Making a difference to yakshagana

A highly gifted artiste who honed his skills under the guidance of Keremane Mahabala Hegde and is a life time member of Saligrama Mela, one of the greatest melas in Yakshagana. In fact, he learnt Yakshagana with Mahabala Hegde in latter’s house. He has been a senior artiste in Saligrama mela for the last 30 years. He has been into yakshagana field for the last 37 years.

He had taken the fragrance of Yakshagana outside the country to Bahrain along with Keremane Shambhu Hegde way back in 1983.

Yaji had also organised Yakshagana sapthaha last year in Hyderabad, which received overwhelming response.

He is known for both excellent skills at dancing and dialogue delivery, is famous for his roles as Bheeshma, Kaurava, Yayathi, Dasharatha, Uttara, Keechaka, Sudhanva, Krishna, Karna, Bheeshma, Arjuna. Every role he played had at least  some contributions from this great artiste, making them unique. He has also played the role of Shithila in ‘Nagasri,’ Echhama Nayaka in ‘Ranganayaki,’ Pulakeshi in ‘Chalukya Chakreshwara,’ Hemagnada in ‘Cheluve Chitravathi.’

Born in Valagalli in Uttara Kannada, Yaji was attracted to Yakshagana when he was in high school after watching the performance of Keremane Mahabala Hegde. He had staged Yakshagana when he was in SSLC.  “I worship yakshagana. For me yakshagana is part of my livelihood,” he says.

He says: “The problems in the society can be woven within the character to reach out to the audience. I am satisfied with my chosen area of interest.

Yakshagana is one art in which the character speaks. Along with entertainment, it helps in the development of mind. It helps in the growth of the language. With the changing time, just like changes have taken place in other fields, yakshagana is not different. Along with mythological prasanga, it has given rise to new prasanga to gain popularity. Anyway, the story should have a moral to teach the spectators. New time-bound Yakshagana prasangas have been created for catering to the needs of the modern-day audience, thereby attracting new audience.”

To a query on modern prasangas, Yaji said “the prasanga related to mythology has not changed. However, over the years with the entry of new prasangas, we are losing few values.”

Yaji is one of the close disciples of Keremane Mahabala Hegde, who had praised his yakshagana performance and has equalled it to his performance. 

One-month yakshagana

Yaji along with his friends have been organising one-month yakahsgana related to mythological prasanga for the last few years in the month of October. He says: “I have been into Yakshagana for the last three decades. It has given me source of livelihood. I wanted to give something back to the art which had given me livelihood. With the advent of new prasangas, staging of old mythological prasangas have become less. So we 14 artistes under the aegis of Yaji Mithra Mandali decided to stage yakshagana based on mythology across the state for one month. This year, it is being held from September 29 to October 30.” Some of the prasangas to be staged are Harishchandra, Bheeshma Vijaya, Krishna Arjuna prasanga, Bheeshma Prathijne, Brahma Kapala. “At the end of the one month thirugata, we organise a programme wherein a senior Yakshagana artiste who has not received any recognition and is in distress, will be felicitated.

This year, a chende artist Sathyanarayana Bhandary Karki (81) who has served yakshagana for the last 65 years will be felicitated on November 11, at Kumta Havyaka Sabhe. In the past, Kunjal Ramakrishna, Honnappa Gokarna have been felicitated.”

The one-month yakshagana will be staged at Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Puttur, Bangalore and Mysore.

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