Submitted by Editor on Fri, 2016-07-15 19:59 Mangaluru: “Caste and religion are man-made. Since I have the blessings of ‘Allah’ and Hindu gods and goddesses, I became a Yakshagana artiste. I will be in Yakshagana until my last breath,” says Mohammed Ghouse with a certain pride and defiance, proving once more that art can and does transcend boundaries. A Muslim Yakshagana artiste might seem an oxymoron but not so in coastal Karnataka, where several Muslims have taken to the folk theatre with an obsessive passion seen only among artistes. Mohammed Ghouse Ghouse, a resident of Kavradi in Kundapur, has been performing Yakshagana for the past five decades. Nothing, not even his own parents and community anger could stop him from being close to his pet passion. To separate him from Yakshagana, Ghouse’s parents even sent him to Saudi Arabia for work, where Ghouse spent seven painful years by locking up his desire for Yakshagana. But his passion eventually broke through and Ghouse returned, promising himself that he would never leave his beloved again. As a Yakshagana artiste, Ghouse faced the wrath of his community, with many of his relatives refusing to mingle with him. He had a tough time getting his sisters married, but he doesn't regret his decision of becoming a Yakshagana artiste. Being a part of Madamakki Veerabhadreshwara Yakshagana troupe as well as his own troupe ‘Yaksha Saurabha Pravasi Mela’, Ghouse performs leading roles. He performs both in Thenku and Badagu Thittu Yakshagana and recalls his performance with stalwarts like Chittani Ramachandra Hegde, Lakshminarayana Samaga, Govinda Bhat, and Siddakatte Chennappa Shetty quite fondly. Jabbar Samo Like Ghouse, Jabbar Samo is another veteran of Yakshagana, having been an artiste for the past four decades. Hailing from a Muslim family in Sampaje, Sullia taluk, Jabbar, born in 1963, caught the bug during his primary school days in Kallugundi, Sampaje, when plenty of Yakshagana troupes performed near Kallugundi. Jabbar describes the heady days he spent in close proximity with heavyweights such as Sheni Gopalakrishna Bhat, Malpe Ramadasa Samaga, Kumble Sundar Rao as priceless and unforgettable. Then there is 22-year-old Mohammed Ashpak Hussain, passionate and idealistic. Ashpak chose to join Alva’s College in Moodbidri because he heard that it gave prominence to Yakshagana; such was his love for the art. Ashfak, who enacts female roles, even managed to win the award for best female role in the inter-collegiate competition. He plays the role of Lakshmi in ‘Sudarshana Vijaya’ and Malini in ‘Devi Mahathme’ among others. Mohammed Ashpak Hussain Reiterating the principle of art having no barriers, Ashpak says that one should not stay away from art due to religious differences. “Offering pooja to Lord Ganesha is a tradition in Yakshagana and I think it is not an obstacle even for non-Hindu artistes participating in Yakshagana,” he says. “If people from different religions understand they are not different from each other, there would be no communal violence,” he says bringing out the idealist in him.