Senior Yakshagana Artiste and a familiar name in the Kateel Mela Gerukatte Gangayya Shetty was given the Yakshamangala Award on Saturday. The award instituted by the Mangalore University’s Yakshagana Adhyayana Kendra is being given to Yakshagana performers for the last three years.

58-year-old Mr. Shetty’s tryst with Yakshagana began at the age of the 16 after finishing his 8 standard. He has been with the old Kateel Mela for over 40 years. Mr. Shetty has been popular with “Bannada Vesha” (playing roles of demons) namely Mahishasura in Yakshagana Devi Mahatme and Rudra Bheema in Yakshagana Dushyasana Vadhe. The award presented on Saturday portrayed the role “Mahishasura” that Mr. Shetty has been popular for.

Receiving the award, Mr. Shetty said people talking about bringing changes in Yakshagana should also think about artistes. “Not much is said about condition we live in. We have to laugh on stage even on days when our close relative dies,” he said while recalling days when letters informing about death were reaching four days after the demise. “Now conditions are fairly better for artistes,” he said asked University’s Yakshagana Adhyayana Kendra to do a complete study of Yakshagana including life of artistes.

Earlier Yakshagana artiste Dinesh Shetty shared his experience of acting alongside Gangayya Shetty for the last nine years. Gangayya Shetty, Mr. Dinesh Shetty said, has been a versatile artiste who has excelled not only in “Bannanda Vesha” but also in other roles including comedy characters. “He has brought life to Bannada Vesha similar to the artiste of yester year Katteppa (also with Kateel Mela),” Mr. Dinesh Shetty said.

Yakshagana critic A. Eshwaraiah expressed his anguish over the lack of involvement of artistes in the characters they are presenting. “If you are involved in the character, the audience to will get involved,’ he said recalling the acting of yesteryear artiste Bolur Narayanashetty of the role Hiranyaksha. “But how many Yakshagana melas look at these aspects … there are lot many unnecessary aspects creeping into presentations that is detrimental to his classical art form,” he said.

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