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Theatre troupe performing in Ninasam. Image Source: thebetterindia.com
  • Established by Kannada writer in 1949, Ninasam is credited with some remarkable contributions in the field of theatres, publishing and movies
  • With a greater influx on intellectuals, a full-fledged theatre building called Shivaram Karanth (a prominent Kannada literary) was built for the troupe
  • Ninasam offers a 10-month training course to aspiring theatre practitioners

Have you ever imagined a villager engaged in a literary discourse or a cart driver conversing about the literary geniuses? Well if you haven’t, you must visit Heggodu- a quaint village in Shimoga, nestled 350 km from Bangalore, to experience the same.

The village owes this unbelievable cultural life to the ‘Nilakanteshwara Natyaseva Samgha,’ a world-renowned culture institute famously known as ‘Ninasam.’


Established by Kannada writer, Kuntagodu Vibhuthi Subbanna (KV Subbanna), in 1949, Ninasam is credited with some remarkable contributions in the field of theatres, publishing and movies. Started off as an amateur project under a thatched roof in the green village, Ninasam has evolved into a melting pot of Kannada intellect and culture.

Bridging the gap between urban and rural populace, the institute focuses on socio-cultural work. Even earlier Ninasam would organise theatre and workshops along with publishing texts related to theatres. As a result, interested groups from the nearby areas started flocking to the institute to discuss contemporary issues and other forms of art.

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With a greater influx of intellectuals, a full-fledged theatre building named Shivarama Karanth (a prominent Kannada literary) was built for the troupe that slowly started performing outside the village as well. After the construction, the theatre started administering residential training programmes as well.


Ninasam building. Image Source: The Quint

To tackle the language barrier for the people who only understood Kannada, KV Subbanna would write the entire script in the dialect and would distribute them to the locals before the play. The effort taken by Subbanna is evident even today when the villagers talk at length about various classic movies being their favourite films.

Its finest annual event the ‘Samskrutik Shibira’ till date remains the most loved programme and centres around a socio-political theme. Renowned figures of Indian culture such as B V Karanth, U R Ananthmurthy, Sammik Bandhopadhyay, and Shiv Vishwanathan have delivered lectures at this renowned culture course, reports thebetterindia.com.

Following the guru-shishya tradition, Ninasam is totally managed by its staff and students who take up the daily chores turn by turn. At times even the villagers drop by to give them a hand.

The institute also trains children from the nearby villages for Yakshagana performances. “Yakshagana is a folk theatre form that combines dance, music, dialogue and costumes in a unique theatre that is traditionally presented from dusk to dawn. It is predominantly seen in the coastal districts of Karnataka, especially the Malnad region,” quoted thebetterindia.com as saying.

Ninasam offers a 10-month training course to aspiring theatre practitioners. Blending traditional with contemporary makes the institute stand out.

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The insightful discussions at Ninasam are something that has developed the villagers’ fondness for the work of writers like Shakespeare, Mohan Rakesh, Bernard Shaw and Kalidasa among others.


A theatrical performance in Ninasam. Image Source: thebetterindia.com

After six decades of dedicated working, Ninasam has transformed into a multi-faceted organisation with several arms like Ninasam Theatre Institute, Ninasam Tirugata, Ninasam Foundation, and the Akshara Prakashana Publishing House.

The institute has also earned widespread recognition both at national and global level. Its founder late KV Subbanna has been awarded with the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Creative Arts, Communication and Journalism in 1991.

Continuing to set a benchmark in evolving cultural literary, Ninasam has undoubtedly made literature and theatre as the part and parcel of village life in Heggodu.

– prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_

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