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Catching 'em young

SRAVANTHI K.SRAVANTHI K

Yakshadegula is working with young people to nurture and propagate Yakshagana even as it strives to give a contemporary touch to the art form



Our unique art form.

IN AN unassuming house in Tyagarajanagar, adults and children are taught to recreate the splendour of Yakshagana, one of the many traditional art forms Karnataka is home to. The trainers are part of Yakshadegula, the only full-fledged Yakshagana group in Bangalore. Traditionally, Yakshagana combines dance and dialogue to tell stories from our mythology. But what marks Yakshadegula apart from other troupes is that it uses Yakshagana to convey messages on contemporary issues. During a recent performance for the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, the child artistes appeared on stage carrying messages that read: "Makkalanu Kolluva Yudha Beda" (Stop the War that Kills Children).

Started in 1980 by Mohan, Yakshadegula aims at keeping alive the traditional art form of Yakshagana, which has to compete with the better-publicised forms of dance and drama. All the artistes working with Yakshadegula are, as Mohan puts it, those infatuated with the art form.

"I have toured so many places because of Yakshagana. Otherwise, all I could have seen is my village and perhaps Bangalore," says Kota Krishnamurthy Thunga, who has travelled to the U.S. and England for Yakshagana performances. He has been a part of the group since 1987. Yakshagana is close to his heart as he grew up in Udupi, where he was constantly exposed to the form.

Yakshadegula is registered with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and is invited to perform during its programs. The troupe, which misses no opportunity to perform for the public, organises theme-based events like Raga Prabeda-Tala Malike held in November. The event focused on the influence of Carnatic and Hindustani music on Yakshagana ragas.

The troupe is willing to experiment and its artistes have been a part of various fusion programmes held her and abroad. One of the many events it has participated in was the Mahabharata Utsav held in Kurukshetra. However, it has not been a cakewalk. Funds are scarce, despite its association with the I&B Ministry. The Ministry pays them Rs. 3,000 per performance, which has to cover salaries and sundry costs incurred during performances.

However, Krishnamurthy, Regional Deputy Director for Information, says: "We compensate for the low fees by giving the groups more performances." Delhi is considering revising the allowances, he adds.

Mohan grumbles that even when they are part of a fusion show, they are paid around Rs. 3,000 for three artistes when contemporary dance troupes are paid much higher. Moreover, the time allotted to Yakshagana artistes during such shows is just a couple of minutes.



Mohan is anxious about the future of Yakshagana.

Yakshadegula has been around for 23 years. But not many are aware of its existence. "The English press does not cover us except when an event is happening," Mohan says, adding that not a single English magazine has covered the troupe.

He finds it ironical that while schools and colleges are keen to expose their students to Yakshagana, they have very little idea of whom to approach. Yakshadegula, he points out, has been training students for the past six or seven years and has worked with Kumaran's School, Bangalore International School, and Auden School. It also trains students who approach it their individual capacities.

Children are taught the basic talas for dance and singing if they have the aptitude and the voice. Being keen learners, children find the colourful art form attractive. However, it can't be said for sure if they children would want to continue to be associated with Yakshagana once they start pursuing serious careers. Nine-year-old Arpitha, who has been learning Yakshagana for two years, says she would like to continue with it even after she grows up. Twelve-year-old Preethi, a veteran of five years, says: "I should be a part of Yakshagana always because my father is a part of it; besides, I am really interested in it."

Mohan however, is sceptical about this youthful enthusiasm: "If you take up a profession, it has to be remunerative but Yakshagana is not so."

Yakshadegula can be contacted at 143/73, 6th Cross, Third Block, Thyagarajanagar, Bangalore 560 028 or on 9844008651 or 26769925)

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