“This award is not for me but for the art of Yakshagana and hundreds of artistes who have spent their lives performing it,” said veteran Yakshagana artiste Chittani Ramachandra Hegde, the first practitioner of the form to receive the prestigious Padma Shri.

He was speaking at a felicitation organised by the Karnataka Yakshagana and Bayalata Academy here on Saturday. “Yakshagana was always rich and had the most devoted of artistes. But it was not recognised because it was confined within the regional boundary between Kasaragod and Karwar. Now it knows no bounds,” he said.

The widening appeal of Yakshagana, however, has not been without its flipside. “In this fast-paced world, people want what was earlier done in a day in a single hour. An artiste has no choice but adjust to the times,” he said.

Describing Yakshagana as a “collective form” that comes alive with everybody from the Veshadhari (artiste) and Bhagavata (background singer) to the chande (percussion) player, he said it had kept him engaged for 61 years. “But I don't know how much longer,” added the 77-year-old wistfully.

Mantapa Prabhakara Upadhya, Yakshagana artiste, described Chittani as a man who had taught him humility and the need to respect even the person who bought the cheapest ticket for a show. “He once told me that one should put on banna (make-up) as if it was one's last performance. That is the highest philosophy I have learnt from Chittani,” said Upadhya.

Keywords: Padma Shri

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