Loss of a limb could not dilute a teenager’s love of the ancient art of Yakshagana and thanks to a steely will, 17-year-old Manoj Kumar has performed on several occasions with growing confidence.
Manoj Kumar of Venoor lost his left leg when he was in Class 6, forcing him to discontinue studies for two years. But after being fitted with a prosthetic limb, thanks to efforts of the Lions Club of Naravi, he soon returned to school.
Inspiring role model
“When in hospital I learnt about the life of dancer-cum-actor Sudha Chandran. Her life was a morale booster to me. I determined that I should become like her,” he said.
When he joined Class 8 in the Government Pre-University College in Venoor, Headmaster Venkatesh M. Thulapule was teaching Yakshagana to students and Manoj joined the classes.
“He was the first to come forward to learn the art form that year,” Mr. Thulapule told The Hindu.
“Bairagi was the first role I performed in Girija Kalyana prasanga (episode) in the school,” Manoj said. Outside of school, Manoj studied with Ramesh Shetty, an amateur artiste of Havyasi Balaga of Venoor. He also started exploring opportunities as an amateur artiste with professional Yakshagana troupes with performances of several hours that lasted through the night.
Observing his interest and performance, some of the melas (touring troupes) gave him a chance.
Since then he has been performing with Yakshagana troupes of Kateel, Sunkadakatte, Bappanadu and Mangaladevi.
“He has been performing some supporting roles without any lacuna,” Mr. Thulapule said. Manoj, who is now in Class 10, wants to earn a diploma in electrical servicing. “I want to remain as an amateur artiste and become an electrician,” he said.
Mr. Thulapule said since the teenager has good voice, he could emerge as a good bhagavatha (singer-cum-director). “I have also suggested that he focus on learning the himmela (background music such as singing, playing chande and maddale) of Yakshagana,” the teacher said.