Bharata, through the words of Brahmā, defines nāṭya thus – trailokyasyāsya sarvasya nāṭyaṃ bhāvānukīrtanam. Nāṭya or theatrical presentation is an artistic activity which captures the exalted imitation of the emotions of the three worlds. Emotions are, after all, the very essence of life.
• Just as a person has a mother tongue that lends itself for his natural expression, a certain pitch is natural for a singer. This sahaja-śruti, i.e., natural pitch is usually comfortable for the singer and he can bring out the best of his creativity and melody. Singing is an art – mere vocal acrobatics including speed, leaps and jumps are unaesthetic. Acrobatics may help an artiste show off his strength but are certainly not artistic.
Yakṣagāna artistes should bring in newer maṭṭus and saṅgatis that can cater to all different emotions; to do so, they must take refuge in the classical rāgas. The maṭṭus of Yakṣagāna are usually designed to begin from the pañcama and go higher. Their movement is largely in the higher octaves. This was necessary in the past because music had to be heard by a large number of people in the audience in the absence of microphones.
The music scene in India has undergone quite some changes since the introduction of microphones and loudspeakers. In the pre-technological era, it was natural for the singer to train himself for singing in different octaves, especially to be audible to everyone. Nevertheless, the kind of emotive content that a singer can deliver when he sings in his natural voice and at an octave that suits him best, cannot be brought about otherwise. Gentle oscillations of the notes, gradual transitions, and subtle embellishments are extremely important for classical music.
Let us examine the qualities that the extempore delivery of dialogues on the stage should ideally possess. Adherence to śruti, though important, is not the only aspect that needs to be cared for. Pronunciation of every syllable should be accurate. Depending on the situation, appropriate words, syllables, and punctuations must be appropriately emphasized. Artistes should modulate their voice as per the emotion that needs to be expressed. In addition to these, pauses, accurate splitting of words, and silences at appropriate places also strengthen emotive expression.
Mātu and dhātu are the two aspects of vācikābhinaya. They can be loosely translated as lyrics and music, respectively. Gadya, padya, and gīta (pada) are the components of mātu. Gāna and vādana tuned to śruti and laya constitute dhātu. We shall have a look at the vācikābhinaya of Yakṣagāna in the same order.
I hereby list a few suggestions for Yakṣagāna artistes, especially to enrich their āṅgikābhinaya and realise its value.
• It is important to ensure that the strī-veṣas are more graceful and gentle. This can be achieved by blending the movements of Yakṣagāna with the movement vocabulary of the Nāṭyaśāstra. Movements will need to be adapted to suit the nature of the character.
Usage of coloured screens in the background and bringing in sceneries on the stage prove to be obstacles in evoking Rasa. Similarly, tying banners or displaying advertisements are aesthetic impediments. Many a times, the sponsor, the patron or the academy that is hosting the show wishes to prominently display his name at the background. This has to be strongly discouraged. It suffices to have a screen of the navy blue or black shade as the backdrop. It is not appropriate to seat the himmeḻa – the music ensemble – behind the actors, facing the audience.
We will need to take stock of the experiments that have taken place with costumes of Yakṣagāna, especially in introducing new characters. Noteworthy attempts have been made by Karanth in developing animal characters such as Jaṭāyu and Māyāmṛga and by Raghava Nambiar in serpent-characters such as Takṣaka. While Karanth used masks, Raghava Nambiar has managed to bring out nuances merely with facial make-up.