Gubbi, Tumkur district, Karnataka, India
Gubbi Veeranna (Kannada: ಗುಬ್ಬಿ ವೀರಣ್ಣ) was an Indian theatre director, one of the pioneers and most prolific contributors to Kannada theatre. He established the drama company, Gubbi Veeranna Nataka Company that played a crucial role in promoting the Kannada theatre. Some of the stalwarts that have emerged out of this company include Rajkumar, B. Jayashree and G. V. Shivananda. He is conferred the title Nataka Ratna meaning jewel in the theatre world. Gubbi Veeranna Nataka Company is the first theatre company in Karnataka to employ female artists to portray female characters on the stage. There is a popular saying that the story of Gubbi Veeranna's company is the story of the Kannada theatre which indicates the standing of this company in the theatre world. Apart from theatre, Gubbi Veeranna has also produced films and acted in them as well.
Gubbi Veeranna was born in the town of Gubbi in the Tumkur district of Karnataka in the year 1890. He started a drama company called Gubbi Shree Chenna Basaveshwara Nataka Company and started producing plays in which he also acted sometimes. He had four wives, three of them being Sundaramma, Bhadramma and Jayamma. He had an unnerving commitment towards the theatre. An incident to corroborate this is when his second wife Sundaramma who was also an artist with the company died on the stage while enacting a play. It is said that Gubbi Veeranna who was also acting in the play along with his children, did not stop the play but allowed it to continue till the end. He and his children attended to her dead body only after the play stopped. Veeranna also is credited for having groomed people like Rajkumar and B. V. Karanth. He not only helped them groom their career in the theatre field but also provided them with other financial help. As an example, Veerana provided financial contribution towards B. V. Karanth's graduation and masters degree at Banaras Hindu University.
Initially located in Gubbi, the company started to travel to different places and stage plays in those locations. The company had a troupe of more than 150 artists and backstage workers. Some popular plays staged by the company included Sadaarame and Yechamma Nayaka. These plays consisted of innovations like trick scenes, floods, clouds and rain. In those days, dramas used were staged for free with people only paying according to their liking at the end of the drama. However, Gubbi Veeranna's dramas were an exception with people willing to buy tickets to watch them. Most of the actors and actresses that entered the Kannada cinema world in those days were from this drama company. Later the company opened branches in different places. An important branch of the company was the Mysore branch which staged popular plays and the finances generated from this branch actually sustained the whole company. The humorist Hirannaiah was one of the persons responsible for the popularity of the Mysore branch. Gubbi Veeranna's company first came to Bangalore in the year 1916. Later Gubbi Veeranna constructed his own theatre in Bangalore on the Subedar Chatram Road in 1924 and the Shivananda Theatre (now called as Movieland) in 1930. Probably, the most famous artist to emerge out of the Gubbi Veeranna company was Rajkumar. Rajkumar's father Singanallur Puttaswamiah was an actor in the company and Rajkumar and his brother joined the company as child artistes. Rajkumar actually attributed his command over the Kannada language and his singing skills to the training he underwent under the watchful eyes of Gubbi Veeranna.
Gubbi Veeranna also started Karnataka Gubbi Productions which was a company to produce films. He first produced Sadarame in 1935, in which he acted in the lead role. The film had C.I.D. Sakunthala, Ashwathama, B. Jayamma in the cast and was directed by Raja Chandrasekar. He then produced Subhadra which had Honnappa Bhagavatharin the lead. In 1942, he produced Jeevana Nataka with Kemraj Urs in the lead. He again acted in the lead role in the film Hemareddy Mallamma, in 1945. He produced Sathya Shodhanai in 1953, which was a Tamil Film and had again starred Honnappa Bhagavathar. Karnataka Gubbi Productions was later called as The Karnataka Films Ltd., it is attributed to have started the film career of Rajkumar when it agreed to offer him the lead role in his first film Bedara Kannappa. He has also produced silent movies like His Love Affair which was directed by a foreigner, Raphel Algoet. In this film, the lead role of the actor was played by Gubbi Veeranna himself and the actress was none other than his wife, Jayamma. In 1956, he produced Sadaarme, which had T.N. Balakrishna in lead and also had Kalyan Kumar. It was the remake of 1936 movie with the same name. In 1959, he produced Sagothari, a Tamil Film which had K. Balaji in the Lead.
Filmography as an Actor
|Hari Maya||1932||Y. V. Rao|
|Jeevana Naataka||1942||Wahab Kashmiri|
|Hemareddy Mallamma||1945||S. Soundararajan|
|Gunasagari||1953||H. L. N. Simha|
The Karnataka government has instituted the Gubbi Veeranna award for excellence in theatre in his memory. B. V. Karanth is a recipient of this award.
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