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Karna comes to life in Yakshagana



A scene from `Karnavasana'

A RECENT Yakshagana performance staged at the Ravindra Kalakshetra in Bangalore was unique in its use of the Kannada language. Kundapura Kannada, arguably the most rapid dialect of the language, was in full flow as the Samastharu theatre group added flesh, blood, voice and action to the play, `Karnavasana.'

The play depicted the last stage of Karna's life. "In this prasanga, dialogue plays an important role as do song and dance. The heated exchange of words between Karna and Shalya, and between Karna and Arjuna are important to the flow of the story," says Yakshagana critic S. Subramanya.

A secret revealed

Played by Madhukar Shetty, Karna as a war hero is devastated when he is told about the secret of his birth. Karna's plight evokes the audience's sympathy. While Shrinivas Sasthana donned the mantle of Shalya, Kunjalu Ganesh Nayak was the Brahmin. Sudarshana Aithal played Krishna, and the role of Arjun was handled by Suresh Hegde. The background voice of the Kouravas cautioned Karna at every stage. "It was an example of director Nairy's (Gopalakrishna Nairy) excellence," feels Mr. Subramanya.

Many successes

Mr. Nairy has brought to the stage several projects on an experimental basis and recorded success in a good number of plays. Characteristically, he directed the play `Karnabhara' in eight different ways.

Lighting was by Mahanthesh and narration by Gundmi Raghuram. Deevadiga handled the `chande' and Ramesh Bhandari took over the `maddale.'

For the uninitiated, Yakshagana is a form of folk art from the coastal area of Karnataka. With the use of rich colours and extravagant costumes, a Yakshagana character stands out.

Yakshagana is a challenge to the artiste. Because, in this art form, there are no readymade dialogues. Till he enters the bannada chouki (makeup room), no definite character is assigned to him. It is, therefore, necessary for him to be thorough with the stories and episodes of the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and the Bhagavad Gita.

He should also be able to rise to the occasion and deliver impromptu dialogue.

By Rasheed Kappan

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