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          Keremane Shambhu Hegde is a house-hold word throughout the Coastal and Malnad Karnataka in the domain of “Yakshagana” .Born in 1938 as eldest son of Shri Shivaram Hegde Keremane and his inherited from his illustrious father an intimate knowledge of Yakshagana. His hard work, insight into the Indian Theatre in general and Yakshagana in particular, application of the experience so gained and dedication, makes him the leading authority on it.

            After passing is S.S.C examination, Shambhu Hegde was appointed as a teacher in a primary School. But his intense interest in dance, made him resign the secure job of a teacher and opt for Yakshagana which, while not providing him financial security, was sure, to provide him great happiness. Yakshagana is indeed his first love.


Shambhuji’s meeting in 1965 with the serer artiste U.S.Nataraj was a turning point in his career. He got an academi Scholarship and studied under the guidance of Dr. Maya Rao at the Natya Institute of Choreography, New Delhi for three years during 1966-69, with the help of scholarship granted by the Mysore State Sangeeta Nataka Academy. He completed Diploma in Choreography with distinction. His contact with the erstwhile Mysore State Cultural Troupe and his training changed the direction of his life. This gave him wide understanding of India’s traditional art froms and equipped him with a sound theoretical perspective.

 Though he had many attractive assignments, he turned them down and returned to his native place. Keremane - a tiny hamlet, in North Costal Karnataka. That decision is a landmark in the history of contemporary Yakshagana.


Revival of the Troupe

       The troupe founded by his father had lost its professional vigor, at this time and so, for a short while he joined another professional troupe. But, even then Shambhu Hegde conducted the troupe during the spare time. He revived the troupe in 1973 and made several innovations and experiments during his colorful crusade. He was full of Ideas, but short of capitol. Yet he successfully ran the troupe and enacted the dual roles of trope owner and chief artiste. His innovative interpretations of classical character roles infused vitality into a dying art and ensured its continued existence.


Innovations and Discoveries with the Theatre

       Sri Keremane Shambhu Hegde is an artiste who added new dimensions to Yakshagana. Shambhu Hegde’s distinctive style has endeared him to all strata of the audience won plaudits from critics. The perfect synchronization of his footwork with the ‘tala’, his gracefully fluid movements tuned to the ‘laya’ (rhythm) and his poise, have added a new dimension to Yakshagana. His every gesture and facial expression speaks and conveys themselves to every section of the audience. In doing so he has raised Yakshagana to new heights of beauty and appeal.

          The: “Nritya” element in contemporary Yakshagana was confined to Shrinagar and Veera Rasas only. Whereas Shambu Hegde expanded the parameters of dance to other Rasas too. Further, Dr. K. Shivaram Karanth emphasized the role of Abhinaya to harmonise with the music and dance. Shri Shambu Hegde does this to perfect the bridge between practicing professionals and theoreticians.

      Shambhu Hegde, starting with side roles, graduated to female roles, and other minor character roles, all the while consolidating his genius. His portrayels of Krishna (in the episodes of Krishnarjuna & Krishna Sandana), Harichandra, Karthaveerya, Hanumantha (in Lanka Dahana), Madana in Chandrahasa, and salva in Bhishma Vijaya are epoch making. He has successfully handled female roles of Subhadra, Ambe, Sairandri and Kaikeyi too. With perfect balance of all the four aspects of Abhinaya, viz, Angika (dance and body movements), Vachika (impromptu delivery of dialogues), Satvika (facial expressions) and Aharya (make-up and costumes) is acclaimed by many, his major roles have inspired many young artists who take him as a model. Especially his works on uncultivated areas of dance like pathetic mood (Shoka Rasa) made him distinguished.

To date he has staged more than 5,500 performances portraying over  60 themes and performed about 160 roles, ranging  from ‘Court Jester’ to the most heroic  and  noble characters. Despite all these, what is remarkable in his exquisite performances is that they consistently avoid the danger of becoming stereo types. This empathetic identification with the character makes them come to life rendering them easily understandable even to laymen. In recognition of his supreme versatility, he was adjudged “Sarva Shresta Purusha Veshadhari” (the best male Actor) by   “THINGS” of Udupi.

    Equally significant contribution is his selection of Prasangas (themes). At a time when most of the professional troupes only performed the already exhausted social themes, of love and marriage, with melodramatic passages thrown in merely to cater to the groundlings, he reoriented Yakshagana towards mythology and legends which he felt to be the proper themes, Yakshagana was perfectly suited for. And in doing so, he has unconsciously changed the tastes of the viewing public.


Rejuvenation of the Aesthetics of the Art Form

      Shambhu Hegde was also well known as a director with considerable imagination and originality. Under his directions many novel changes where brought about in allied fields like stage management, costumes and make-up. He employed his own troupe as a suitable forum to test new ideas and approaches to Yakshagana. In the bargain his trope has gained in fame. For instance, he radically changed the design of stage by introducing a semi circular stage (which had been mentioned in classic works of Yakshagana but never tried before) instead of the conventional rectangular one. This significant modification has been appreciated everywhere because it gives the dancer greater freedom of movement and hence far more effective expression and at the same time it allows sections of the theatre to have an unhindered view of the action. To bring in the uniformity of  basic colour contrast of a make-up, he invented a suitable ready to use  colour paste by using the existing traditional color sources. He is first ever to start the time-limited experiments while the whole field is running behind nightlong shows. His experiments on presentation style with explicitly sensitive and artistic expressions in dance made the field to adopt the same. In 1984 he changed the nature of this organization made it into a part time troupe. He wished to widen his activities and take Yakshagana to regions beyond its traditional domain. Shambhu Hegade was a good public speaker too. He has given demonstration – Lecture in various parts of the country and abroad. His lectures widen the audience understanding of the art.


Physical Foundation for the Institution

He bought a 2 acre campus to make his visions come true.Knowing the need of a systematic educational centre for the sustainance the art he established "Shirmaya Yakshagana Kalakendra" in 1986. He also ran a publishing house and printing press for some time to protect and spread art literature. He built an auditorium in the campus in memory of his father-"Keremane Shivarama Hegde Rangamandira"in 2004, for the propagation of art in his locality.


Shambhu Hegde always said it is a great honour  for an artiste to die while performing his passion on stage..a very few had such an opportunity. He became one of them. His last performance was infront of the diety Lord Ganapati of Idagunji,the very place where he started his artistic life.He died performing the role of Lord Rama in the later part of the Ramayana. The last song for which he enacted was “eli poguva naavu..” which translates to “oh my sons, let’s proceed to the hermitage of the sage..” 

For his pre-eminence in the field of Yakshagana and his invaluable contribution to its enrichment, Shambhu Hegde was nominated to Karnataka Nataka Academi in 1978 to 1981 and to Janapada and Yakshagana Academy in 1984. The Karnataka Govt. also recognized his services by awarding him an honorarium. He has been felicitated by many private and state cultural organizations. He has presided over numerous seminars connected with art. He has toured all over India with his troupe. He has even led his Yakshagana troupe to Bahrain in 1983.  In fact, Shambhu Hegde is the first person to take a professional Yakshagana troupe outside India. Afterwards he took is troupe for performance to France, Spain, Nepal, South East Asian countries. He represented India during the India festival held at Beijing in China in 1994. He represented Yakshagana at United Kingdom in 1995 during the ‘Festival of India’s South’.

     A doctoral thesis entitled Yakshagana actor, organizer, Keremane Shambhu Hegde: Tradition and Experimentation- A Study on his contributions to this theatre has been awarded Ph. D by Karnataka University Dharwad. He has presided over many seminars and his given a number of talks and Lecture demonstration programs all over the country and abroad.


Positions held:

  • Founder Director, Shreemaya Kalakendra Keremane.

  • President Karnataka Janapada and Yakshagana Academi, Bangalore.

  • Member Natya Institute of Chorography, Bangalore.

  • Member. Rangaayana, Mysore.

  • Member. Karnataka State Nataka Academy (1978-81)

  • Member. Karnataka  State Janapada & Yakshagana Academy (1984-87)

  • Member. Program Committee, South Zone Culture Centre, Nagpur(1987-90)

  • Member. Advisory Committee , Sangeeth Natak Academi, New Delhi

  • Member. Advisory committee, Dept. of New Delhi.



Notable Awards


  • The  CENTRAL SANGEETH  NATAKA ACADEMY award(1993) for his outstanding performance in the field of Yakshagana

  • Karnataka State Award (Rajyothsava) in the year 2000

  • Best supporting actor in film ‘Parva’ in 2001-02 for the role of Natyashastri.

  • Sadhana Award-2004. (Mangala Kala Sahithya Vedike, Bangalore.)

  • Aryabhata International Award-2006.(Aryabhata Cultural Organisation )

  • Ananya Award-Bangalore-2003

  • Jeevamaana Sadhana Prashasti-2009 (Deshpande Memorial Trust)

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