KEREMANE GAJANANA HEGDE
“He waved his mace with velour as bhima, and became a fountain of shringara rasa as Mohini; he flourished as chandrahasa,Abhimanyu; He touched the hearts as chandramti,syrendhri and danced in the minds of spectators like a golden deer…” this is a quote from words of famous poet and literary person-Gaurish Kaykini about Keremane Gajanana Hegde.
Gajanana Hegde did not start as an artiste. He obtained S.SL.C. Certificate and passed the Drawing Exams of those days. His qualification made him a teacher in local high school. Shivarama Hegdewho had seen the difficulties and the challenges of the theatre,did not wanted his siblings totake Yakshagana as their main profession.But soon artiste inside him woke up.He learnt basics of the art from his father shivarama hegde and big brother mahabala hegde.He quickly catched the delicacies of the theatre and soon became a successful artiste.
As an Artiste
Though he became famous for female roles, he started with male character as every Yakshagana artiste would do. That was a time when there was scarcity of artistes enacting the female roles in the theatre. In those days (even today in professional troupes) all the roles were played by men only as it was usually troupe of men travelling and performing. It was 2-3 decades after the independence equality of gender was yet to be established fully in the society.Similarly the dominance of male characters of the story could be observed in a performance. But it was Keremane Gajanana Hegde who brought female characters to the frontiers of the theatre. His words, movements and expressions were so vivid that it made the portrayal of different female characters from the epics, a serious topic of the art form. He became famous for Ambe(bhisma vijaya),Subhadra,Bhasavati,Kykeyi,chitrangade,Syrendri...etc. The female character centered Prasangas(‘Acts’) like that of DakshaYajna,Bhasavati,Damaynti Swayamvara…etc were revived and became popular in Yakshagana across the Styles,Places…etc. Keremane Gajanana Hegde had a monopoly for One and a half decade of his artistic journey in his field of expertise. He did not had the physical personality of a contemporary woman but he knew the language of the theatre! The combination of Gajanana,Shambhu and Mahabala on the stage transported the minds which witnessed them to some other world crossing the boundaries of time.He was also famous for his Male roles.Bhima of Gadayuddha,Abhimanyu,Chandrahasa to mention a few.
His untimely death at the age of 33, in 1977 was a great loss not only to the mandali but also to the art field as a whole. Though he was not with the mandali to receive any honours or felicitations,his contributions will not fade along the passage of time.