By Ramya BN
Technological advancement, often blamed to be responsible for the dwindling interest in Yakshagana that can actually make the traditional art form more popular among the youth.
Kateel Sadananda Shetty of Brahmari Yakshanrithya Kalanilaya in Mumbai is the first person to use animation technology to modernize Yakshagana and make it more palatable for the youth. He says that the younger generation has no patience with Yakshagana because they have easy access to better forms of entertainment. Yakshagana was more popular 40- 50 years back because it was the only way for people to learn more about their religious texts, he says.
Revealing more information about his efforts to modernize a traditional form of art, Mr. Shetty says, “Few opine that Yakshagana is losing its value in its birth place, but I deny it. The fact is that Yakshagana has Himmela "background music group" and a mummela "dance and dialog group", which together perform Yakshagana poetry that cannot be understood by ordinary people, so we have found a new way to make the audience understand the episodes.”
Yakshagana, a theatre art form closely associated with classical dance forms, is now getting enriched with animated graphics, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Shetty. Yakshagana is a people’s theatre form, usually staged in paddy fields throughout the night. Each prasanga or episode is based on stories from the epics and the puranas. Yakshagana scenes usually depict devaloka (dwelling of the gods), Indraloka (home of Indra), and many other planes of existence. Mr. Shetty’s animated graphics helps viewers actually experience these planes of existence.
Animation technology is gearing up to transform the traditional art of Yakshagana, and this attempt to modernize the art will draw large crowds to it. Animated graphics will help viewers better appreciate the richness of palaces, beauty of heavens, and other typical Yakshagana scenes. Mr. Shetty has worked on an episode called Bhasmasura Mohini, integrating it with animation technology, for the past two years, and the prasanga is now ready to be placed before the public.
Sadananda Shetty, a teacher and Yakshagana artist based in Mumbai, dreams of popularizing Yakshagana among the youth. He trains school children in Mumbai, and most of those who played roles in this prasanga are his young trainees. While the students have enacted the prasanga, the voices have been provided by senior artistes. Mr. Shetty says, “I have trained around 1000 English medium children in Mumbai and even a few women who have expressed interest in it. Brahmarai Yakshanrithya Kalanilaya has been training Yakshagana artistes from the past 4 years and is fast becoming popular.”
Speaking about Bhasmasura Mohini, he says that he has spent Rs. 3 lakh to create it with animated graphics. Currently, it is available only in Kannada, but Mr. Shetty plans to create versions in Marathi, Hindi and English. He says, “In a city like Mumbai, at least Rs. 35,000 has to be spent on a show, but as much as Rs. 3.6 lakh has to be spent to make it visually effective. Owing to the technological challenge of producing this show, I have incurred a loss of Rs. 60,000.”
Traditionally, the scene of Bhasmasura going up in flames can be depicted only symbolically, but with Mr. Shetty’s animated graphics, Bhasmasura can be actually shown going up in flames and getting reduced to ashes.
Integrating animation technology into the traditional art form of Yakshagana is not without its challenges. For instance, the backdrop and artists’ costumes cannot have the colors blue and green in it because the same colors will be reflected on the artist during the animation process. The traditional glass pieces used in Yakshagana costumes cannot be used because they reflect light and make animation difficult. Mr. Shetty said that he had to re-shoot several scenes of Bhasmasura Mohini because of these challenges.
Animation technology is a boon to Yakshagana, which is currently going through a bad phase. Mr. Shetty feels that animation technology will rejuvenate the art and re-kindle people’s interest in it. He says, “We may face opposition from traditional people for giving a modern touch to the traditional art, as we have broken some traditional aspects, but we are aiming to bring in some visual effects into it with the purpose of globalizing the art.”
Several decades ago, Yakshagana audio cassettes were popular in the remotest corners of coastal Karnataka. Later, these audio cassettes were replaced with video cassettes, and soon Yakshagana fans can enjoy animated Yakshagana prasangas. If Bhasmasura Mohini is well accepted, many others will start using technology in Yakshagana, bringing to life an ancient art that is on the verge of becoming extinct.