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Durable Link to this BlogThursday, March 01, 2012

Amma Goes to a Yakshagana

Yakshagana a dance-drama-musical cultural variety is extremely popular in South Kanara, Udupi and North Kanara districts of Karnataka state. Based on tenets of Bharata's treatise in Sanskrit, Natyashastra (century B.C.) Yakshagana has entertained millions, over the last seven centuries, bringing to life, source of characters of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. Interspersed with wit, humor and local events, especially satirizing of politicians and contemporary faux pas, it could be highly entertaining if handled by master artists.

I had the privilege of witnessing a performance at Honnavar itself. It was a charity show organized to help an ailing Yakshagana artist who had regaled the countless audience in his hey-day. Several guest-artists old and young united to stage "Brahmakapala" a popular episode. Donations were accepted and tickets were sold at moderate rate.

I had witnessed the show of Brahmakapala more than sixty years ago! It was a performance by Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Kripa Poshita Yakshagana Mandali a renowned troupe. I was a school girl and unable to appreciate many of the nuances of oblique socio-political situations brought in by the artists.

Here was a chance to test my "maturity" and degree of appreciation of the same theme staged by different seasoned artists. It was a treat. The benefit show was to help Ramakrishna Bhat Hulimane who is disabled. Well-known artistes, young and old put up a combined show and I got glimpses of many whom I never met.

Yakshagana art is going strong and is thriving. The immense mass appeal perhaps is the driving force for the young generation to take up this quite difficult art. Synchronization of dance, drama and dialogue, and ever alert Bhagavatas (narrator, singer and interpreter who is master of the entire show) insinuations, requires great presence of mind besides inborn talent on the part of the performers. Some young men like Subrshmanya and Prabhakar, have the guidance of their illustrious father Chittani Ramchandra Hegde, which they have fully utilized. The great master Chittani, also appeared for a short while in the beginning to the cheers of the audience as god Shiva. Now in his seventies, the vigour of his steps, suppleness of limbs and tenor of his clear voice has not lessened.

The Bhagavatas Keshav Hegde Kolagi and Sarveshwar Hegde Mururu were wonderful. Their voice range, breath control and modification befitting the characters, cannot be explained in words; they should only be seen, heard and experienced!

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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