Satyam Singh, a young actor from Delhi, finds it fascinating that a male artist can perform a female role in Yakshagana, without letting the facade slip.
“In other forms the audience can easily identify a man in a female role. But it’s hard in Yakshagana, as the make-up, costume, body language, and changing the voice from masculine to feminine is unique,” he said.
Mr. Singh is among a group of 20 young people, including three girls, from North India who underwent a one-month free training at a workshop on the basics of Yakshagana at Shrimaya Yakshagana Kalakendra, the Yakshagana training centre of Sri Idagunji Mahaganapathi Yakshagana Mandali of Keremane, at Gunavanthe village, last month. The mandali, a repertory established in 1934 by the late Keremane Shivarama Hegde, is inching towards 90 years of its existence.
Others in the group of 20 included youth engaged in theatre activities from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. The trainees also learnt about Yakshagana music with dance movements.
“I was very confused in the initial three days of training as I had only heard about Yakshagana through social media. One of my friends suggested I approach the kalakendra to learn the traditional art form. As the training progressed I started picking up some of the basics,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu, adding that the expression and body control mattered most in the performance. “I want to get trained in depth in Yakshagana and it will take a long time. Later I want to spread this art form in North India,” he said.
Alok Mishra from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, said he found artists wearing their elaborate make-up and costume on their own very unique.
Muskan Gupta from Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, said this was her first ever trip to southern India and she wanted to practically experience Yakshagana rather than merely studying the theory.
Ayesha Yadav from Varanasi said that facial expressions and dance movements of Yakshagana could be adapted in theatre performances anywhere.
Keremane Shivananda Hegde, the grandson of the late Shivarama Hegde and an accomplished Yakshagana artist who is now leading the repertory, said that enthusiasts from outside Karnataka had been coming to the kalakendra to learn Yakshagana for the past three decades since 1992. But they were in small number like three or four persons. Of them, a handful stayed for three months. It was for the first time that such a large number of youths turned up last month. Their daily training was rigorous and went on from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
“We aim to develop this into a sustainable ecosystem connecting the native art, culture and traditional wisdom with the global community,” Mr. Shivananda Hegde said. The mandali, which has been maintaining a fine balance between tradition and innovation, is also known for maintaining purity in tradition and perfection in its performances. The training is free for all since the inception of the mandali. The students are also hosted free for the duration of the training.