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Entertains with fluid ease

RUPA SRIKANTH

Yakshagana is one of the rare art forms that is both aesthetic and entertaining.



RIVETING: Shambu Hegde in `Subhadra Kalyanam.'

One wonders if these wonderful artistes from coastal Karnataka realise what an achievement it is to keep an urban audience engaged for almost three hours. Which is what the Yakshagana troupe from Shri Idagunji Mahaganapati Yakshagana Mandali, Keremane, did so nonchalantly with its production "Subhadra Kalyanam." Led by Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Keremane Shambhu Hegde and his son Keremane Shivananda Hegde, the all-male repertory was established in 1934 by Shambu Hegde's father, Keremane Shivarama Hegde.

Yakshagana is an ancient dance drama tradition enacting episodes from puranic tales through dialogue, music and dance.

A Yakshagana troupe travels across villages staging all-night performances in paddy fields or in temples. Shambhu Hegde introduced the concept of truncated versions to make them more acceptable outside their natural habitat. The presentation is necessarily very detailed. Each character has an entry with an introductory passage to establish its significance. In "Subhadra Kalyanam," the entries or `odolaga' were restricted to the main characters to save time.

Some stories have a humorous ingredient thrown into them to balance the heavier characterisations. While the `kodangi' or jester comes in a cameo, adding some slapstick humour, there is also an element of irreverence between mythological heroes such as Balarama and Krishna that adds to the entertainment value.

Male chauvinistic remarks too seem run-of-the-mill. But what is most interesting is the fact that some of these repartees are off the cuff — totally unrehearsed banter.

Shambu Hegde's act as Balarama was a scene-stealing performance, his sensitivity slotting him in the `brilliant' category.

Shivananda as Krishna was charmingly mischievous. The other superb actors were Sripal Hegde, Thimmappa Hegde, Thammanna Gauvankar, Sadashiva Bhat, Ganesh, Nagappa Gauda, Narendra and Thimmanna Marathi.

The untiring musicians were Nebburu Narayana Bhagavatha, Anantha Hegde, Prabhakar Bhandari, maddale, Gajanana Hegde, chande and Eshwara Bhat, harmonium.

There are few art forms and fewer artists who can marry aesthetics with entertainment so well.

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