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Sharanya Ramprakash  enters the all-male world of Yakshagana in a pivotal role

Traditionally, the folk theatre of Yakshagana is performed by all-male troupes, who also play the roles of women. Over the years, however, a few female practitioners have emerged and made special appearances. But seldom has a female actor taken on a pivotal role. And, never has she been cast as a man.
This Sunday, Sharanya Ramprakash, actor-director at Dramanon, enters that ‘male space’ with her new production, Akshayaambara. It will premiere as part of the Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival 2015: Youth Yuga. Here, Ramprakash will be seen playing the role of rapacious Dushasana from Mahabharata, who disrobes Draupadi.
She tells us about the reversal of gender roles in this Draupadi Vastrapaharana plot, as a woman plays a perpetrator and a man becomes a victim.Yes, Draupadi will be essayed by maleYakshagana actor Prasad Cherkady.
“It’s like a play within a play,” Ramprakash, 34, begins. “On one end of the stage you’ll see the characters of Draupadi and Dushasana wrestle, and on the other you’ll see a green room (cauki), where gender equations change (actors come back to their respective selves). Here the male actor tells the female you cannot perform like a man.”
She got fixated with gender and its power dynamics during her stay at Udupi’s Yakshagana Kendra. And, she would observe male artists do female roles. There she was training in Yakshagana, as part of the INLAKS Theatre Award ’14.
What has been the biggest challenge? “To find that idea of maleness, which is also true for my own female body. My guru can teach me how to behave like a man, but he can’t teach me how to get that maleness out of my body?”
The play is her theatre group’s first Kannada production, and, hence, it’s immensely special. “It was the only honest way of performing Yakshagana,” she says.
On November 1. At JP Nagar. 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm. Tickets (Rs 200) on bookmyshow.com

— Barkha Kumari

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