Simha, a versatile cultural icon

Simha, a versatile cultural icon

Channapatna Ramaswamy Simha, who daubed the greasepaint at a tender age of 12, was a critically acclaimed director, a popular actor and  a reputed playwright, all rolled into one.

In the past six decades, he had contributed immensely not only to theatre but also to cinema and television and carved a niche for himself in the Kannada cultural world.

Simha’s tryst with stage started with the popular Bangalore-based theatre group Prabhat Kalavidaru. In 1972, he launched his own troupe Nataranga and directed several big-ticket plays such as ‘Kakanakote’, ‘Tughlaq’ and ‘Sankranthi’, to name a few.

In the early 80s, he established another theatre group Vedike, through which he presented his much-acclaimed one-man show ‘Typical TP.’ Apparently, it was the maiden amateur Kannada play that was staged abroad.

Simha also acted in over 150 Kannada movies, playing major character roles. The most notable among them are the award-winning films ‘Samskara,’ ‘Bara,’ ‘Chithegoo Chinte’ and ‘Anuroopa.’ His commercial hits included ‘Indina Ramayana,’ ‘Nee Bareda Kadambari,’ ‘Parameshi Prema Prasanga,’ ‘Rayaru Bandaru Mavana Manege,’ and ‘Nee Thanda Kanike.’ He even directed five Kannada films – ‘Kakanakote’, ‘Shikaari’, ‘Simhasana’, ‘Ashwamedha’ and ‘Angayalli Apsare’. He was no alien to small screen and had acted in many television serials in Kannada, Hindi and English, including the popular ‘Malgudi Days.’

Another remarkable contribution of Simha, an alumnus of the National College, Basavanagudi, was the translation of Shakespearean plays such as Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello into Kannada. He directed and acted in these plays that were staged also in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

He was also associated with Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT) from the 1960s and directed some of the reputed English plays which included his portrayal of Cyrana-De-Bergerac hailed as a memorable performance. His other notable works for BLT were Utpal Dutt’s ‘Suryashikar’ and Girish Karnad’s ‘Tughlaq’.

Though Simha is nor more, his legacy continues. His son Ritwik Simha is now a recognised stage director. Simha named his son Ritwik after the great film-maker Ritwik Ghatak. 

A few years ago, Ritwik Simha directed ‘Rasarushi Kuvempu’ in which his father played the lead role.
His ‘Guhe’ is an architectural marvel

Simha had named his house ‘Guhe’ (cave in Kannada). Built on a 4,000-sq ft plot on the Ring Road in Banashankari 3rd Stage in the City, it is considered an architectural marvel.Designed by architect Krishna Rao Jaisim, the house has been featured in many realty magazines and also bagged awards. Stone, hollow blocks, burnt-clay terracotta and wood make up most of the two-level house which has a dome-like roof.

Guhe has a 15-foot-deep, semi-circle, stepdown amphitheatre area surrounded by over a dozen trees for a farmhouse effect. A nine-foot-tall stone statue of Charlie Chaplin, whom Simha adored, sculpted by renowned artist John Devaraj, is another attraction. The statue has signatures of thespian Rajkumar and writers U R Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad and other cultural icons.

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