Drama over Nataka Academy awards

Drama over Nataka Academy awards

A storm is raging in theatre circles after the Karnataka Nataka Academy cancelled a list of awards announced by its outgoing president

The Karnataka Nataka Academy has come under fire after it cancelled awards announced by its outgoing president.

Senior artists are outraged, and say withdrawal of awards goes against the very spirit of the academy.

The academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award was announced for actor and Congress politician Umashree in July 2019. G V Sharada has now been named in her place.

One of the grounds on which the previous list was scrapped, was that the academy members who chose Umashree were her nominees when she was minister of Kannada and Culture.

A senior artiste on the previous list, who didn’t want to be named, told Showtime, “We have become a laughing stock. The decision mocks our contributions to Kannada language and culture.”

Umashree says the academy has humiliated a host of theatre luminaries. “What wrong have they committed? I have won several awards in the past and the withdrawal doesn’t bother me, but why should others suffer?” she says.

J Lokesh, previous president of the academy, counters the charge that it was wrong to announce winners on the last day of his term. “The whole thing has been misconstrued. The rules say awardees can be chosen between April and March. I have done exactly that,” he says.

Lokesh has met Kannada and Culture Minister, C T Ravi, and explained the situation. “He is convinced by our stand. I also suggested that awards be given to artistes on both lists so that nobody is disappointed,” says Lokesh.

Well-known theatre personality K Marulasiddappa terms the withdrawal of awards “uncultured, unacademic, and unethical”.

“The Nataka Academy is an academy and cultural institution. If the new committee had a problem, it should have condemned the act by the previous leadership but abided by the awards list. Withdrawal of awards is just not done,” he says.

He says all names on the first list, including Umashree, are deserving. “People on both lists are upset because they believe they are all artistes first,” he says. 

A brief history

Established in 1959 by the then Mysore government under the Mysore State Sangeeta Nataka Academy, the Karnataka Nataka Academy became an independent entity in 1978. Its objective is to work with similar academies elsewhere, and with organisations within Karnataka for the cause of theatre. It is also mandated with establishing libraries, publishing books related to theatre, organising seminars and festivals, and honouring those who have excelled in theatre.

They violated procedure, says president

Prof Bheemasen R, current president of the Karnataka Nataka Academy, took charge on October 15, 2019. He justifies the decision to scrap the list of awardees announced by the previous president.

“Every year, in November or December, we conduct a meeting and select and awardees. We announce winners before February and present the awards in March. This year, straying from procedure, the awards were announced on July 29, the last working day of the previous president. He sent out letters to all awardees, when the practice is for the registrar to do it,” Bheemasen told Showtime.

He says the new members of the academy have immense respect for artists on the first list, but the method adopted to honour them was all wrong. “We drew up a new list because we feel we should protect the integrity of this institution,” he says.

Before becoming president of the academy, Bheemasen was a professor of biochemistry at a medical college in Ballari.

I finally got recognition: G V Sharada

After scrapping Umashree’s name, the academy has announced its lifetime achievement award for G V Sharada.

Sharada, who has acted opposite Dr Rajkumar, Kalyan Kumar and Uday Kumar in a number of films, says, “I had always wondered why I was never recognised for my contributions to the Kannada film industry. Now, at the age of 80, I am thrilled to receive such a prestigious award because I have worked really hard to get to where I am today,” Sharada says.

She began her career at the age of 3 with Gubbi Company.

She has completed 75 years in the Kannada film industry.  Sharada’s films include ‘Mavana Magalu,’ ‘Upasane’ and  ‘Balanagamma’.

She has acted on stage in ‘Krishna-Leela’, ‘Akkamahadevi’ and ‘Mane Magalu’.

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