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Know Our Heroes

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Nataka Ratna Gubbi Veeranna
This man needs no introduction. He is a veteran of early Kannada theatre, and his contribution to Kannada theatre has no parallel.

Gubbi Veeranna was born in 1890 in Gubbi and founded the grand "Gubbi Shree Chenna Basaveshwara Nataka Company". It was the first theatre company in Karnataka to employ women to play women characters. Gubbi Veeranna Nataka Company has produced personalities like B. Jayashree, Dr. Rajkumar and G. V. Shivanand. The Karnataka Government has instituted the Gubbi Veeranna award for excellence in theatre in his memorial. Notable personalities like B. V. Karanth are recipients of this award.


Hiranniah, Gubbi Veeranna and K V Subbanna

As a tribute to this great dramatist, GUBBI VEERANNA RANGA MANDIRA was established in Bangalore in 1992. This theatre stages Kannada plays through the year. Over 1200 plays have been staged in this auditorium. So unshakable is the love for theatre that Gubbi Veeranna has left, that the personalities his theatre has produced still live up to his legacy in the field of Kannada cinema and fine arts.

"King of stage" – Hirannaiah
Born in March 1905 in Mysore, HIRANNAIAH has earned fame like no other in the field of Kannada theatre. At the age of ten, he joined the “Opera Talkies”, Mysore, working on movie posters and playing harmonium. He began acting in dramas produced and directed by G. R. Sando, the owner of the “Opera Talkies”. Inspired by a book on prostitution, he staged a drama titled “Karma Kannady” (the mirror of fate), which later on became popular as Devadasi, based on the social problem of Devadasis. This play was later on staged continuously for a period of five months during 1941? A record - breaking milestone in Hirannaiah’s life.

In 1927, Hirannaiah was chosen for Gubbi Veeranna's drama company’s branch in Mysore, which brought great fame. Later he joined Subbiah Naidu's Sangeetha - Saahitya Samrajya Nataka Sabha Drama Company, where his two dramas Karma Kannady and Yecchama Nayaka became very popular. On invitation, Hirannaiah staged the drama Sadaarame playing the dual role of Adimurthy and the thief, during the Dasara festival in Town Hall, Mysore. The shows ran houseful for 48 days and his troupe recovered a profitable amount.
By 1942, Hirannaiah along with his friends M. N. Gopal, Parthasarathy and others had set up The Mitra Mandali Drama Company. He later directed Vani, the third talkie movie of that era, which won accolades and made substantial profit.

In 1944, the then health minister in the Mysore Maharaja’s cabinet T. C. M. Royan, awarded the title of Cultural Comedian to Hirannaiah. He died on March 21, 1953. His son, Narasimha Murthy popularly know as "Master Hirannaiah" has been paying a tribute to his father by keeping alive the characters played by him and propagating his message. Master Hirannaiah's Lanchaavatara, a popular satire on corruption still runs to packed houses.

K. V. Subbanna:
1991 Ramon Magsasay Award winner for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts: Kuntagodu Vibhuti Subbanna.

Heggodu, a picturesque village in Shimoga district secluded amidst paddy fields and hut plantations, is home to the visionary K. V. Subbana's “NINASAM”. An institution which is a theatre school, a repertory company, a film society, and a workshop unit that has spread theatre and film culture to all corners of Karnataka.

Ninasam is the present acronym for Sri Nikanteshwara Natyaseva Sangha, named after the local deity. An amateur theatre company formed by Subbanna and made up of farmers like himself. Subbanna kept the spirit of Ninasam ablaze, serving culture yet not foregoing the socialist principles of work.

“TIRUGATA”, Ninasam's traveling company and repertory can be considered one of the most dynamic ventures in theatre with virtually no district in Karnataka where it has not performed. Once on the road, tirugata performs non stop for months, sometimes with more than one play a day. The most memorable was the production of Neeli Kudure (an adaptation of The Blue Horse by B. V. Karanth), where 2,500 children showed up for the performance, which was much more than the space could accommodate.

The film society of Ninasam offers an annual “Culture Course”, a seven - day activity structured around a theme and the invitees and other speakers reflect upon it. The performances are a good mix of Kannada, other Indian regional language and translated foreign plays. A one - year course is offered by Ninasam's theatre training school to young theatre aspirants, apart from the culture course. The visionary is no more, but his vision remains, rooted deeply in the community and ever growing.

Genres of theatre:
Theatre types are based on underlying themes, emotions, venues, objectives or even philosophies. Some of the genre widely in use around the world is listed below.

Opera:
Opera is a form of theatre in which the drama / emotion is conveyed wholly or predominantly through music and singing, along with the elements of spoken theatre such as scenery, costumes, and acting. Opera emerged in Italy around the year 1600 and is generally associated with the Western classical music tradition. The singers are accompanied by a musical ensemble ranging from a small instrumental ensemble to a full symphonic orchestra. The word opera means "works" in Italian, suggesting that it combines the arts of solo and choral singing, declamation, acting and dancing in a staged spectacle.

Broadway:
Broadway theatre or show considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States, refers to a performance staged in one of the thirty - nine larger professional theatres located in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Broadway shows may run for a varying number of weeks and seeing a Broadway show is a common tourist activity in New York and a business that generates billions of dollars annually. Recently, an Indian show called "Bombay Dreams" was performed here, which was produced by Andrew LIoyd Webber with music by A. R. Rehman. Though this show had a good start it could not keep the crowd coming in and had to be cancelled 3 months later.

Kabuki:
The most famous of the traditional Japanese theatres, Kabuki originated in the Edo period. The word “Kabuki” is composed of three Japanese characters: “ka” meaning “songs”, “bu” meaning “dance” and “ki” meaning 'skill'. It is entertaining, energetic and beautiful in the use of color, makeup, movements and often other spectacular effects. Kabuki plays are about society in a particular period, historical events, moral conflicts, love relationships etc. and are performed using a combination of dramatic dialogue and dance, and accompanied by drums, flutes, stringed instruments called shamisen, and chanting. The most exceptional among the audio is the sounding of wooden clappers signaling the opening and the closing of a Kabuki play.

Kootiyattam:
Kootiyattam is the oldest existing classical Sanskrit theatre in India, based in Kerala and evolved in the 9th century AD. It literally means "acting together". This classical dance with distinctive theatrical conventions and acting methods is feared to be sinking into oblivion. A performing art reserved exclusively for the temple theatres in Kerala known as Kootampalams, Kootiyattam is still performed annually at the Koodal Manickyam temple at Irinjalakkuda and the Vadakkumnatha temple at Thrissur.

Courtesy: Star of Mysore

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