Ninasam - Heggodu



 Ninasam - Heggodu    Ninasam Chitrasamgaj    K V Subbanna


Ninasam (Kannada:ನೀನಾಸಂ) is a cultural organisation located in the village of Heggodu in Sagar Taluk of the Shivamogga district in the state of Karnataka, India. Ninasam (also spelt as Neenasam) is the short form of Sri NIlakanteshwara NAtyaseva SAMgha, an organsiation dedicated to the growth of drama, films and publishing. Akshara the current head of Ninasam tells a story where Ni means you, Na means me, and Sam is a pun on the English word Sum, and in music is the moment where rhythm comes together. Ninasam was the brainchild of the renowned dramatist and Magsaysay award winner, K V Subbanna. It is currently headed by K V Akshara, the son of Subbanna.


The seeds of Ninasam were laid in 1945 in Heggodu, when Subbanna and his friends started to get together in the evenings to exchange views and discuss about the politics and other current issues. After the Indian Independence in 1947, this group of boys started a library and also launced a newspaper called as The Ashoka Weekly with a circulation of 500. It was printed on cyclostyle machine and carried articles related to local and national events. This group also started producing small plays and in the year 1949, they formed a cultural group Ninasam; the name dedicated to the native Hindu God of Heggodu, Nilakanteshwara. Subbanna's father was the first president and the initial plays staged were those related to the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. After his graduation from Mysore University, Subbanna returned to Heggodu and started producing plays at Ninasam that included Kannada translations of works by Shakespeare, Molière and Brecht and also those of Kannada writers.

 Akshara Prakashana

To explore his interests in other cultural areas, Subbanna started a publishing house called Akshara Prakashana in 1958 to publish works in Kannada mainly in the areas of film arts, children’s literature and play-scripts. Some of the works published included those by B. V. Karanth and U. R. Ananthamurthy. Since 1987, Ninasam has been coming out with a quarterly house journal. Having explored the areas of theatre and publishing, Subbanna wanted to explore the cinema world and attended a film appreciation course in 1967 at Pune. On his return he decided to start screening films at Ninasam and started Ninasam Chitrasamaja.

 Ninasam Chitrasamaja

Ninasam Chitrasamaja was an organisation formed to encourage the film culture and also to hold film festivals. A film appreciation course was started with subjects including film history, film techniques, film theory, film criticism, art films and popular cinema. Films that were staged included those by masters like Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa. The films and plays being staged by Ninasam started to attract audience from all over Karnataka and its popularity also grew considerably.


The popularity of Ninasam prompted the Ford Foundation to sponsor a project called Janaspandana whereby similar film festivals, plays and appreciation courses were to be organised in other areas of Karnataka. This project ended in 1985 but the activities have continued. It is estimated that about 200 thousand people were exposed to cinema and around 5000 people were exposed to the appreciation courses. As a result of Janaspandana, 37 workshops in a duration of 6 weeks were held in the field of theater and this yielded around 50 productions. Also theater equipment banks were set up in different regions of Karnataka to serve the needs of the theater groups in that region. In the meantime, Ninasam also started a theater institute to offer courses on theater to interested candidates.

 Ninasam Theatre Institute

This institute was started in 1980. It offers a 10-month long diploma course to about 20 students every year. As part of these courses, around 50 theatre productions have resulted. Some of the visiting faculty to this institute include Shivaram Karanth, Chandrashekhara Kambara, K.N. Panickar and Fritz Benevitz. Some of the alumni of this institute join Ninasam's rural theatre repertory troupe, Tirugata.


Tirugata (means travelling around in Kannada) is a theatre troupe started by Ninasam. This troupe travels to different places and stages plays mainly to a rural audience. Apparently, in the first 11 years of its existence, Tirugata has travelled 82,000 km to 172 places and has staged 1546 plays for an audience of about 1.1 million.Tirugata is mostly a self sustaining group with only 20% of total revenue coming as a grant from the Government.





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