(Last Updated on : 25/03/2014)
Amateur Dramatic Association or ADA is a theatre group that was completely non-commercial and inaugurated and consolidated amateur Kannada theatre. It was established in Bangalore in 1909 by a band of theatre-loving lawyers, merchants, and teachers. Inspired by the Suguna Vilasa Nataka Sabha of Madras, it enrolled subscribers and created a strong organizational structure different from that of the Company Nataka troupes. It made several meaningful contributions over its first three decades. Amateur Dramatic Association produced new plays, built up a discerning audience, conducted festivals and competitions, published theatre magazines, and commissioned new scripts as well.
Beginning with productions of 'literary' plays, the Amateur Dramatic Association soon started organizing drama competitions and festivals. One such competition in 1919 attracted new scripts from T. P Kailasam, Samsa, and Masti Venkatesa Iyengar, who grew into major dramatists later. In the same year the ADA also held a national theatre conference inaugurated by Rabindranath Tagore, in which several luminaries participated. Once it established itself as a prominent troupe, it began to travel inside as well as outside Karnataka. It mounted two successful productions, v.i.z. Kabir and Othello. These successful productions took them to places like Bombay and Calcutta, receiving favourable reviews everywhere. During the 1920s it ran a magazine called Rangabhumi or 'The Stage' and, later, an English journal, 'Theatre'. These periodicals carried information on theatre activities in Karnataka, introductions to theatrical genres from all over the world, critical discussions on contemporary Indian theatre, as well as new Kannada play scripts.
In Amateur Dramatic Association, the leading person, and also the centre of attraction, was the well-known actor Bellary Raghava. He was a lawyer by profession who completely dedicated himself to the cause of good theatre. Modelling himself on the European stars of his times, he excelled in heroic and tragic roles. Bellary Raghava had a fine voice, graceful presence, and an extra touch of realism in portraying his characters. Performing fluently in Kannada, Telugu, and English, he rose to fame both in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. After his death in 1946, the ADA's influence declined, but it had already become a model non-commercial group for others to emulate.