Gubbi Veeranna
Born24 January 1891
Died18 October 1972
Bangalore (St. Martha's Hospital)
Occupation(s)Theatre director, actor
Spouse(s)Sundaramma, Bhadramma, B. Jayamma

Gubbi Hampanna Veeranna (1891 – 1972) was an Indian theatre director. He was one of the pioneers and most prolific contributors to Kannada theatre. He established the drama company, Gubbi Sree Channabasaveshwara Nataka Company, which played a crucial role in promoting the Kannada theatre field. He has been conferred the title Nataka Ratna meaning "A Precious Jewel" in the theatre world. Gubbi Veeranna laid the foundation stone for the Kannada film industry. He established a studio, produced silent films in early days of cinema and produced good Kannada short films, He built theaters and introduced many actors including Dr Rajkumar, G.V Iyer, B.V Karanth, Girish Karnad and others to the Kannada film industry.

Gubbi Veeranna Nataka Company is the first theatre company in Karnataka to employ female artists to portray female characters on the stage.[1] Elephants and horses were also brought on stage in war scenes of Kurukshetra. There is a popular saying that the story of Gubbi Veeranna's company is itself the story of the Kannada theatre, which indicates the popularity of this company in the theatre world.[2] Apart from theatre, Gubbi Veeranna has also produced films and acted in them as well. He set up one of the first film studio's in Bengaluru called the Sree Kanteerava Studios in association with the government and few other personalities like TS Karibasavaiah and V Shankare Gowda.

In 1955, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for acting, given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama, and the highest Indian recognition given to practising artists.[3] The Government of India awarded him the fourth-highest civilian honour of the Padma Shri, in 1972, for his contributions to arts.[4]


Gubbi Veeranna was born in the village Gulaganjihalli, Near Gubbi in the Tumkur district of Karnataka in the year 1891.[5] He started a drama company called Gubbi Shree Channa Basaveshwara Nataka Company and started producing plays in which he also acted sometimes. He had three wives, Sundaramma, Bhadramma and B. Jayamma.[1] He had an unnerving commitment towards the theatre. An incident to corroborate this is when his second wife Sundaramma, who was also an artist with the company, died on the stage while enacting a play. It is said that Gubbi Veeranna who was also acting in the play along with his children, did not stop the play but allowed it to continue till the end. He and his children attended to her dead body only after the play stopped.[1]

Veeranna also is credited for having groomed Rajkumar, Narasimharaju, Balakrishna, G.V.Iyer, B. V. Karanth, Master Hirannaiah and many more artists. He not only helped them with their careers in the theatre field but also provided them with other financial help. As an example, Veeranna provided a financial contribution towards B. V. Karanth's graduation and master's degree at Banaras Hindu University.[6]

Veeranna had many children including G.V Shivanand who was an accomplished dramatist and director. He also had 37 grandchildren including B. Jayashree and Vyjayanthi Kashi, G.S. Sundarashree and G.S. Nataraj. who have been associated with the Kannada theater and film industry.

Theatre company

Initially located in Gubbi, the company started to travel to different places and stage plays in those locations. The company had a troupe of more than 150 artists and backstage workers.[7] Some popular plays staged by the company included Sadaarame and Yechamma Nayaka. These plays consisted of innovations like trick scenes, floods, clouds and rain. In those days, dramas used were staged for free with people only paying according to their liking at the end of the drama.

However, Gubbi Veeranna's dramas were an exception with people willing to buy tickets to watch them.[7] Most of the actors and actresses that entered the Kannada cinema world in those days were from this drama company.[2] Later the company opened branches in different places. An important branch of the company was the Mysore branch which staged popular plays and the finances generated from this branch actually sustained the whole company. The humorist Hirannaiah was one of the persons responsible for the popularity of the Mysore branch.[8]

Gubbi Veeranna's company first came to Bangalore in the year 1916. Later Gubbi Veeranna constructed his own theatre in Bangalore on the Subedar Chatram Road in 1924 and the Shivananda Theatre (now called as Movieland) in 1930.[2] Probably, the most famous artist to emerge from the Gubbi Veeranna company was Rajkumar. Rajkumar's father Singanallur Puttaswamiah was an actor in the company and Rajkumar and his brother joined the company as child artistes.[9] Rajkumar actually attributed his command over the Kannada language and his singing skills to the training he underwent under the watchful eyes of Gubbi Veeranna.[9]

Film production

One of the early pioneers of Kannada cinema, Gubbi Veeranna started a limited company called Karnataka Films Productions to produce films. His first production was a movie 'Song of Life' in 1930, followed by 'His Love Affair' in 1931. He then produced 'Harimaya' in 1932 followed by the evergreen comedy Sadarame in 1935, in which he acted in the lead role. The film had C.I.D. Sakunthala, Ashwathama and B. Jayamma in the cast and was directed by Raja Chandrasekar. He then produced Subhadra which had Honnappa Bhagavathar in the lead.

In 1942, he produced Jeevana Nataka with Kemraj Urs in the lead. He again acted in the lead role in the film Hemareddy Mallamma, in 1945. He produced Sathya Shodhanai in 1953, which was a Tamil Film and had again starred Honnappa Bhagavathar. Karnataka Gubbi Productions was later called as The Karnataka Films Ltd., it is attributed to have started the film career of Rajkumar when it agreed to offer him the lead role in his first film Bedara Kannappa.[10]

He has also produced silent movies like His Love Affair which was directed by a foreigner, Raphel Algoet. In this film, the lead role of the actor was played by Gubbi Veeranna himself and the actress was none other than his wife, Jayamma.[11] In 1956, he produced Sadaarme, which had T.N. Balakrishna in lead and also had Kalyan Kumar. It was the remake of 1936 movie with the same name. In 1959, he produced Sahodhari, a Tamil Film which had K. Balaji in the Lead.


Film Year Director
Song of Life 1930 G. P. Pawar
His Love Affair 1931 Raphaël Algoet
Hari Maya 1932 Y. V. Rao
Sadarame 1936 Raja Chandrasekhar
Subhadra 1941 P. Pullaiah
Jeevana Nataka 1942 Wahab Kashmiri
Hemareddy Mallamma 1945 S. Soundararajan
Gunasagari 1953 H. L. N. Simha


The Karnataka government has instituted the Gubbi Veeranna award for excellence in theatre in his memory.


  1. ^ a b c Deepa Ganesh. "Dramatic silences". Online Edition of the Hindu, dated 6 March 2003. 2003, the Hindu. Archived from the original on 22 December 2004. Retrieved 19 June 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ a b c K. Chandramouli (17 October 2002). "All the city was a stage for them". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 21 October 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  3. ^ "SNA: List of Akademi Awardees". Sangeet Natak AkademiOfficial website. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  5. ^ "The Man Behind Kannada Theater – Gubbi Veeranna". Online web page of Archived from the original on 13 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  6. ^ Girish Karnad. "Tribute". Online webpage of Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  7. ^ a b Kuldip Dhiman. "All life is an accident". Online Edition of The Tribune, dated 11 November 2000. Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  8. ^ "Blessed with the gift of the gab". Online edition of the Hindu, dated 5 August 2005. 2005, The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  9. ^ a b Muralidhar Khajane (14 April 2006). "Raja bequeaths empire". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 18 June 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  10. ^ "Rajkumar had a link with Hubli". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 14 April 2006. Archived from the original on 23 April 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  11. ^ "Mylapore and movies". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 18 October 2001. Archived from the original on 7 December 2005. Retrieved 19 June 2007.