Sri Nilakanteshwara Natya Seva Sangha (Ninasam)

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

Sri Nilakanteshwara Natya Seva Sangha (Ninasam), based in Karnataka’s Shimoga district, is often held up as a unique example of a cultural institution that combines rural roots with a cosmopolitan spirit. Ninasam is many things at once – a theatre school, a repertory company, a film society and a publishing house. It began in the 1950s as an itinerant drama company, and theatre continues to remain at the core of Ninasam’s activities. Tirugata, its repertory troupe, travels with new productions across Karnataka for several months each year.

Description: This IFA grant enabled Ninasam to update the existing database on performance spaces in Karnataka as well as create a digitised version of it, which will be accessible on CDs initially and eventually on a website as well. Ninasam felt that such a database had significance in the present context of theatre in Karnataka.

K V Akshara, who leads Ninasam said, “Theatre activities in Karnataka today are not centered in Bangalore or the other big centres but have spread to various smaller towns and rural areas. As a result, a new bunch of theatre groups have emerged and they have been regularly producing plays and performing them in various places”. Akshara believes that given these developments, an updated survey of spaces for theatre makes sense.

The earlier survey covered about 420 theatres and provided data on the location of each space, the nature of its stage and auditorium, its seating capacity, rental details, spatial dimensions, the types of other spaces attached to it, and equipment available. Before undertaking the fresh survey, Ninasam redesigned the original questionnaire, fine-tuned the selection criteria for performance spaces, and conducted training for a batch of past students of Ninasam’s theatre school. Ninasam felt that it made sense to re-evaluate the selection criteria, since some spaces included in the earlier survey turned out to be available only for restricted local use or were not in use at all.

Putting this updated database on a CD enabled cross-referencing as well as facilitated dissemination. The CD is accessible at Ninasam and is also be available to those interested at a nominal price. Ninasam proposes to create a digitised database using web-compatible software so that it can be uploaded onto a website at a later stage.