‘Women important for the evolution of the art form’

The participation of women in the male-dominated Yakshagana is not only possible but also important for the evolution of the folk dance-theatre form, said eminent Yakshagana personalities during a discussion here on Sunday.

Talking at the one-day discussion on “women in Yakshagana” organised by the Kalagangotri Yakshagana Kendra at Someshwar-Uchila, Amruth Someshwar, writer and president of the kendra, said Yakshagana could provide women an outlet for their angst, ambitions, desires and hopes.

Dismissing the conventional wisdom that Yakshagana can only be performed by men, Mr. Someshwar said: “Violations of the rules of art forms are important as these violations can create masterpieces that decide the course of the art.” He ridiculed the thought that Yakshagana should refrain from attempting social change.

Mr. Someshwar, who has written Yakshagana plays, said it was a wrong notion that the art form had not experimented with women-oriented roles. “Many olden Yakshagana plays were female-centric, with major women roles. Perhaps, the influence of puranic traditions changed this, making it male dominated… bringing into the folk form many traditions that have seen women being kept away from religious places or not being allowed to learn the Gayathri mantra,” he said.

However, he cautioned that the entry of women into Yakshagana should not be viewed at first as the women’s attempts at “empowerment or liberation”, instead viewed as their love for the art form.

As a woman Yakshagana singer, Leelavati Baipadithaya is a rarity in the field.

Admitting the difficulties in women taking up the art form, she said: “The support of men is needed for women to come up initially. Society will still not allow women to participate, and it is a few men who can bring change in the mindset of other men.”

Participation of women was still in a nascent stage, she said, with only one team currently performing across the district. It dismayed her that this team could not get as much support as a similar men’s team would. “Women’s Yakshagana should have a greater responsibility. Merely being a drama is not enough, it has also have a message, and bring about upliftment of women,” she said.

Kumble Sundar Rao, Yakshagana artiste and former MLA, said that though it was true that Yakshagana was very “masculine” in nature, with women characters few and far between, this should not be a deterrent for the entry of women. “Can’t women also portray these characters,” he asked.

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