The legend of Yakshagana, Chittani Ramachandra Hegde passed away at Kasturba Medical College and Hospital in Manipal on Tuesday night. He was 84.
Chittani, as he was popularly called, had ruled the Yakshagana stage for over seven decades. He would easily slip into into any character and would make them come alive on stage. His performance as 'Kaurava' 'Bhasmasura' 'Keechaka' and 'Kamsa' are unparalleled. He was the reason if negative roles in Yakshagana still attracted people.
Born on September 9 in 1935 at Chittani village in Honnavar taluk, Uttar Kannada district, Chittani made his debut at the age of 14. He did not study after Class 2 as he was enamoured by the art. He joined the Mururu Mela (Mururu group) and and went on to enthral audiences world over.
Although, he later changed groups, audience would pour in to see his performances. It would not be an exaggeration, to call him the Yakshagana's box-office star. Such was his performance. He had performed for audiences abroad as well. Despite his old age and failing health, he continued to perform much to the delight of his fans. However, he collapsed on stage while performing at Gerusoppa in Honnavar taluk on September 25. He had donned the role of father of Bheeshma. He was soon rushed to the hospital.
Chittani was the first Yakshagana artiste to be honoured with Padmashri. He was also bestowed with Rajyotsava award, Shivarama Karanth award, Janapadashri and many more.
He leaves behind his sons Subrahmanya Chittani, Narayana Chittani, Narasimha Chittani, daughter Lalitha and a legion of fans. As per his wish, his eyes were donated.