Tradition Dance

Veteran presents vintage Yakshagana

Shridhar Hegde Keremane

Shridhar Hegde Keremane  

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Yakshagana expert Shridhar Hegde Keremane narrated the tale in Chennai recently

A fourth generation Yakshagana artiste, Shridhar Hegde Keremane presented ‘Maaravatara,’ the last piece choreographed by his grandfather, Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Keremane Shambhu Hegde, at the charming Kamakshi Mehfil recently in Chennai. The torchbearer of a celebrated tradition and a Kathak dancer, Shridhar Hegde hails from Sri Idagunji Managanapati Yakshagana Mandali, a troupe set up in 1934 in the coastal village of Keremane in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district.

An enraptured audience watched as the artiste stood behind a curtain rich with the hues of forest green and red, the introductory salutation playing from the speaker. The bells on his feet chimed to the quick and sharp movements as he danced to the beat of dhi...tha...kitataka...dhinna. Adorned with gold ornaments and a large crown shaped like a petal, Maara pranced out, eyes shining with the excitement of a storyteller.

Siva’s tapas

The opening of Maaravatara, the story of Maara (Cupid, often referred to as Manmatha or Kamadeva) finds the Universe in a state of vacuum — devoid of motility, emotion and colour. He sets off on a journey to discover the reason and soon learns that it is Lord Siva in deep tapasya causing this. Maara uses his floral arrow (pushpabana) on Siva. Disturbed, the Lord opens his third eye and Maara is burnt in the flame, but the Universe gets back its colour.

A familiar trope but the artiste deployed expressive dialogue interspersed with dance to propel the narrative. Maara’s description of Siva’s appearance, when he first finds him, is worthy of special mention. Seated in padmasana upon a tiger’s skin, Siva invokes the image of a flower (arali, oleander) seated beneath the tree. Adorned with an eye of fire and the wielder of the Trisula, his form is bedecked by snakes. Maara finally describes Neelkantha (blue-throated one) as Chinmayamurthi.

Yakshagana, generally performed over the night, is accompanied by a bhagavatha (singer) and two percussionists on the maddale and chande. This performance, however, lasted for an hour, to suit modern audiences.

A moment before the bitter-sweet conclusion, Maara paused to reflect on the deed before him. “I give myself up to this yuddha (war) to douse the raudhra (anger) of Siva and live through the karuna (compassion) that will strike in his heart,” he said.

After the performance, Shridhar Keremene sat down to speak to the audience, explaining his journey. “The dialogue and dance sequences performed in Yakshagana are impromptu,” he explained. Asked how Kathak aided him in his endeavour, Shridhar said, “It’s like learning a new language, a new body language in this case. It’s only when you learn something new that you understand your own language better.”

The art form evolved through storytelling, incorporating several performance elements to arrive at the modern-day version. It is also one of the few art forms that embodies Natya Sastra’s framework for theatrical performances, an eclectic mix of music, dance and theatre.

On the whole, the elaborate costume, make-up and movements offer the onlooker a captivating experience, but not without a personal takeaway.

Asked about how Kathak aided him in his endeavour, Shridhar said, “It’s like learning a new language, a new body language in this case. It’s only when you learn something new that you understand your own language better.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:03:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/veteran-presents-vintage-yakshagana/article29842186.ece

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