KOCHI: After two decades entertaining thousands in the US, World Bank employee and ventriloquist Satyan Achath found himself in a fix whilst performing in Kerala. The audience just wouldn’t believe in his art. The fact that he was lending voice to his puppets seemed unbelievable to them.
“They thought it was pre-recorded. So unfamiliar were they about the stagecraft of ventriloquism that my job was not just to entertain but teach them about this as well,” says Satyan Achath aka Sati Achath who has relocated to Thrissur from Washington. But, this doesn’t douse the excitement among the crowd when Satyan introduces Kishore, his first puppet. Kishore winks rolls his eye as he introduces himself, leaving the audience in splits.
After amusing the crowd with his antics, he makes way for Shilpa Kulkarni, the self-proclaimed Bollywood singer. Soon, it’s the turn of Charlie D’Souza. For the next one hour, Satyan’s act keeps them hooked, as the hall explodes in laughter. “I have done quite a lot of shows in the US and people there are familiar with this puppet art. They know the ventriloquist throws his voice to make it seem like it’s coming from the puppet or doll he is holding. But, here people are unfamiliar with the thing. So, I take it upon me to teach them about the craft,” says Satyan.The IRS official will be in Kochi on Friday at 6:30 pm at the TDM Hall.Satyan learnt to be a ventriloquist 22 years ago when he was in the US.
“I was so enamoured by this that my wife and I took lessons. Soon, I started doing shows while working with the World Bank. An article appeared about me in the ‘Washington Post’ at that time. Then came the invite for the David Letterman show and I was the first Indian to appear on the show. I was also the semi-finalist of ‘America’s Got Talent’,” says Satyan.Today, his shows are a mix of ventriloquism, shadow puppetry and magic.
The many characters
Right now, Satyan has 10 puppets. “But, I keep creating more. It is an art that evolves. I have a tight script for every performance, though sometimes I resort to ad-lib wherein I ask the audience to take part in the show. I do that more these days in Kerala because I want people to know that it isn’t pre-recorded,” says Satyan.Satyan has also proven his expertise in the art of shadow puppetry. In fact, this earned him more fame in the US talk shows.
“But, I enjoy ventriloquism more because shadow puppetry has its limitations as there isn’t much you can do with 10 fingers,” says Satyan who creates more than 100 incredible shadow images. He may be a bit of superstar in the US, but Satyan says the relative obscurity in India doesn’t hassle him. “I still get introduced as the man who appeared on ‘David Letterman’ in the US. People still talk about the show that was aired a decade ago. Then for fame at home, I had done a few TV shows here as well,” says the artist.
For this talented man who lives in Thrissur, ventriloquism keeps him going. “My job can get really boring at times. So, this one keeps me going. I am still busy with shows and work,” says Satyan.