Guru Bannanje Sanjiva Suvarna, Teacher at Yakshagana Kendra, M G M College, Udupi, is noteworthy personality who started as a amateur Yakshagana artist and blossomed fully into a fine exponent of the traditional artist of Yakshagana.
Born in a poor family of Moodanidamburu as son of Sooru Poojari and Seethu Poojarthi, Bannanje Sanjiva Suvarna (12-9-1955) was brought up by famous Bhagawath Bannanje Narayana Shetty who initiated him to Yakshagana training. Sanjiva who had formal education only upto 3rd standard, got the basics of Tala and drumming (chande) from Narayana Shetty and trained in footwork under the guidance of Margoli Govinda Serigara, famous female role actor of yesteryears. Sakkattu Seetharama Rao also gave some training.
In 1972, he joined Yakshagana Kendra as a student on parttime basis. In that year Kendra conducted night classes for budding amateur artists. There he got education under distinguished Gurus like B Veerabhadra Naik, Hiriyadka Gopala Rao and Nilavara Ramakrishnayya. For the next two years (1973 – 1974), he studied in the Kendra as a regular student. In 1975, Veerabhadra Naik came out from the Kendra and joined professional Yakshagana troupe Saligrama Mela when he took two of his students namely Rama Nairi and Bannanje Sanjiva Suvarna with him. Sanjiva could not continue in that troupe for long. During 1976 and 1977, he toured with the professional troupes Hiriyadka Mela and Goolegaradi Mela. Though he had mastered most of the aspects of the traditional theatre, he did not continue in the regular Melas.
During 1979 – 80, he saw a major turn in his career. Director of National School of Drama, B V Karanth took Sanjiva and Manjunatha Prabhu of Pethri to delhi, where they gave training to the N S D students to dance in Yakshagana style which was adopted by Karanth in his production of ‘Burnam Van’ the Hindi version of Shakespears play Macbeth. Sanjiva gave training in footwork and played Chande while Prabhu accompanied on Maddale. After training for six months, Sanjiva toured with the troupe all over India and gave chande accompaniment to that production.
In 1982, Sanjiva joined Guru Maya Rao’s group of artists which toured Europe. After this tour, he joined the troupe of Dr K Shivarama Karanth and took training under him and toured Italy, France, Germany and Russia. He was taken as a chande artist when Dr Karanth organised ‘Yaksharanga’, an experimental Yakshagana. From 1984 Sanjiva Suvarna is the member of teaching facutly of Yakshagana Kendra and is directing new plays in addition to his teaching work.
Sanjiva is well-versed in traditional Yakshagana of Badagu Thittu style. He has mastered all the steps and techniques of different types of roles such as Kedage Mundale, Kiratha, Bannadavesha (Rakshasa), Stri Vesha (female role) and Hasya (Clown). He got some of the basics of the theatre from great artist Metkal Krishnayya Shetty. He acquired many finer aspects from Veerabhadhra Nail and Shirigara Manju Naik during his tour with the professional troupes. He also got many tips from great lady character actor, Haradi Narayana Ganiga. During the tour, he learnt many things that great artist Keremane Mahabala Hegde.
In 2002, Sanjiva along with S A Krishnayya of R R C, Udupi was invited to New York (USA) to join a theatrical production. It was a synthesis of puppetry and theatre, in which Sanjiva played the roleof Krishna of Githopadesha. He is the most able hand to give demonstration of traditional Badagu Thittu style of Yakshagana at present.
As he was a trainee and performer under Dr Karanth for 18 years, Sanjiva mastered that sort of choreography and began to direct new plays on the footstpes of his preceptor. Sanjiva who looks short, lean, smiling like a smart college student is one of a few blessed artists at present who have preserved the traditional knowledge and engaged in innovative theatre work.
Sanjiva Suvarna is today an authority on Yakshagana of northern style. A simple, enthusiastic, ready to help and committed artist, Sanjiva is an asset of Yakshagana and even senior artists like his guidance.
Address: Sanjiva Suvarna, Guru, Yakshagana Kendra, M G M College, P O Kunjibettu, Udupi – 576102
– K M Raghava Nambiar