During his short but shining life, Shankar Nag (1955–1990) was many things to many people. Occupying both stage and screen, Shankar was beloved as ‘Auto Raja’, an upright honest auto driver who embodies the working class, and as ‘Karate King’, a macho action hero who brought his unique brand of masculinity to the people, in memorable roles he played onscreen.
One of the most energetic and dynamic theatre practitioners of hisgeneration, Shankar began his theatre journey at the age of 16. While much of his reputation was built as an actor in films and as a director for television (Malgudi Days remains a landmark production on Indian TV) and movies, Shankar held theatre close to his heart and never really moved too far from the stage.
Shankar dreamed of creating a vibrant, affordable, inclusive space for the theatre community – both theatre makers and audiences – in Bangalore. In this space, theatre makers would work together and inspire each other, young people would learn and experiment, audiences would be challenged as well as embraced.
“Theatre Alive!” at Ranga Shankara is a tribute to his memory – to the energy of his person, to the dynamism of his vision, to the largeness of his heart, and to the vastness of his ambition. Shankar’s death made us the custodians of his strongest belief: that theatre has the power to touch, enrich and transform us all.
“Shankar Nag saw theatre as a language capable of expressing the innermost human emotions, an art form unifying in itself all the other forms. He dreamt of a platform at once fearless, adventurous and free of prejudice, which could become the focus of the cultural life of the community and empower fresh talent to fulfill its creative potential.”
– Girish Karnad on Shankar Nag.
Ranga Shankara is the definitive space for quality theatre in Bangalore. Since it opened it doors in October 2004, Ranga Shankara has developed into one of the nerve centres of theatre in India. More than just a performance space, Ranga Shankara is a dynamic cultural institution dedicated to theatre and theatre arts. It showcases performances from India and abroad, produces and commissions new and innovative theatrical productions, and creates outreach programmes and workshops to impart theatre skills and nurture a love of theatre and the arts in general.
We believe that theatre should be accessible to everyone. We keep our rentals low, making our space affordable to theatre makers. In turn, they keep their ticket prices low, making theatre going affordable to audiences. Ranga Shankara has dramatically changed the way theatre is performed and viewed in Bangalore. At Ranga Shankara, all performances are ticketed and open to the public.
More than “A Play A Day” means we have over 400 performances a year in languages from across the city, across the country and across the world. Scores of theatre groups have taken birth in the city thanks to Ranga Shankara and watching theatre has become a habit for a large cross-section of the society. The monthly calendar at Ranga Shankara ensures that there is something for every theatre enthusiast. Catering to the signature cosmopolitan nature of Bangalore and the diversity of languages and age groups are the most enjoyable challenges we at Ranga Shankara and the troupes take on.
Our theatre festivals, the annual Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival, AHA! International Theatre Festival for Children, the biennial “EQUAL – Women’s Voices for a Common Humanity”,the annual festival of plays by young directors, etc., are carefully curated and present productions in different genres, styles and languages. Not only do these celebrations bring diverse theatre communities together, they are also a wonderful opportunity for audiences to expand their idea and experience of theatre.
“Shankar Nag was the ideal rangakarmi, a supremely talented and equally tireless worker for theatre. He had the capacity to direct, act, write and, most of all, to gather people around him to dream with him.”
Instituted on 9 Nov ’14 to commemorate Shankar Nag’s 60th birthday, The Shankar Nag Award is presented to a young theatre maker who embodies service to theatre. The award is given awayon the last day of the annual Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival.
The Sanket Trust was founded in ‘92 by a group of theatre lovers, many of whom had worked with Shankar and Arundhati Nag in the Sanket theatre group. The Trust formally administers Ranga Shankara and all its activities. It is a registered body and has theatre personalities as well as administrative experts on its Board of Trustees. The Trust is also advised and guided by friends of theatre from all over the country.
The Board of Trustees meets twice a year whereas our informal advisory group meets as and when necessary to review Ranga Shankara activities and share ideas.
One of India’s greatest playwrights whose plays are constantly performed in the country and abroad, Girish Karnad has won India’s highest literary honour, the Jnanapith Award, as well as several other state and central awards for his contributions to Indian theatre. He has been Chairman of the central Sangeet Natak Akademi (Academy for Performing Arts) and Director of the Nehru Centre in London. He has also directed and acted in several films in many Indian languages and was at the forefront of new wave cinema in Kannada and Hindi.
One of India’s most talented contemporary actors, Arundhati Nag is also known for her tenacity and single-minded pursuit of building Ranga Shankara and running it as a world-class theatre destination. A rare combination of an artiste, dreamer, thinker and administrator, Arundhati has served on the Boards of several arts organisations in the country. She is at equal ease with both theatre and cinema and has won several prestigious national awards for both.
A graduate of the National School of Drama, a fine writer of short stories and plays and a director, Suri is a well-known name in Kannada theatre. He has worked extensively on Indian mime and in the GRIPS Theatre module of Germany, a movement that fosters theatre for children. He is an active member of the Sanket theatre group which has been bringing high quality theatre in Kannada for over three decades.
A keen theatre enthusiast, Sri Parameshwarappa was the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka. Having been in senior positions in state administration, he is able to guide the Sanket Trust on matters of administration and policy.
Suresh was born in 1962 and studied Ceramic Technology. He has been active in theatre from the age of 10. He has written eighteen plays while he had directed more than 30 plays including Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear. Suresh’s play ShaapuradaSeeningi got him the Karnataka Sahitya Academy’s book award in 2012. He has written scripts for more than 25 films; produced award winning television serials and produced four and directed five award winning feature films. Suresh’s production (Gubbachigalu) fetched him the Golden Lotus award in 2007 and the film he directed (Puttakkana Highway) got the Silver Lotus in 2010. He has been a member of the Kannada Development Authority, Vice Chairman of Suchitra Film Society and is currently active in theatre, television and films.
Professor M S Sriram (born in 1962) is currently Visiting Faculty at IIM Bangalore. He is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Development of Research in Banking Technology – an institute set up by the Reserve Bank of India and a Visiting Professor at IIM Udaipur. Prior to this he was the ICICI Bank Lalita D Gupte Chair professor in Microfinance at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He is also on the board of NDDB Dairy Services, Indian Dairy Machinery Company, MicroCredit Ratings International and Centre for Budget and Policy Studies. He is also a Trustee of Pratham Books and Dastkar Andhra. Sriram is also a writer in Kannada. He has five books of fiction and four books of essays to his credit. He won the Masti Kannada Seva Nidhi Award for his first manuscript Mayadarpana and the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award for 2014 for his work of fiction Salman KhananaDifficultiesU and in 2015 for his collection of essays Arthartha.
A small, dedicated team runs the Ranga Shankara machinery. From programming to managing fests to housekeeping to the ticket counter and the auditorium, this team just keeps marching! And ensures that there are different colours and fragrances in the fresh flowers all over the building week after week. And remembers to bring seasonal specials like the “Krishna Kamala” or the “Nagalingapushpa” for the urli!
Ranga Shankara is a commitment to the art of theatre, to the social fabric of our country and its people.
To keep dreams like these running, it is essential to have solid and dependable partners.
The land for Ranga Shankara is a BDA civic amenity site, earmarked for a Theatre. The building was made possible by numerous donations, in cash,
material and human resources. They came from the Government, individual donors and corporates. Ranga Shankara is a sterling example of how a
dream with a mandate for the city can get people from many walks of life involved.