Senior Yakshagana artiste Kumble Sundar Rao passed away in Mangaluru on Wednesday. He was 88 and is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.
Rao was the first professional Yakshagana artist who got elected to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from the erstwhile Surathkal Assembly constituency in Dakshina Kannada from the BJP in 1994. He represented the Surathkal Assembly constituency in the 10th Karnataka Legislative Assembly till 1999.
He was the first chairman of the then Karnataka Yakshagana and Bayalata Academy. As the chairman of the academy, he instituted Parthi Subba Award, which carried a purse of ₹1 lakh, to be conferred to a senior Yakshagana artist by the academy annually in memory of Parthi Subba who is said to the father of Yakshagana.
A former MLA, Rao as the chairman of the academy had published the biodata of Yakshagana artists in two volumes. It was the first such attempt to record the resume of Yakshagana artists of both Tenku Thittu and Badagu Thittu schools of Yakshagana.
A versatile orator, Rao was also a well-known Talamaddale artiste. He lived at Pumpwell in Mangaluru.
P. Dayananda Pai and P. Satish Pai Yakshagana Adhyayana Kendra, Mangalore University, had conferred on him Yakshamangala Award for 2018-19. Besides, he had received a number of other awards.
He performed for a long time by being in Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Yakshagana Mandali, Dharmasthala. Earlier, he had also performed in Surathkal and Ira Yakshagana melas.
Rao was the contemporary of another doyen of Yakshagana late Sheni Gopalakrishna Bhat.
Sources said his last rites will be performed on Thursday in Mangaluru.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai condoled the passing away of Mr. Rao. He stated: “Sundar Rao had served in Surathkal and Dharmasthala melas, and was a household name for his sterling performance and involvement in the art. His services as the chairman of Yakshagana Academy and legislator are noteworthy.”
In his condolence message, D. Veerendra Heggade, the patron of Dharmasthala Yakshagana mela, said that fans of Yakshagana cannot forget the roles played by Rao. He was a prominent artist of Dharmasthala mela. Rao infused liveliness to the roles and he had a great oratory skill. Yakshagana has lost a great artist.
Nalin Kumar Kateel, Member of Parliament, Dakshina Kannada, said that Rao had performed Yakshagana for about five decades. As a MLA and a former MLA, he had added strength for the growth of BJP in the coastal belt.