03 February 2023

Belagallu Veeranna

Published in Artists
Written by  S. Manjunatha Be the first to comment!

Belagallu Veeranna, from the heroic soil of Bellary, is a great theatrical and folk artist, who gave a new touch and brought a new glory, to a much neglected folk art called “THOGALU GOMBE AATA” (meaning Skin-puppet play). Among all the different folk arts, Yakshagana, Bayalaata, and Naataka, Thogalu Gombe aata has its own specialty in its functioning style and presentation. This ancient folk art even today has got a strong potential to attract the people of the modern world to look towards it! It was this great man who he redefined and gave a new dimension for the so called ‘art of the skin-puppets’ and there by made this ignorant art into an internationally popular colorful folk art.  

Belagallu Veeranna born during the first half of the 1930’s belonged to a backward rural community.  Ancestors of Sri Veeranna were also great artists.  His father, Late Hanumanthappa was both a famous violinist and a theatrical artist who used to enact female roles. Veeranna an artist by birth started taking part in dramas and participated in ‘Bhajan Singing’ in and around the village.  Late Sri Joladaraashi Doddana Gouda, a well-known Gamaka Artist,  who praised his dramatic skills and texture of his voice, and Sidaginamola Late Sri Chandrayya Swamy motivated by asking young Veeranna to join their Drama Company.

Later, in 1980s, the then Director of Kannada and Culture Department, Sri Vijaya Saasnoor sought attention of Sri Veeranna in giving life to the almost dying Thogalu Gombe art. Greatly motivated by the encouragement of Sri Vijay Saasnoor, to reinvigorate the art of Puppets in Karnataka, Veeranna took this venture in a challenging way and hence forth decided to sacrifice his life just for the very existence of Thogalu Gombe art. He set a record of his own to perform “Panchwati”, an excerpt from the Ramayana, staged in Ravindra Kalakshetra, Bangalore, with the financial aid and boosting of confidence of the then president of Central Music and Drama Academy, Smt. Kamaladevei Chattopdhyaya. This very moral and financial support of Smt. Kamaladevi, made Veeranna to opt for Thogalu Gombe Aata, as a main profession and could proceed with the skin-puppets for the rest of his life. When Sri Girish Karnad a great dramatist and Jnana Peeta Awardee, was the president of Kendra Sangeeta Naataka Academy, helped Veeranna to stage “Bharata Swathantra Sangraama” and thus made available a folk art to address the issues of great social concerns.  Soon Veeranna became an expert in performing skin-puppet shows from not only the excerpts of Mythological events, but also from the historical and social episodes.   Veeranna also made possible and performed many health and socially concerned issues in his own Thogalu Gombe art. In doing so, he simultaneously poularized the Thogalu Gombe art and also succeeded in creating awareness among the rural mass, regarding health, sanitation and many social evils.  It is an achievement that the troupe that performs excerpts from the Scriptures has at the same time, succeeded in presenting modern topics also.  The performances worth mentioning are “Pravaadi Basaveshwara”, “Kittoor Channamma”, “Bhaarata Swatantra Sangrama”, and “Mahatma Gandhi These performances stand proof for the fact, that this troupe could do well in the field of modern episodes too.  Now Veeranna is busy in preparing himself to present “Gautama Buddha”, “Vivekananda” and “Ambedkar” Thogalu Gombe shows. The invitations from different Associations, organizations of different states, show the greatness of his expertise in the field of skin-puppets in entire India.    

He was invited by the Reidberg Museum, Zurich, Switzerland, on the occasion of 60th India and Swiss Anniversary. It was a part of the “Bhaaratotsava”, held from 24 June, 2008, to 7 July, 2008.  His troupe presented the Panchavati’s episode “Seethaapaharana”, an excerpt from the Ramayana.  He also performed “Mahatma Gandhi” which brought name and fame both to his troupe and to India.  He was also invited by the Linden Museum, Stuttgart-Germany in October 2011, on the occasion of centenary celebrations of the museum. The troupe headed by Veeranna gave many performances in other states of Germany, Nuremberg, Koln, and Mainz with the collaboration of Indo-German Society.  

Veeranna for his selfless services in bringing the theatre and folk arts to the lime light, has been awarded with many prestigious state and national awards. Rajyotsava Prashasti, Karnataka Nataka Academi award, Janpada and yakshagana Academy award, Janpada Shri award for his life time achievement from the Karnataka state government. He has also been recognized for his art services in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh states. He was awarded 'Kendra Sangeet Natak akademi' award for the year 2011, by the government of India.  In 2013, he was awarded 'Nadoja' a honorary doctorate from Hampi Kannada University, Karnataka. We from the nammabellary.com website, proudly presented "Namma Bellary Prashasthi" for the year 2013. Let us wish him and his troupe to have many more success in their ventures!

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