The charm of Chikkamela

The charm of Chikkamela
The beginning of the monsoon season is the end of a performance season for the State’s Yakshagana troupes. Generally, these troupes tour for six months every year till the start of the monsoon season. Both tent troupes (commercial) and temple troupes (sponsored ones) follow this practice. In the rainy season, the artistes either engage in some other work or participate in off season performances like talamaddale, which is a variant of Yakshagana without costume, dance and other stage conventions. Another lesser-known form of Yakshagana is Chikkamela (mini troupe) and is performed in the rainy season.

Here, the artistes form small groups among themselves and perform at houses in the coastal and Malnad regions. People from the neighbourhood gather for the performance and, after the show, people pay a small royalty to the artistes. While it is a livelihood for the artistes, for the villagers it is a means of entertainment. It is not an easy task for the artistes to visit four to five houses daily during rains, and they also have to engage spacious auto rickshaw for a door to door visit and keep the Yakshagana dress intact for four to five hours!

Two to three artistes along with the bhagavatha (narrator) and maddale artist form a group and select portions of a prasanga (storyline). Normally, these prasangas are based on mythology. Some stories draw inspiration from historical incidents too. The artistes dress meticulously as they do for an Yakshagana show, with colourful dress, makeup, decorative turban, gejje, etc. As soon as the troupe enters the house, the artistes greet the house owner with folded hands and announce the prasanga. The performance spans from 30 minutes to one hour, and the dance, poem and maddale beats would be similar to that of Yakshagana. The Chikkamela performances usually start in the evening hours and continue till 10 in the night.

These days, the artistes print a request letter, and in the morning, give it to some houses. Then the head of the family invites them to perform at his or her house. If the family makes a request for a specific part of the story, the artistes enact the same provided the bhagavatha is well-versed with that part of the prasanga. After the performance, the family honours the members of the troupe.

Chikkamela troupes undertake tours  from July to September. Young and upcoming artistes enthusiastically participate in the Chikkamela to get exposure to the intricacies of Yakshagana performance.

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