KARWAR: Renowned Yakshagana exponent Chittani Ramachandra Hegde, 77, has been nominated for the prestigious Padmashri award this year for his outstanding contribution to promote Yakshagana. This marks an unprecedented first, as this is the first time that a Yakshagana artiste is being conferred with the award.
Hegde, popularly known as Chittani, told Express: “I consider it a honour for Yakshagana, and also attribute it to the lovers and admirers of this form of art, who have shown me love and encouraged me all these years.”
Hailing from Chittani village in Honnavar taluk, Hegde developed taste for Yakshagana in his childhood. He was inspired by famous Yakshagana artistes of the time, including Kondadakuli Ramachandra Hegde and Laxmana Hegde.
After his second standard, he left school to pursue his career in Yakshagana. “I joined Balegadde Ramakrishna Mela (troupe)when I was thirteen years old. My first break as the lead was in the play Kalidasa Charitre.” He has never looked back since. He had been a part of many Yakshagana troupes, including Kondadakuli Mela, Muroor Devaru Hegde Mela, Amriteshwari Mela and Perdur Mela to name a few. Hegde had also launched a Yakshagana troupe, Bachchagar Panchalingeshwara Mela, in 1998.
Over the years, he developed his own style of the dance form, named as Chittani Kunita, that drew many a young artiste.
Hegde is the only Yakshagana artiste with associations named after him, Chittani Abhimanigala Balaga (Association of Chittani Admirers), across the state.
CM Lauds Padma Awardees
Bangalore: Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda lauded Dr Devi Shetty who has been conferred with the Padma Bhushan and Ramachandra Subraya Hegde, Nagarathnamma R, Dr Yagnaswami Sundara Rajan and Dr Ullas Karanth who have been selected for the Padmashree by the Centre. All these eminent personalities have contributed immensely in their chosen fields and done the state proud.”
Let these honours inspire them to scale new heights, the CM said in his congratulatory message.
‘Super Star’ of Yakshagana
It is not without any reason that Chittani Ramachandra Hegde is described as the superstar of Yakshagana.
Puttige Mutt Swamiji had described his as a beacon of inspiration and guidance for upcoming artistes.
Hegde has received many a rich accolade and award during his illustrious 64-year career. The recipient of the prestigious Janapadasri award instituted by the state government, Hegde was also honoured with Dr Shivaram Karanth Hutturu Prashasthi. A Kannada scholar Vasudha Hegde has authored a PhD thesis on Hegde titled Rangasthala.
After this Yakshagana exponent performed in USA in 2004, the art form became popular there and also in Canada. Many amateur Yakshagana troupes, including Yakshagana Kala Vrinda and Yaksha Ranga in California and Yaksha Mitra in Canada, are now performing on a regular basis.
Hegde still acts and dances; the vigour may have lessened, but not his skills.