From Barkur to Bangalore: The theatrical journey of Gopal Sherigara, “IIMB’s star Yakshagana Artiste”
Gopal Sherigara, the canteen in-charge at IIMB, is a man with many talents. He has been the star attraction of the Founder’s Day and Kannada Rajyotsava celebrations for the past 34 years. Despite being over 50 year s old, Mr Gopal still exudes the energy, positivity and exuberance of a teenager. A serious and dedicated professional in all his endeavours, he is always eager to learn and adapt to the situation.
Born in Barkur, the ‘village of temples’ in the Udupi region of Karnataka, Mr Gopal was heavily influenced by the Tulu culture around him as well as the constant Yakshagana performances in the region, and thus became associated with the theatre form. Even though he did not come from a family of artistes, Mr Gopal started learning at the age of five, performing at temples, schools and other public spaces.
Mr Gopal entered the IIMB campus in 1983, and was soon exposed to the opportunities available to him in a cosmopolitan city like Bangalore. He started performing in the various events within the campus, and also assembled his own troupe, comprising interested staff members from various departments within the campus, such as Guruprasad Karanam, Suji John, Gangadharya, Nanjunda, Manjunath and Ramesh Bangera, to name a few. Professors Mahadevan and Sampangi Ramayya, alongwith Administrative Officer Hirannayya, were foremost in encouraging and supporting Mr Gopal, and thus ensured the popularity of the theatre form within the campus. Currently, Hostel Administrative Officer Komala Devi M remains central to his cultural endeavours.
Mr Gopal considers Brahmavar Rama Nairy his role model, being heavily influenced by Nairy’s role of ‘Dhanishka’ in Nagashri. Mr Gopal himself likes to enact female and crying roles, and considers his performance of ‘Menaka’ his favourite. He has performed with famous Yakshagana artistes like Begar Shivakumar, yet considers his performance with the staff member Ms Bhanumati one of his most favourite and nostalgic memories (sic).
In addition to Yakshagana, Mr Gopal is also active in Kannada theatre, mono-acting and dance. He also takes part in various sporting activities within and outside the campus. But Mr Gopal’s biggest hobby, according to him, is the art of match-making. He has successfully arranged 30 marriages till date, and often supports the families financially and morally.
Mr Gopal remains optimistic regarding the future of Yakshagana. According to him, multi-cultural spaces, such as the IIMB Campus, have played a crucial role in popularising the theatre form. He observes a growing curiosity and interest amongst the students and the youth, who often are the majority of the audience during his performances.