Kruti R

Arts Research

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

This grant will support Kruti to examine the differences between performances of Prasangas in Yakshangana by placing ‘duration’ at the centre of her investigation, in order to understand the impact that has on audiences and practitioners. The researcher will study how the variations in duration affects pedagogy, the training of Bhagavatas and actors, conceptual frameworks and aesthetics of the form as it is performed and viewed.

One of the crucial issues pertaining to the Yakshagana in the recent times, that rarely finds a voice in critical discussions, is the transformations that take place when a performance that is meant for the duration of a full night is reduced to two to three hours in the evening. Even though this trend of both shortening the duration and changing the time of the day for the performance has had significant impact upon the prasanga nade in the last few decades, it has been sidelined in critical discussions and ignored in discussions on aesthetics. By ignoring these two concepts of ‘time’ in the debates around the transformations of the Yakshagana art form, the discourse becomes oblivious to much that is central to the experience of the performances. The audiences approach an all-night performance in myriad ways - as a festive social occasion, a break from daily routine and a ritual occasion. The lack of sleep and the disruption of social life also contribute to the experience of Yakshagana heightening and altering the artistic experience through transforming the somatic states. These effects thus remain unexplored in the current discourses.

By focussing on Kaalamithi performances that are of shorter duration and the whole night Bayalaata, temple and tent mela performances, Kruti will explore the differences between the two, along with the choices of songs by the Bhagavata for his presentation and the reasons for choosing them. She will study the changes in the style of singing, improvisation and the dance formations that result from time limitations and investigate effects of time restrictions on the decisions that the Bhagavata takes on themes he will emphasise on. Focussing on the aesthetics of the Yakshagana, she will look at how boundaries between ritual, art, entertainment and social occasion differ in the different performance contexts, and how significant is the experience of these elements for the performer and the spectator. She will also explore the differences in aesthetics in both sets of performances, and in the ways that inclusion and exclusion take place. The role played by the other, seemingly separate social elements that surround the melas, in contributing to the overall experience of the audience and the artistes, will also be studied.

Looking at pedagogic shifts that have taken place due to the dominance of the shorter Kaalamithi pradarshana, Kruti will explore how the training for Bhagavatas and actors/dancers changed over time and the ways in which this impacts the artists’ performance. She will also study the impact of changes in patronage on the choice of all-night or Kaalamithi performances. She will focus on how factors such as class, education and economic positions impact the two kinds of performances.  

Kruti will observe four common prasangas performed in Kaalamithi, Bayalaata, and in tent melas. She will also conduct in-depth interviews with Yakshagana artistes especially Bhagavatas. In order to draw comparisons and analyse them in detail to uncover answers to the questions outlined above, Kruti will record the performances along with the interviews with the main performers and observations from back stage. She will speak to some audience members and make observations on the audience behavior as well.