Fans of Yakshagana — a folk art where devotion blends with culture — were left angry and fuming after controversy over a lip-lock scene broke out a few days ago in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka.
A video in which the two artistes are seen engaging in a kissing gesture spread like wildfire and drew criticism from followers of the traditional art form.
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Adka Rakesh Rai and Prashanth Shetty Nelliyadi are at the centre of the controversy: They were enacting the roles of Jayantha and Sushame — husband and wife — in Rama Karunya "prasanga" when the incident was recorded.
The event was held at Hogenadu near Mangaluru on September 16.
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However, Rakesh Rai has since clarified that he did not kiss his co-star and rather tried to pass on a message that he had got from the Yakshagana Bhagavatar — the narrator.
Speaking to a Kannada TV channel, he said: "I was little late to the event that day. I did my make-up in the car itself and joined the troupe in a hurry. As we were running short of time, the Bhagavatar informed me that we should wrap up the play at the earliest. I needed to pass on the message to my co-star Prashanth Shetty, who played the character of my wife (Sushame),"
He added: "During that romantic scene, I was closer to him and decided to tell him the message. In that split-second I tried to hide our faces to avoid people noticing me conveying something to my co-star. This video has been doctored and projected as if we were engaged in a lip-lock."
Adka Rakesh Rai and Prashanth Shetty Nelliyadi are part of a troupe in Kateel Sri Durgaparameshwari Yakshagaana Dashavatara Mandali, popularly known as Kateel Mela.