Early Years of Gubbi Company
The company was named after Sri Chennabasaveswara, the presiding deity of Gubbi and met its initial expenses with subscription raised from the public. The troupe, consisting of the young and enthusiastic artists of the village adapted as its first play for the stage - Kumara Ramana Kathe - a well known Yakshagana Prabandha of the time and changed it to suit the stage; but the traditional Bhagavata, the chorus (Himmela and Mummela) and all other accessories of Yakshagana were availed of.
Rise to Fame for Gubbi Company
The former proprietor of the troupe - G. H. Veeranna, while a boy of 6 years of age, joined the troupe in 1896 and gradually became a master in the stage craft. In 1917 he virtually became the proprietor of the entire management and from that day to this, he has led the troupe from one success to another. The biography of the Gubbi Company indicates that it had an impressive past owing to the ceaseless efforts, foresight and ability of Veeranna. With his inimitable capacity to spot the talent, he brought playwrights like Bellave Narahari Sastri, Bhimaraju and B. Puttaswamiah to serve the stage. He built up a galaxy of artists of commendable skill and ability and made them dedicate themselves to the cause of the Kannada stage. He made all efforts and spent a good amount of money to make the troupe by far the best in South India.
The great success in Chennai brought royal patronage to the troupe in Mysore. In 1924, the troupe built its own play-house in Bengaluru. In 1925, for the first time, a Children's Theatre in Karnataka was tried out in the Bala Kalavardhini Nataha Sangha, which became quite a popular institution with its child-artists. This troupe of young artists toured all over Karnataka on professional lines. In 1926, Veeranna accepted the leadership of a professional troupe at Gadag. At this time, it is said that the Gubbi concern had a big train of about 250 persons including the artists and their families. With an undaunted zeal, new plays were taken up and rehearsed separately by the three wings of the great concern which toured in different specified regions. The main branch of the troupe under the leadership of Veeranna himself made an extensive tour of South India, including Salem, Chennai and Coimbatore.
Contribution of Gubbi Company
The colourful career of the Gubbi Company from 1884 with Kumara Ramana Kathe, a typical play of the folk theatre of Karnataka stage, to 1954 with a social play Sahukar, replete with fresh humour, suggests a few points of observation that may provide clues for its success and impression. The Gubbi Company seems to owe its success to its remarkable capacity to adapt itself to the changing times and tastes; yet putting in every effort to maintain a good standard of literary merit and dignity in production. It staged as many as about forty different plays based on mythological, historical and also social themes. Apart from discovering and getting men of letters to write out plays, a few popular plays were got translated from other languages, mostly from the Marathi language. While on tour in the South, the troupe staged its plays mostly in Telugu language or in Tamil language and gained great popularity. The success and progress of the company owes itself to the genius and leadership of Veeranna. It goes to the credit of the Gubbi Company to have contributed in a large measure to establish the Karnataka stage on a firm footing in the Kannada land itself and to have heralded its reputation in South India.