Born in 1882, Bellave Narahari Shastri completed his education in Tumkur, Karnataka. He worked as a teacher, education inspector and headmaster in government schools for a span of 40 years. During this time, from 1910 to 1950, Bellave Narahari Shastri wrote over 30 plays with 10 remaining unpublished and set standards for professional playwriting in Kannada theatre.
Bellave initially started writing for Gubbi Veeranna’s company that travelled all over the state of Karnataka giving several performances. Gubbi’s company had first come to Bangalore in 1886 and soon became synonymous with Kannada theatre itself.
The plays written by Bellave Narahari Shastri were mostly based on mythological themes and included stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavat Gita. He also wrote independently about ‘Bhakti Samrajya’ or Bhakti Empire, his stories depicting the lives of heroes from the Bhakti movement who attempted and brought about social change and criticism.
Bellave Narahari Shastri’s plays were adorned with good songs set to classical Carnatic music. Their moods varied from intense, satirical moments to earthy, comical sequences. His characters were taken from classical Kannada and Sanskrit literature.
Apart from writing several plays that were later picturised, Bellave also wrote scripts and screenplays for certain Kannada films. He is credited for having the written the script for the first Kannada movie, Sati Sulochana (1934).
His other famous plays include Sadarame, which is still frequently staged by several theatre troupes all over the country, and Hemmareddy Mallamma which became quite prominent during the 1940s. Raja Chandrasekhar's superhit Sadarame (1935) was an adaptation of the play.
Apart from being a dramatist of national acclaim, Bellave Narahari Shastri also composed music for some of the most mellifluous Kannada melodies of his time. He composed the music for Sati Sulochana along with R Nagendra Rao.
Bellave Narahari Shastri passed away in the year 1951. His contribution to Kannada literature and Kannada music continues to echo among theatrical troupes all over India.
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