At the age of 15, Tulasi Hegde, hailing from Karnataka, has already spent 12 years mesmerizing audiences with her captivating performances in the traditional art form of Yakshagana. Her exceptional talent has earned her a well-deserved spot among the “Unstoppable 21 Indians under 21” recognized by the TOI #Unstoppable21 jury.
The Essence of Yakshagana
Yakshagana, a dance-drama form dating back at least 500 years, finds its exclusive home in coastal Karnataka. It brings to life the timeless tales from Hindu epics. What sets Tulasi apart is that she made her first stage appearance in this demanding art form at the tender age of three, becoming possibly the youngest performer ever.
A Child Prodigy
By the age of four, Tulasi from Uttara Kannada district was already sharing the stage with seasoned Yakshagana artists, portraying complex characters such as Abhimanyu in the epic saga of Krishnarjuna Kaalaga. She fearlessly took on roles like Angada, Lohitashwa, and Vrushasena, leaving audiences in awe.
The Solo Performer
Now, at 15, Tulasi is synonymous with solo performances. She gracefully embodies multifaceted characters from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Gita, captivating spectators in the vibrant world of Badagutittu Yakshagana.
Variations in Styles
Yakshagana performances vary across regions. The southern coastal areas prefer ‘Tenkutittu,’ while the northern regions favor ‘Badagutittu.’ Tulasi’s performances stand out for their excellence and duration, lasting just an hour in contrast to the traditional all-night shows.
The Art of Solo Performance
During a Yakshagana solo performance, a single artist skillfully embodies numerous roles and characters within the narrative. This demanding art form involves intricate costumes, elaborate makeup, and vivid facial expressions to convey the essence of each character.
A Natural Affinity
Tulasi’s parents, journalist Raghavendra Bettakoppa and hobby poet Gayatri played a significant role in nurturing her talent. Gayatri sang Yakshagana songs as lullabies to Tulasi, leaving an indelible mark on her young mind.
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