is centuries-old traditional puppetry form of Kerala. She will balance the puppets on the upper lip and manage its movements by controlling the strings.
Moozhikkal can even narrate the entire Ramayana and Mahabharata epics using the puppetry. Moozhikkal Pankajakshi who hails from Kerala has performed internationally. Moozhikkal’s parents used to perform the art at temples and houses. Moozhikkal Pankajakshi who got amazed by the art started showing interest in learning the puppetry at the age of 12. Though her parents never tried to force her into the art form, Moozhikkal herself has got that interest in it. Moozhikkal claims that it was more widely practiced in those days. She used to try balancing baby coconuts on her upper lips for several hours each day just as a part of her training. Even after marriage, Moozhikkal Pankajakshi’s husband and children helped her with her practice. “I am proud that neither marriage nor children put a break on my career,” says Moozhikkal.
After performing the art for several years, Moozhikkal Pankajakshi stopped performing her craft six years ago after losing her front teeth. Despite having her passion intact, she has been recovering from a massive stroke and she couldn’t balance the puppet anymore which made her stop practicing the craft.