Published: 17th August 2018
How B'luru's 'Biking Yamaraj' now runs a theatre academy for free
You probably don't know Veeresh Muttinamath by name, but he's the guy who dressed as Yama and rode around on a bike in Bengaluru to promote helmet use
Veeresh Muttinamath loves the stage. Strangely though, the stage that shot him to fame was the streets of Bengaluru. Popularly known as the Yamaraj of Bengaluru after he campaigned for road safety while dressed as the god of death, Veeresh is a theatre artist, a director, and script-writer. Originally from Gangavati, a small town in Koppal, his recent videos of Yama riding pillion to create awareness about wearing a helmet and doing the Kiki Challenge has gone so viral that people are literally going gaga over him.
Like everyone else, Veeresh also came to Bengaluru in search of a job so that he can earn more money to take care of his parents back home. He started working as a marketing representative at reputed companies like Hindustan Unilever, Godrej Appliances and many more places. In August 2013, Veeresh started his journey as a theatre artist and he played the role of an LIC agent. After that, there was no stopping him. He went on to play roles like Gautama Buddha, Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna, Aṅgulimāla and more. He has directed more than fifty plays in Kannada written by notable writers like Girish Karnad and Kuvempu.
When I worked as a marketing manager in reputed companies, it fetched me more money but now, though I earn much less, I am happy with what I'm earning because I am acting and that is what I love
Veeresh Muttinamath, Theater Artist and Director
Curious to know more about his work we asked him about how he got to play the role of Yama. He recalls, "Suresh, a police constable from Halasuru Traffic Police Station had seen me working as a theatre artist and he had liked the roles that I had played. He approached me and asked why I don't play the role of Yama on the streets. Later, Circle Inspector Mohammed Ali also spoke to me and gave me the opportunity to work with the traffic police."
Road Rage: Veeresh enacting as Yamaraj campaigning the use of helmets in Bengaluru
That's how, in July, Veeresh had his first gig — riding as a pillion rider on Bengaluru's streets to create awareness about helmets. He also handed roses to people at various traffic signals and gently conveyed the same message to them. "Sometimes, people were shocked to see a person dressed as Yamaraj, but once they saw the traffic policeman with me, they would calm down. I'm happy that I'm doing some work for a good cause," he explains.
Another reason why he agreed to play this 'deadly' part is that he lost his younger brother in a road accident. "My brother had severe head injuries in the accident. He slipped into a coma for two days and was later declared dead. The doctor said that had he worn a helmet, he would not have lost his life. Dressed as Yamaraj, I am getting to save many lives and I'm making my brother's soul happy."
His work as Yamaraj was recognised by R Hithedra, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic Department and also Bengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar. Veeresh was able to collect Rs 2 lakh by performing in street plays and the money was later used to stage several plays.
Veeresh has now formed a team of artists and they train at his academy called Vande Mataram Lalita Kala Academy — a free training space for young people who want to learn theatre, "There are many techies who are bored of doing the same job every day and want to do something new during weekends. They connect with us and we train them and they do very well in our plays," he adds.