The crusader-artist

We have just celebrated the Teachers’ Day which is an occasion to pay tribute to the souls who shaped our future. While parents give us love and good upbringing, the acharya kindles the light of knowledge in us — an essential tool that moulds our character.

I fondly remember my revered teacher Aa Na Subba Rao, an altruist and a master artist who had dedicated his life for the cause of art by encouraging aspiring lovers of art rather than going after wealth.

It was a common sight in Gandhi Bazaar to see this aged Gandhian, wearing khadi  jubba and tucked dhoti, riding a bicycle till into his late eighties, in his relentless effort to raise funds for running ‘the Kalamandir school of arts’ which he had founded in the year 1919 on Gandhi bazaar main road.

Though he was destined to lead a spartan life, he was blessed with the heart of a monarch. Thanks to his dedicated and incessant efforts Kalamandir turned out to be a true temple of arts of his dream, attracting a good number of aspiring students whom this master artist taught the nuances of sketching and colour-painting enabling them to develop their skills to professional level.

The versatile AaNaSu was a seasoned playwright too, emphasising intrinsic ethical values of life through his thought-provoking and socially-oriented themes. In order to personify the ideals conveyed through his plays, he founded the drama troupe under the banner ‘Chitra Kalavidaru’, which soon shot into fame to become one of the few popular amateur troupes existing in Bangalore then, of which I had the rare privilege of being an active member.

Besides providing a distinguished platform to the budding actors to exhibit their talents, he encouraged and guided the gifted ones to write skits and full-length plays. These scripts were taken for staging and during the course of rehearsals they acquired impressive shapes and got forged into popular plays which were subsequently published.

Among those who were moulded in the AaNaSu-foundry are well-known writers AS Murthy, Navaratna Ram, Dasharathi Dixit  and HS Parvathi — to name only a few. Also, Shakuntala Devi, the ‘Human computer’ of International fame, is an off-spring of Kalamandir who acted in several plays staged by Chitra Artists.

AaNaSu did not stop at this. Sensing the over-whelming response his Kalamandir was getting from art-lovers of Bangalore, he encouraged production of Dance programmes which attracted and encouraged several gifted artists like the well-known Maaney sisters who honed their talents here presenting unforgettable mythology-based numbers.

Fortunately, his devoted life did not become the ‘flower born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air’ as feared by Thomas Gray in his immortal poem ‘Elegy’. Thanks to the efforts of his family a road is named after AaNaSu in Hanumanth Nagar with his statue adorning it.

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