Taking birth in 1949, in the immediate wake of India’s gaining its independence; Ninasam could not but be infused with the spirit that characterized the nation and the age then. Through a means widely acknowledged as most unique in history, India had, in the decades preceding that momentous event, engaged itself in an unprecedented kind of exploration that finally not only brought it freedom but also helped it expand and redefine several of the key concepts and practices governing the world scenario at the time, such as liberty, resistance, self-hood, equality, democracy, and universality. Shunning exclusive dependence on violence, and refusing to demonise or antagonize its oppressors, it had set an entirely new paradigm in plain everyday life as well as political life. Under the inspiring guidance of someone like M.K. Gandhi, it succeeded in transforming the fight against the ‘others’ into a fight against one’s own ‘self’ too, thereby enriching the encounter between apparent bipolarities from being a process of ‘othering’ into one of ‘twinning’.
Charting one’s course following the principle of twinning meant that one had discard, or at least passionately contest, the prevalent concepts of tradition and modernity, East and the West, personal and the universal, subject and object, the sacred and the secular, and so on. One of the conceptual spheres that the modern West had seriously affected was that of the interrelationship between the individual and the collective. In transforming traditional ‘communities’ into modern ‘societies’, the colonial enterprise had opened a deep -and artificial- schism between human individuals and human ‘congregates’. India, however, although drastically altered under the colonial regime, steadfastly refused to accept this divide, preferring instead to evolve newer, and more meaningful modes of interaction between ‘micro’ individual and the ‘macro’ commune, viewing the two entities as being mutually complementary rather than competitive.
Ninasam’s own modest effort has been towards helping develop a new kind of community, a multidimensional entity that equally treasures culture and politics, continuity and change, conservation and alteration, but with the firm conviction that whenever choices are to be made, that right should rest solely with the local communities, and not be abridged or appropriated by some hegemonic power-centres.
AN OUTLINE OF THE EVOLUTION OF NINASAM
The years 1949-68 mark the first phase of Ninasam. Its beginnings were humble, originating as it did as a little group of culture enthusiasts from several little hamlets located around Heggodu, a small village in the Western Hills of southern Karnataka, regularly meeting in the evenings, after having done their routine agricultural work for the day, to gossip, to discuss contemporary issues and events, to put up an occasional theatrical production or to listen to a person of renown visiting the neighbourhood. These random activities gradually crystallised into strong interests, leading to the formation in 1949 of an amateur cultural troupe that the founder-members named Nilakanteshwara Natyaseva Samgha, after Nilakanteshwara, a local deity, regarded as a manifestation of Lord Shiva.
Soon, in this formative period, Ninasam took up, besides amateur theatre productions, holding of theatre workshops, publication of books related to theatre as also literary works (this done under the aegis of the publication wing, Akshara Prakashana, established in 1960), striving to be a ‘community forum’ in its own way, and within its limited scope.
An important turning point came during the decade 1969-79, which marks the second phase of the organisation. During this period, Nilakanteshwara Natya Seva Sangha came to be renamed Ninasam (‘Ninasam’ being an acronym to Nilakanteshwara Natya Seva Sangha) The choice of a more modern-sounding name such as this one, quite an unconscious one at that time, today seems to many to resonate with the characteristic aspirations of the organisation — to creatively blend the traditional and the modern, to meaningfully negotiate between the sacred and the secular. The organisation not only gained a sharper focus but also reached higher qualitative levels with the involvement of many accomplished personalities in its activities. Dr. Shivarama Karantha, one of modern India’s truly great intellectuals, fit to be placed alongside Rabindranath Tagore, and a Jnanapeeth awardee, conducted a Yakshagana workshop at Ninasam. B.V. Karantha, a seminal figure in modern Indian theatre history, directed for the troupe a landmark production, Panjara Shale, based on a Tagore work. A full-fledged theatre building was constructed to accommodate and facilitate the new spurt in projects and programmes. The troupe, till now totally localised, began to travel outside and perform plays in other centres as well. A very interesting detail from this period concerns the staging of Sangya Balya, a highly successful production of Ninasam, in far-flung places, not merely because of popular demand, but also because the organisation urgently needed to pool together a considerable sum of money in order to repay the loans it had taken out to construct the auditorium at Heggodu.
In the same period, it also branched out in an entirely new direction — that of film studies. Having realised the immense potential of this, the most modern of media, and that, sadly, popular cinema had its own self-centred agenda to pursue, it began to organise, under the banner of the newly founded Ninasam Chitra Samaja, festivals of film classics, and short-term film appreciation courses, with kind assistance from the two premier institutions of the country, the National Film & Television Institute, and the National Film Archive of India, both of Pune. It also began a long series of publications in Kannada, the local language, on topics related to cinema, such as translations of film scripts, critical writings, and compendiums. These were the very first such activities to be held in rural parts of India, an achievement unparalleled to this day. They also brought to the little village such persons of eminence as Marie Seton, a legendary film scholar, one who had closely followed and chronicled the works of Sergei Eisenstein, and Satyajit Ray, two giants of world cinema. While her visit brought us our first wave of a broader, even international recognition, her inspiration carried us towards more committed, more organised work, and not just in the field of film culture dissemination.
The third phase, between 1980 and 1992, saw Ninasam adding certain semi-professional features to its amateur character. The first such feature was the Ninasam Theatre Institute, established in 1980, with the aim of providing formal training in basic theatre art and craft to youngsters over a 10-month diploma course. The Institute had its share of teething problems, particularly as regards funds, but three years into its life, it was given a grant-in-aid by the Karnataka State Government. In 1985, Ninasam began Tirugata, a travelling theatre troupe made up mostly of the alumni of its theatre school, who work as paid, full-time artistes in the project, performing a set of three plays at centres spread all over the state, every year.
In the meanwhile, the annual Film Course and the Theatre Workshops, both held locally at Heggodu, had come to gain such appeal that there were repeated requests by patrons located in different, distant parts of the state that Ninasam conduct similar programmes at their respective places. Ninasam’s response to this was Janaspandana, a two-year project, executed in the period 1983-85, of conducting short-term film festivals, film appreciation courses, and theatre workshops, at various places, in collaboration with local cultural organisations.
The fourth phase, 1993-2004, brought Ninasam greater recognition, particularly in the form of the Ramon Magsaysay Award given to its senior member, and guiding spirit, K.V.Subbanna, for his contribution, made through Ninasam, towards enriching public awareness about Arts, Culture, and Education. The purse that formed part of the award was used as the corpus fund for initiating and running yet another project under a foundation launched for that very purpose – the Ninasam Pratishthana. The foundation has, as of today, conducted more than 100 short-term literature appreciation courses for educational and cultural organisations, in various parts of the state.
THE NINASAM VISION
Amongst voluntary organisations, at least two broad categories can be identified. One category is of those that are, in terms of birth and working method, essentially ‘conceptual’. These are created with the avowed intention of accomplishing certain tasks, serving particular political or ‘para-political’ doctrines, exhorting social groups to act in certain styles, persuading people to exercise their choice in specified ways. Dedicated to clear-cut ideologies, such institutions tend to work with a missionary zeal towards achieving their agenda through premeditated master-plans.
The second kind (Ninasam loves to believe it belongs to this kind) is of institutions whose genesis, growth, and activity are predominantly ‘contextual’ in nature. Originating as a manifestation of some passion of some person or group in specific contexts, these revel in just ‘being’ more than in ‘doing’, and then in doing things more out of love and joy than in commitment to any ideology or ideal. Fulfilment for them lies in finding diverse ways of interacting with one’s community, without getting confined by explicit theories or declarative creeds. Their tolerance naturally accepts difference, and treasures plurality.
There is a reverse side to the two sets, too. The concept-bound first kind, for instance, could, over time, become hardened and dogmatic, privileging abstractions over concrete realities. Very much like a channel moving only along pre-cut routes, its ‘movement’ could soon lose touch with the ever-changing ‘moments’ of human existence. Its zealousness, when contested or resisted, could degenerate into an arrogant, violent mindset. The second kind, the ‘context-sensitive’ one, does of course tend to flow naturally like a river, but on encountering an obstacle too many, it could meander too much, and become distracted. Or, through self-indulgence, such as treating even fancies as passions, it could sink into dissipation.
While preferring to believe that it belongs to the second category (without, however, claiming that its kind is superior to the other), Ninasam has also been cautious, and corrective, about the faults that its category is naturally heir to. It likes to believe that its evolution has been an organic one, and its ethos a ‘communitarian’ one. Its unique character and achievements have been a result more of the creative wisdom of the community, which gave birth to it, than of its own individual initiative.
One proof demonstrating this distinctive communitarianism that pervades Ninasam’s activities can be seen in the fact that Ninasam prefers to work, whether in theatre, literature, or film, with ‘classics’ rather than compositions which are held up by some as models of ‘social relevance’. The ‘classics’, old or modern, Ninasam believes, do not ignore the specifically temporal and spatial issues even while aspiring to be universal, and actually address them in a much more courageous and creative, if a little less overt, manner than do texts programmed with political correctness. Ninasam would contend that while ‘good aesthetics’ might not always make ‘good politics’, it certainly never makes ‘bad politics’.
At the same time, Ninasam is not obsessed with the classics or traditional forms, either. Deeply reverential to these forms, Ninasam continues to draw vital inspiration from them even to this day, particularly from Yakshagana, a hallowed, centuries-old, ballet-like performing art of Ninasam’s own geo-location, a splendorous blend of the folk and the classical modes, and one that sustains itself on the ethereal magic of Indian mythology. Nonetheless, it finds it hard to endorse calls for saving them at any cost, mainly because in its view, such efforts at static preservation, which do not seem to take into account the simple laws of life, would only either mummify or dumb down those media.
If pressed to point out one motto as the one mirroring its self-image, Ninasam would like to state that it would be gratified to be seen, above all, as working in consonance with the principle of kriyajnana, an ideal advocated by ancient Indian philosophy. The term, which roughly translates as ‘action-knowledge’, unambiguously implies that of all possible kinds of knowledge, the only reliable kind is the one that is gained in and through action, and that for all its aura, knowledge (jnana) cannot gain precedence over action (kriya). If one were to acknowledge ‘culture’ as an implicit form of ‘philosophy’, Ninasam would wish to be regarded as an organisation striving towards the ideal of ‘action-knowledge’ in the field of culture.
NINASAM’S BRANCHES AND THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR:
1. The Ninasam Theatre Institute (1980-2006)
Ninasam Theatre Institute was established in 1980. The main impetus behind it was the desire of imparting a formal theatre arts training to young enthusiasts of Karnataka, of harnessing a powerful medium like theatre to the specific needs of our contemporary cultural context, of activating the development of a large group of youngsters conversant with and engaged in theatre activities all over the state, and through all this, realising the dream of setting up a meaningful mass discourse.
Many of these objectives have been gradually and clearly concretising. These twenty six years, the Institute has trained up about 377 persons, 281 male and 96 female, all from different districts of the state, and with an average age of 23 years.
A noteworthy fact is that of these 377 trainees, about 70% are now actively engaged in theatre. Of these about 50% are full-time theatre workers, another 20% are engaged in journalism & other professions.
A broad study of Kannada Theatre activities since 1980 reveals the evolution of two clear and vital tendencies. ‘Decentralisation’ and ‘professionalism’. The contribution of the Institute to this heartening development is also quite apparent. The Institute’s alumni have initiated and consolidated theatre activities in various remote areas of Karnataka. The professional repertory troupes of the state, Tirugata, Rangayana, Kinnara Mela etc., have a substantial number of our trainees as their members.
Another important aspect of the Institute’s achievement has been the application of an abstract, theory-centred subject like ‘theatre training’ to the specific realities of our cultural context, evolving, in the process, a practical training mode. It has always been the main aim of the Institute to explore in very practical terms a ‘theatre language’ fully suited to our present day needs, at the same time, however, giving due emphasis to equally important aspects like theories of theatre and mass communication forms. With this view, the Institute has, along these years, formulated and developed a scientific curriculum. It has prepared and published essential theatre literature in Kannada; has developed various modes for body, voice and acting training, and has built up an impressive library of print, audio, and material items relating to all the aspects of theatre.
To date, the Institute has staged about 81 major productions, and more than 150 exercise productions, which include the following:
• Sanskrit: Oorubhanga, Bhagavadajjukiyam, Valivadhankam, Doota Ghatotkacha, Yajna Phala,
Mrichakatika, Vidisheya Vidooshaka, Abhjnaana Shakuntalam.
• Kannada: Birudantembara Ganda, Beetada Arasu, Yaaro Andaru, Poli Kitti, Smashaana Kurukshetram,
Ahalye, Manjula, Sandhyaakala, Jaatre, Tughaluq, Kadadida Neeru, Mookabali, Dangeya Munchina
Dinagalu, Gunamukha, Singarevva Mattu Aramane, Prameelaarjuneeyam, AA Mani, Miss Sadarame,
G.K.Maastarara Pranaya Prasanga, Maharaatri, Yashodhraa, Chandragupta, Bhattara Magalu,
Hamsa Damayanti, Kantu.
• Indian: Ashad Ka Ek Din, Andhayug, Adhe Adhure, Shantata Court Chaloo Aahe, Andher Nagari
Choupat Raja, Mahanirvan.
• Western: Oedipus, Antigone, Macbeth, Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bourgeois Gentleman,
And Enemy of the People, Lower Depths, Cherry Orchard, The Good Woman of Setzuan, Woyzeck, The
Bundle, King Lear, Three Sisters, Shoemker’s Prodigeous Wife, Puntila, The Light Shines in
Darkness, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Agamemnon, Three Penny Opera.
A list of the teaching and non-teaching staff of the Institute who have worked during these years is as follows:
• Teaching: S. Surendranath, Gangadhara Swamy, Chidambara Rao Jambe, P.Nagesh Rao,
K.G. Mahabaleshwara, K.S. Poornima, H. Nagarajappa, K.G. Krishnamurthy, Iqbal Ahmed,Bhagirathi
Bai, Venkataramana Aithal, Nagaraja K.N. Suresh Shetty, Gurugaja Marpalli, Anitha Rani,
Phaniyamma H.S., Purushothama Talavata, Pushpa Halkere, Ganesh M., Sridhara Heggodu,
Manjappa P.A., Arun Kumar M.
• Non Teaching: Hiriyanna Bhat B.S., Vishwanatha Bhatta C.R., Bangarappa, Shankar C.A.,
Jyalakshmi H.K, Vittala, Shreedharachar.
Apart from the regular teaching staff at the Institute, several noted personalities have given special lecturers, held workshops and directed plays. They include:
• From Karnataka: Dr. Shivarama Karanth, K.K. Hebbar, Yenagi Balappa, N.R. Masoor, Kirtinatha
Kurtakoti, Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy, Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar, Girish Karnad, B.V. Karanth,
Prasanna, K.V. Subbanna, B.N. Narayana, V. Ramamurthy, Mahabala Hegde, Dr. D.R. Nagaraj, Ki. Ram.
Nagaraj, T.P. Ashok, G.K. Govinda Rao, B. Jayashree, S. Malathi, K.V. Akshara, Jayatirtha Joshi,
Walter D’Souza, Jaswanth Jadhav, Raghunandana. S., Keshava Murthy A., Umamaheshwara Hegde,
Channakeshava, Ni.Na. Madhyastha, Prakash Belawadi, Petri Madhava Naika, Narayana Swamiji,
Sharath K.S., Suresh Anagalli, Mallika Prasad.
• From Other Indian States: Prof. Satish Bahadur, Dr. Shyamala Vanarase, Prof. Shankar Pillai,
Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, H. Kanhailal, Dr. Rustom Bharucha, Chandralekha, Anuradha Kapur,
Bharat Sharma, D.R. Ankur, Alakananda Samarth, Anamika Haksar, Atul Tiwari, Prasad Vanarase,
Abhilash Pillai, Tripura Kashyap, Naripatta Raju, Sudhanva Deshpande, Surojit Sarkar.
• From Abroad: Prof. Fritz Bennewitz, John Martin, Michael Patterson, Walter Pfaff, Bill Evans,
Ralf Yarrow, Evelien Pullens, Peter Schumann, Terry Nickerbocker, Mark Lindley.
Besides its regular curriculum, blending both the theoretical and practical aspects as mentioned above, the Institute has from time to time organised special courses, workshops and study tours on related topics like film, literature, visual arts, music, company theatre, folk and traditional forms and children’s theatre.
For the first two years of its existence starting from 1980, the Institute maintained itself on its own finances. The next two years it received temporary grants from the Government of Karnataka. Since being granted official recognition, it has been receiving regular Government grants. From 1991 onwards, the examinations are being conducted by the Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board.
2. Ninasam Tirugata (estd. 1985)
A travelling theatre troupe made up mostly of the graduates of the Ninasam Theatre Institute, it has been taking three major theatre productions to different rural and semi-urban centers of the state every year. The annual fare is carefully chosen, with one Kannada play, one non-Kannada but Indian play, and one Western play making up the repertoire. A similar pattern has been followed in the selection of directors as well. The following figures convey some idea of the achievements of the project, which has been hailed as a remarkable experiment.
• Total number of productions – 68
• Total number of shows – 2600
• Total number of centers the troupe performed at – 230
• Percentage of rural centers of the total number of centers – 80
• Total number of audience – about 16,50,000
• Percentage of the rural audience in the total audience – about 80
3. The Ninasam Film Society (estd. 1973)
The only rural film society in India to conduct Film Appreciation Courses outside of the National Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, on a regular basis, it also has the distinction of introducing film studies to Kannada culture by publishing, in collaboration with its sister-organisation, the Akshara Publications, a number of books related to cinema, as for instance, mini compendiums, translations of scripts, introductory and critical works. It has organised festivals of world film masters such as Chaplin, Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Eisenstein, Kurosawa, Alain Resnais, in and around Heggodu. In addition, it undertook, with financial assistance from the Ford Foundation, an outreach project aimed at propagating film culture, by holding short-term film festivals, and study courses in far-flung places of the state. Broad details of the work of the Film Society are as follows:
• Film Festivals at Heggodu – 15
• Film Festivals outside Heggodu – 55
• Film Appreciation courses at Heggodu – 10
• Film Appreciation courses outside Heggodu – 53
4. Ninasam Pratishthana (launched in 1991)
Founded with the purse that accompanied the Magsaysay Award that was conferred on K.V.Subbanna, a senior founder-member of Ninasam, in 1991, the Prathishtana (Trust) concentrates exclusively on extension activities. Working with the specific aim of taking the best of art and culture to the people, Ninasam Trust has conducted a substantial number of outreach programmes like film appreciation courses, literature appreciation courses, theatre workshops etc. at various educational and cultural institutions of the state. Here is a brief statistical overview of the Trust’s activities:
• Theatre workshops – 15
• Literature workshops – 81
• Others – 17
• Total – 113
• Participants: Total number – 8738 (male 3700 / female 5038)
5. Ninasam Anusandhana (launched in 2003)
Our latest project, it repeats many of the elements of the projects mentioned above, but in a specifically modified form. Launched with financial aid from the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, it has been a collaborative effort of Ninasam, the Kuvempu University, and five different colleges affiliated to the University. Primarily an attempt at filling a void in the conventional academic system today, through sensitising young students to certain art forms, it has held, in 2003-05, a series of short-term workshops relating to six forms-literature, theatre, music, dance, visual arts, and film-for groups of about 80 students at each of the chosen educational centers, with each workshop being directed/conducted by persons of eminence in the respective fields. Some figures pertaining to the project are as follows:
• Centres – 5
• Participating students – 325 (male 129; female 196)
6. Ninasam Culture Course
The Ninasam Culture Course has been one of Ninasam’s major annual events for the last 18 years. Held over 7 days every October, the Course is designed around a specific theme every year, and organised as a combination of special lectures on the theme, lecture-demonstration-discussions on fundamentals of appreciation of art forms like literature, theatre, film, music, dance, and so on during the day-sessions, and a series of cultural programmes in the evenings, like classical dance and music recitals, theatre and folk art performances, poetry readings, and film screenings.
Some of the themes over these years have been – (1) Village India (2) Gods and Goddesses (3) The 20th Century – a Review (4) Tradition/s (5) Religion (6) Cultural Alternatives
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The Culture Course has a two fold objective:
1. To create an annual forum in Karnataka, where intellectuals from within Karnataka and outside
meet and discuss important and urgent issues related to contemporary culture and society.
2. To share these discussions with cultural activists, involved in various socio-political and
cultural activities in the non urban parts of Karnataka.
Thus, the major attempt of the project is to bridge a gap between the ‘elite intellectuals’mostly concentrated in the academic institutes and the ‘common activists’ scattered in small non governmental organisations.
The participants for this course will be coming from all parts of Karnataka and will represent all walks of life. Last year, 140 participants from different parts of Karnataka attended the course.
There is no particular vetting of the applicants, in terms such as age, educational qualification or experience, which means that the group at the Course will be a very heterogeneous one every time, composed of not just students, teachers of school, college and university levels, social workers, environmental and political activists, journalists, engineers, doctors, administrators, but also, more importantly, farmers, smalltime merchants, employed women and housewives. Since genuine concern is the only (and unstated) criterion, a number of participants have made it a point to attend the Course more than once, making it a regular feature on their personal calendar year as well. Realising the value of such an unconventional activity, some conventional educational bodies like colleges and universities of the state have been regularly deputing their students to the Course, deeming it not just an extra-academic programme but also a para-academic one. Below are some salient features of the project:
Total number of Culture Courses: 14
Total number of participants: 1500 appx.
(Approximately – Students: 20%, Teachers: 15%, Journalists: 10%,
Professionals: 10%, Activists: 30%, Others including farmers/Housewives – 15%)
Kannada, the regional language, is the main medium employed at the Course, with translations being made in cases where guest-lecturers and artists are from an extra-Kannada context, and sometimes even an extra-Indian context. This practice is in keeping with Ninasam’s faith in the ‘local’ being the locus of all that is usually regarded as ‘global’. In addition, all through its 18 years, the Course has had as its Director Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy, a foremost Kannada writer-intellectual, a recipient of the Bharatiya Jnanapith Award, considered the highest literary honour in India, and one who has taught English and Kannada Literatures in American Universities as well as Indian ones. Working with him have been scholars held in eminence in India and abroad, but each one firmly grounded in his/her native surroundings. This emphasis has helped us maintain an indigenous character all through.
EVENING CULTURAL FESTIVAL
During the evenings, we conduct a cultural festival of eminent artists. Reputed artists such as Malavika Sarukkai, Chandralekha, Sonal Mansingh, Gangubai Hangal, V.V. Subramanyam, Prabha Atre have performed here in the last few years.
And the types of cultural programmes held as part of the evening Festivals include –
2. Music recitals
3. Dance programmes
4. Film shows
5. Poetry readings
6. Regional classical/Folk/Fusion performances
7. Akshara Prakashana
Akshara Prakashana began in 1957, with K.V. Subbanna publishing two of his own writings through it. Thus, begun as a tiny organisation to publish its owner’s works, it soon started publishing up-coming new writers of the time and identified itself with the ‘modernist’ movement of the 50’s. The journal Saakshi that Akshara Prakashana published from 1968 to 1978, in fact, provided voice to that historic literary development.
By the 70’s, Akshara Prakashana became a widely known organisation, and, therefore, a need was felt to reconstitute it as a semiprivate concern. Hence, it was registered as a private trust in 1975 and since then it has been running as Akshara Trust.
Between 1957 and 1996, Akshara Prakashana has published, including reprints, a total of 451 titles. Of these, 383 are original Kannada works and the rest are translations from other languages. Of the total 451 books, 381 are first editions, 51 second editions, 13 third editions, 4 fourth editions and one each are seventh and eighth editions. By the end of 1996, 170 titles were available for sale and the rest were out of print.
These books cover a wide range of genres – novels, short stories, poetry, plays, children’s plays, essays, autobiographies, travelogues, literary criticism, humanities, politics, folklore, theatre, cinema, science, environment etc.
Here are some significant features that imply the ‘publication agenda’ of Akshara Prakashana:
– Akshara Prakashana has published a large number of poetry collections unlike many other Kannada publishers.
– It has also been continuously publishing nonfiction books like literary and cultural criticisms.
– Books on specialised subjects like theatre, cinema, children’s drama and environment are also published by the Prakashana.
Apart from regularly publishing books on varied subjects, Akshara Prakashana has also identified itself with several literary and cultural movements. During the 60’s, it aligned itself with the ‘modernist’ literary movement and published mainly poetry and short stories that came out of it. From the 70’s, Akshara Prakashana joined hands with the Ninasam group of organisations and started publishing books on theatre, cinema and other arts. Akshara Prakashana has also published the first few books on the consumer movement and the environmental movement in Kannada.
Keeping such current socio cultural issues in view, Akshara Prakashana has been launching several series of books from time to time. The important ones are:
Gopalagowda Memorial Books: Instituted in the memory of late Gopalagowda, a prominent socialist politician of Karnataka, the series intends to examine contemporary developments and transformational processes of Indian socialism. Titles in the series include Kagodu Satyagraha by G. Rajashekhar, Ambedkar Mattu Gandhi by Dr. S. Chandrashekhar, Samajavada Janatantra Mattu Communism by Bapu Heddurshetty etc.
Jana Shikshana Titles: This series consists of low priced editions on topics of immediate social relevance like technology, environment, development etc.
Ranga Shikshana Titles: Published in collaboration with the Ninasam Theatre Institute, Heggodu, this series consists of introductory books on theatre addressed to students of theatre as well as general readers. Several titles on the history of theatre, dramatic theory etc., have been published in this series so far.
Titles on Cinema: Books giving a general introduction to the film medium, translations and analyses of important film scripts are included in this series. More than 10 titles have been published in this series so far and it has been hailed as a unique attempt in the Indian languages.
Children’s Plays: Akshara Prakashana has so far published more than 15 children’s plays in this series. Printed in a special format with bigger fonts, these books have become very popular and most of these plays have seen repeated productions in Karnataka.
Akshara Kavi Sandhana: This series consists of collections of poetry translated into Kannada from other Indian and foreign languages. So far, 3 books have been released in this series and S. Balurao has translated all of them.
Akshara Chintana: This ambitious series was launched in 1993 and the first 10 titles were produced through a project aided by The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Manila. The aim of this series is to intellectually counter the ‘amnesia’ that has set into the Indian culture due to the advent of colonialism. These books include a variety of genres and themes, all presenting in several different ways alternatives to the ‘established’ modes of thought both in the east and the west.
Dr. D.R. Nagaraj is General Editor of this series in which 16 titles have been published so far.
The K.V Subbanna “Modala Odu” Beginner’s Series: This series is aimed primarily at students of Kannada Literature who are being exposed to Kannada literature for the first time. The Modala Odu series exposes them to selected literary works of important writers in Kannada. The first phase of the series has 25 books of 108 pages each including 5 titles from the pre-modern Kannada era and 20 titles from the modern era. The beginner’s series includes books of selected stories, poetry and essays with commentaries for the old Kannada literature by noted literary experts. The content is designed and planned for the first time readers. These books are part of the prescribed course material for the Ninasam Pratishthana Literary appreciation workshops.
The fact that Akshara Prakashana is celebrating its fiftieth year of founding adds to the significance of the Beginner’s series. It is part of a tribute to the late K.V. Subbanna who was the impetus behind the Ninasam institutions.
Among the books that are part of this series are:
Old Kannada Literature:
Pampa’s Adipuraana, Janna’s Yashodhara Charite, Vachana Pravesha,
Raghavanka’s Harischandrakaavya and Kumaravyasa’s Karnatabharatakathamanjari
Modern Kannada Poetry by:
Kuvempu, Pu.Ti.Na., K.S. Narasimhaswamy, Gopalakrishna Adiga, A.K. Ramanujan and Su.Ram. Ekkundi
Kannada Short Stories by:
U.R. Anantamurthy, P.Lankesh, Yashavanta Chittala, Shantinatha Desai, Poornachandra Tejaswi, Devanur Mahadeva, Vaidehi
Kannada Essays by:
Shivaramakaranta, DVG, Gowrish Kaikini, Kirtinatha Kurtakoti, BGL. Swamy, D.R. Nagaraj
Through these forty years, Akshara Prakashana has gained the association of a whole gamut of writers in Karnataka, both young and senior. It has so far published works by 151 writers, of whom 132 are men and 19 women. It is also significant that this community includes writers of various genres, schools and literary movements in the Kannada language. Therefore, this group is both wide and varied.
It is a matter of pride for Akshara Prakashana that the list of authors it has published also includes several prominent names of Kannada literature like M. Gopalakrishna Adiga, Sriranga, Dr. Shivarama Karantha, Dr. U.R. Anantha Murthy, P. Lankesh, Dr. Chandrashekhara Kambara, Dr. Ramachandra Sharma, Dr. D.R. Nagaraj, T.P. Ashok, Vaidehi, Vivek Shanbhag, Jayanth Kaikini, S Manjunath, Ashok Hegde, Ashadevi and others. At the same time, it has also been always introducing young and promising writers. Around fifty writers have made their debut through the Prakashana so far.
Akshara Prakashana has also introduced writers from other Indian as well as foreign languages through translations. Major writers who are published in Kannada translation through the Prakashana are – Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Sergei Eisenstein, Rammanohar Lohia, Subhash Mukhopadhyaya, Ashish Nandy, Shiva Vishwanathan among others. Several important works relating to theatre, cinema, ecology, science and environment are among these translations.