Dr. M. Prabhakara Joshy
Keremane Shambhu Hegde (1937-2008) was an iconic and phenomenal artist in Indian traditional theatre, as a whole. He was a performer, expert, critic, reformer, traditionalist, thinker and activist – all rolled in one.
Shambhu Hegde was endowed with a rich background at home and surroundings. His father Shivarama Hegde is considered to be one of the all time greats in Yakshagana. His cousin and mentor Mahabala Hegde was an outstanding artist and art thinker. His younger brother and more a close friend, Gajanana Hegde was a regular source of inspiration and pursuit. His teacher and Yakshagana artist Varada Hasyagar gave him the stage initiation. His national fellowship under Guru Maya Rao, gave him a big break and exposure. Shambhu used all these in a co-ordinated way with imagination and application.
As a Natya School Scholar, he saw the whole gamut of Indian traditional theatre and that kindled his thoughts towards using that knowledge to initiate a break through effort in Yakshagana, which he really did for over four decades with a zeal and fervor.
When the Keremane quartet joined the Saligrama Troupe (of Parampalli Shridhara Hande) in 1969, it was a big rage. Shambhu was the junior artist then. His role of Salva in Bhishma Vijaya, announced the arrival of a big actor of tomorrow.
When Shambhu started Shri Idagunji Maha Ganapathi Yakshagana Mandali, Keremane. It was a revival of his father’s troupe with a new outlook and dimension. For eleven years he set in a movement, an agenda and an artistic concept. Amidst stark commercialism and usual systems, Shambhu courageously treaded a new path.
As the main actor, organizer and everything of the troupe, he made gallant efforts to revive, reconstruct a great art in a creative direction. Throughout the eleven years of the troupe organization he was in debts and against many odds. In 1985 he reorganized his troupe into a limited time performance group. That was also a departure which too met with artistic success.
Shambhu Hegde gave a new look and dimension to the roles he performed – like Kamsa, Dushtabuddhi, Karthavirya, Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Durjaya, Salva, Duryodhana, Harishchandra, Sudhanva, Dhusharatha and many more. He understood and grasped the great tradition of a Yakshagana in the right perspective with a visionary outlook. As an actor, dancer and interpreter Shambhu can be compared with the best of his type in the country. He synthesized the dance, stage craft, costume, music and spoken word in a wholistic way to create some exemplary and unforgettable depictions.
Shambhu Hegde’s speeches on art culture were the products of mature thinking and effective exposition. Through his writings, speeches and demonstrations he tried to create an awareness among artists and art supporters.
His Yakshagana school, Srimaya Kala Kendra and the Keremane Shivaram Hegde theatre and other programmes were an extension of his tireless zeal and singular dedication to create a quality Yakshagana culture.
Pleasant, friendly, cheerful, ever active, always helpful and acceptable at all levels. Shambhu was a role model for artists and society in general. He was a social celebrity and a man for all occasions.
Keremane Shambhu Hegde represents a movement, a mission and achievement that stands as a tali image to emulate.
His untimely demise is a great loss, the end of an era and the disappearance of a rare combination – hard to replace of fill in the near future.