When did Sri Uppooru started his service towards Yakshagana – this question is as appropriate as asking a fish when it started to swim! Born in Tattuvattinalli of Halady village, Kundapura in 1918 to Marvi Shrinivasa Uppooru, Narnappa had a yakshagana influence on him since childhood. Shrinivasa Upooru had served as Bhagawatha in different troupes for 40 years and his style of singing was well known as ‘Marvi Style’. His elder son Vasudeva Uppooru was a prominent Maddala player at that time.
With his father’s guidance and constant practice, Upooru learnt Yakshagana as well as ‘bhagavatike’ (the art of singing yakshagana songs). Then he assisted his father in Maddale and Chande. He started his career as Bhagawatha in 1937 in Amriteshwari Mela. Eversince he rendered his service in Maranakatte, Kolluru, Idagunji, Saukuru, Perduru and Saligrama Melas.
Sri Uppooru experimented new techniques of bhagavatike while he was in Idagunji Mela under the leadership of Keremane Shivarama Hegade. He was the team member of the Amriteshwari Troupe on the occasion of Republic Day celebration in 1958 and also the team which toured Maharastra and Andhra in 1965 under the auspices of Interstate Cultural Exchange Program.
Later Sri Uppooru and Dr Shivarama Karanta became associates. Recognising the special emotional effect in Uppoor’s singing, Karanth utilised his skill for Yakshagana Ballet experiments. Together they created a wonderful ballet called ‘Krishnarjuna Kalaga’ which was greatly applauded by art lovers and critics when it was staged in Mumbai in 1968.
In 1972, a ‘Yakshagana Kalakendra’ was founded in Hangarakatte. Every rainy season, Sri Uppooru trained 100s of students. Sri uppur has trained many top class Bhagawatas- the illustrious among them being late Kalinga Navada Subramanya Dhareswar, K.P. Hegde etc. Upper was a great Guru as well a great singer . He knew nearly 40 prasangas by heart and he could sing in 60 different ‘ragas’.
Sri Uppooru has a unique book ‘Yakshagana Adhyayana’ to his credit. This book includes the syllabus, instructions for learning, extensive description of ‘tala’, systematic explanation of conducting a yakshagana show etc and this serves as guide to Yakshagana teachers and students alike.
On Apr 12, 1984 Sri Uppooru was performing bhagavatike of one of the Yakshagana of Sri Amriteshwari Mela , the one in which he started his career. He collapsed on the stage and the great soul departed from this world. In his death, the Yakshagana field lost the one and only Bhagawatha who was a scholar, a disciplinarian and a dignified person.
(Extracted and translated by ‘Nammoora Yaksharu’ by Sri K S Upadhyaya)