K.V. Subbanna, visionary and founder of ‘Ninasam’ passes away…

People of Subbanna’s mettle are indeed hard to come by. It is because of his efforts that Heggodu, a village in rural Karnataka has found a place of its own on the International map of Art, Literature and Culture. More importantly, Ninasam’ has empowered many a youth to study and practice theatre. But ‘Ninasam’, besides housing a theatre repertory company called Tirugata is much more although Tirugata’s own story is worthy of a detailed report.

Ninasam’ has a publishing house of its own that encourages new writers, screens films by auteurs like Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman and the likes, organizes literary readings and an annual culture course and also offers a one-year practical course in theatre training to interested students. Hardly a village in Karnataka has been left untouched by its traveling repertory company, Tirugata. And if this does not already surprise you about the man, there is more.

Subbanna’s traditional occupation was arecanut farming. In fact, his son Akshara still is very much associated with it as he is with ‘Ninasam’. Subbanna diverted his fortune from the arecanut business to building ‘Ninasam’; an institution he felt, must echo the lives and sentiments of his people. He came from the firm belief that although rural folk may not have had the social advantages of education and other resources, they can be as sophisticated as urban audiences in their understanding of aesthetics and art. It is this belief and the child-like wonder that often characterized him that led him to create ‘Ninasam’.

Sudhanva Deshpande in his obituary for this great man quotes a section of the honorary speech that one believes was delivered when Subbanna received the Magsaysay award in 1991: “With financial prudence and a gift for bringing others into leadership, Subbanna has built Ninasam to last . . . In electing K.V. Subbanna to receive the 1991 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes his enriching rural Karnataka with the world’s best films and the delight and wonder of the living stage.”

*The above information on K.V. Subbanna has been derived from Sudhanva Deshpande’s obituary on K.V. Subbanna. Sudhanva Deshpande is Editor of the electronic theatre bulletin- E-stq. He is also a member of the theatre group-‘Jana Natya Manch’ in Delhi.

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