Enhancing art of narrating epics

Thalamaddale, one of the forms of Yakshagana is as much popular in the coastal districts as the staging of Yakshagana itself. Over a period, several experiments have been made within the limits of Thalamaddale in order to provide a different dimension to the art form and at the same time to pacify the eager audience.

One such successful effort is taken up by Kuriya Vittal Shastri Yakshagana Prathistana, a Trust based at Ujire in Belthangady taluk. The Prathistana which was established to stage Yakshagana performances and honour the talents in the field of Yakshagana in the year 1998, has come a long way despite existing in the rural area.

Over the years, several experiments were made by the Prathistana and one such experiment that received accolades and is adopted by few others today is Thalamaddale Sapthaha (week-long programme) led by one man. The basic concept of it is to organise Thalamaddale programme for a week, where the main ‘Arthadhari’ will be one person throughout the week.

The idea that generated in the mind of the Prathistana founder and Yakshagana artiste Ashok Bhat from Ujire, was executed in the small town of Ujire five years ago. Speaking to City Herald, Ashok Bhat said that he instituted the Prathistana 13 years ago to quench the thirst of Yakshagana lovers in Ujire.

“The Prathistana was instituted in the fond memory of Kuriya Vittal Shastri, precursor of Yakshagana art form in the district. The Prathistana initially used to stage Yakshagana performances, give Yakshagana demonstrations and honour the artistes of the region every year. Later, we began to stage Thalamaddale performances for a week which too received good response from the public. However, five years ago, there emerged a new concept of organising Thalamaddale programme where the main ‘Arthadhari’ will be one person through out the week. The idea was well accepted and is quite popular now,” says Bhat.

The main ‘Arthadhari’ who is the centre of attraction for a week, would be the distinguished, senior artiste from the field.  If Kolyuru Ramachandra Rao was the chief artiste during the first year, the next year the audience were privileged to witness Dr M Prabhakar Joshi’s performance. The following year it was the turn of another distinguished artiste Moodambail Gopalakrishna Shastry and this year Soorikumeru Govinda Bhat will play the role of various historical personalities.           

According to Ashok Bhat, the basic idea of maintaining one artiste as the main performer throughout the week, is to provide an opportunity for the people to watch the versatility of the top Thalamaddale artistes.

“The personalities like Govinda Bhat and Shastry have the best versatility so much so that they can perform the role of Rama and Ravana with the equal composure. Here the audience will get a chance to watch their favourite artiste playing the role of Satya Harishchandra, Ravana, Draupadi all in a week’s time,” he says.

When asked about the audience response, he said that despite Ujire being a small town, 400-500 audience come to witness the event everyday. Adding to it is the quality of audience which enhances the beauty of the show. Most of the artistes who stage Yakshagana/Thalamaddale performances in Ujire go back with the opinion that “they have performed in front of the best audience,” says Bhat, adding that the reason behind it is that the educated and decent population.

It is not just the senior citizens and middle aged who watch Thalamaddale programme, but also the young generation assemble near the Ujire temple square to witness the event.

Apart from staging Thalamaddale programme, the Prathistana every year felicitates Yakshagana artistes (seven talents) from the taluk who have not come to limelight so far.  This year the programme will be held from September 18 to 24 and it will be led by Soorikumeru Govinda Bhat.

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