Storming the male bastion

Storming the male bastion

Yaksha Manjusha proprietor Vidya Kolyur in a Yakshagana performance.

However, with the changing time and the changed society, there emerged a few women Yakshagana artistes, who broke the tradition and paved way for the women to learn Yakshagana which eventually led to the staging of women Yakshagana performances.

A quick look at the past

The credit goes to Akkani Amma from Udupi, who not only learnt and taught Yakshagana to women, but also bravely established the first ever women Yakshagana troupe- Mahila Yakshagana Kalamitra Mandali, way back in 1979. The pioneer of women Yakshagana, Akkani Amma who is credited as the Mother of Women Yakshagana Movement, spread the fragrance of Yakshagana in the State capital.

If Akkani Amma initiated the Women Yakshagana Movement, the women members of Syndicate Bank Recreation Club, Manipal, were slowly moving their feet to the tune of orchestra with drums and gongs and thereby making effort to boost women Yakshagana in the region. The women troupe which was established in Maniapl in the year 1981, became popular within no time. The troupe does not exist any more, but it successfully opened the doors of Yakshagana for women in the coastal districts. And it was just the beginning.

Undivided Dakshina Kannada district has witnessed the birth and closure of several women Yakshagana troupes, Yakshagana performers in the last three decades.

Current scenario

Though there is no accurate information available on the number of women Yakshagana troupes existing in DK and Udupi, few of the active women troupes exist at present include Yaksha Siri Kalavedike, Khandige Mari of Sullia, Mahaganapati Mahila Yakshagana Mandali in Katipalla, Sri Siddhivinayaka Mahila Yakshagana Mandali, Surathkal, Kadri Manjula, Bhagavati Mahila Vedike to name a few.

Speaking to City Herald, well known Yakshagana critic Dr M Prabhakar Joshi says, women Yakshagana artistes and troupes are into Yakshagana mostly because either they are passionate about the art form or they consider it as a recreational activity. Women have limited Yakshagana performances as leisure activity rather than taking it as a serious profession. It took almost 400 years for the women to gain freedom to learn Yakshagana and it would take another few decades for them to consider it as a profession. Or there are also possibilities of women not considering Yakshagana as a profession at all, since we all know Yakshagana is not that attractive profession as far as financial aspects are concerned, he puts forth.

Professional speaks

Ask the same question to the only female Yakshagana artiste of the region to take the art form as a fulltime profession, Vidya Kolyur (proprietor of Yaksha Manjusha troupe), believes women can involve in Yakshagana provided they get enough family support.

“Most often, the women fearing for their family or the society let their dreams die in their womb. My advice to all the women who are interested to learn Yakshagana and wish to take it as profession is, don’t pay heed to what the society says. If you really love the art form then just move on,” she suggests. For the women who are unwilling to dance and lead the stage, she recommends to take up ‘Bhagavatike’ as a profession.

Sarojini K S, the leading artiste in the all women Yakshagana troupe Yaksha Siri Kalavedike of Khandige Mari, Sullia, says that a sea change has occurred in the women Yakshagana troupes these days. “We get invite from so many organisations who wish to stage women Yakshagna performances.

In the last two years, we have been staging at least two performances per month. Having performed in Delhi and Bangalore, I feel that people like our performances as it is quite a bit of change from the regular men Yakshagana performances,” she says. In Yaksha Siri comprising of 15 female artistes, both Himmela and Mummela are performed exclusively by women.

If the young women are active in theatrical Yakshagana performances, the middle aged and elderly women too are not lagging behind in exhibiting their talent. Kadri Manjula, a ‘Yakshagana Thalamaddale’ women troupe based in Mangalore has been staging Thalamaddale shows in and around the city since two years. The team crew who are mostly the professionals in various fields, reserve time to practice and perform on the weekends. One of the troupe members Suchetha Joshi says, the troupe stages performances after analysing the convenience of all the team members. “Unlike men, we can not perform when ever we desire to, succumbing to several obligations. Amidst all that we find some time to spend on Yakshagana performances,” she informs.

While analysing the current trend, it is evident that a good number of women are enthusiast in learning Yakshagana, but a very few of them take it as a profession due to the inconveniences that accompany the staging of this art form. However, amidst all the odds, the mentor in Yakshagna Kendra of Udupi, Sanjeeva Suvarna urges women to involve in Yakshagana, for he strongly believes, “it is only women who can protect this art form, unlike men artistes who are spoiling the art with every passing day.”

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