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It's Yakshagana season

Sharath M. Sharma
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Artistes from coastal areas come to the city during monsoon

A SPECTACLE: Yakshagana has found a fairly large audience in Bangalore too. — FILE PHOTO: R. ESWARRAJ
A SPECTACLE: Yakshagana has found a fairly large audience in Bangalore too. — FILE PHOTO: R. ESWARRAJ

When the heavens open up during the monsoon months in coastal and Malnad regions of the State, Yakshagana troupes find their income drying up. The artistes of this vibrant form, performed mostly in makeshift tents pitched on open grounds, are forced to take a break they can ill afford.

The artistes have, however, now found a new means of employment during this lean season. They pack their bags and makeup kits and travel to Bangalore to perform. Thanks to large-scale migration from coastal and Malnad regions to Bangalore, Yakshagana has found a fairly large audience here and this being the rainy season, the shows are performed in enclosed auditoria.

Mumbai sets trend

This trend began in Mumbai where lakhs from coastal districts have long been settled. Now Bangalore too finds itself in the itinerary of several Yakshagana troupes. Saligrama Mela, Peraduru Mela and Mandarthi Mela are among the well-known troupes which perform regularly in Bangalore. Interestingly, of the two schools of Yakshagana, there is a preference for the Badaga Thittu, rather than the Thenku Thittu.

The troupes earn about Rs. 35,000 a show in Bangalore on weekdays and an additional Rs. 5,000 on weekends. Organisers collect donations from patrons besides charging Rs. 75 to Rs. 500 a ticket.

Old traditions

A.N. Hegde Kadthoka, advocate and an organiser of the Yakshagana shows in Bangalore, feels that the ancient form might die a slow death if it does not find support.

“It requires financial support and also public appeal to survive in this competitive world,” he feels.

Though performances in cities give some financial relief, many are not very hopeful for its future. Argodu Govindaraya Shany, who has worked as the singer-narrator (or bhagavatha) for many troupes, puts it succinctly when he says: “Yakshagana is a very rich art form, but artistes have always been poor.”

Sad future

Shrikanth R. Kashi, another artiste, says the next generation may not get a chance to watch this art form in all its glory. “In fact, I won't allow my child to enter the Yakshagana field, I have suffered enough,” he says.

K.M. Shekhar, secretary of Rangasthala Yakshamitra Kuta, says his team is trying to get the public to watch Yakshagana, particularly in cities like Bangalore, by tweaking the traditional format to suit present times. “We're performing abridged two-and-a-half hour shows as opposed to the traditional all-night shows,” he says.

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