Ashok Nittur, a multi-talented artiste, started Sankula, which supplies A to Z of theatrical props and costumes.
Tucked away in a lane in Kumaraswamy Layout, Sankula, a costume unit, is a world full of colour and splendour. Started by multi-talented artiste Ashok Nittur, Sankula has within it numerous sections of multi-coloured costumes and props. There are rows and rows of colourful turbans of varying designs. There is an entire section for wigs — from judges’ to sanyasis. Dance costumes jostle for space with banana, mango and strawberry costumes.
Coats and cloaks, animal costumes and Victorian dresses, kimonos and Greek head gear, Roman and Shakespearean costumes, bows and arrows, swords and chariots. Each costume and prop is made with precision and bears an authentic style.
“The costumes and props have been designed by me. I source the raw materials and make them,” says Ashok. “I have a team of tailors who create the costumes and I oversee everything.” Ashok displays a life-like mask of the lion, a character from The Chronicles of Narnia, his recent production.
“All the costumes and props are hand-made with care. Designing costumes takes a lot of time and effort,” says Ashok. The costumes are neatly arranged in sections. “There are 200 tiger costumes, 150 Santa Claus costumes, 200 graduation gowns and caps,” informs Ashok. And that is just a fraction of the costumes and props available.
Ashok had first set up Sankula in Jayanagar 15 odd years ago. “It was quite hectic running the unit there. We used to get a lot of customers and not a moment’s rest.” The flood of requests for costumes continues, even in the quiet confines of Kumaraswamy Layout. “I get orders from schools and organisers of dance and theatre performances. I rent out as well as sell costumes. As you can see, this unit has every kind of costume, from mythological and historical to animals and fruits.”
Business peaks for three to four months. “After the peak months, business is average. I have to maintain my staff of tailors and workers. It gets challenging at times. But because I work in other fields, I can run this unit effectively,” says Ashok.
The top floor of Sankula is a theatre space, where rehearsals are held and plays staged. “I have designed this space, keeping in mind every detail. Dance programmes, music concerts and plays are held frequently here,” says Ashok, pointing to the cosy theatre space, its walls painted a soothing blue.
Besides being a costume designer, Ashok is also a theatre director, actor and knows about filmmaking. Ashok, with his wife Poornima, runs the Sankula 3G Theatre Institute. “We teach every aspect of theatre and even other art forms such as dance, music and filmmaking. We have many girl students in our Institute.”
Sankula Theatre’s most successful productions have been Chronicles of Narnia in Kannada and Achanak, a realistic comedy. “200 students had performed in Chronicles of Narnia,” says Ashok as he shows me a clip of the production, which was a combination of exquisite sets, costumes, performance and music.
Ashok trained in theatre from Ninasam, Heggodu. “My father is a Yakshagana artiste. I come from an agricultural background; I even know how to farm. I grew up surrounded by art, so my love for it is natural.”
Ashok says he prefers realistic theatre. “But production quality is important. The sets, props and costumes must bring the play alive, because the audience are engaging with the story,” he stresses.
He adds that he is interested in post-modern theatre. “I believe in the Stanislavski system of acting. I like realistic drama.” Ashok says simple plots and stories are appreciated more. “If you make the story, script and acting complicated, then no one will watch it. People connect with a simple story.” He argues that Kannada theatre is doing well, but lacks freshness in approach. “It has become a bit tedious. They use the same kind of blocking, same direct pattern, same scripts, same acting style. There should be a change. They should experiment more with the script and technical aspects.
“Staging a number of productions does not mean that one is producing quality theatre. It is important to re-invent your creativity with every play staged. I am interested in reaching out to newer audiences and to tap the immense talent pool among the younger generation.”
Ashok doesn’t believe that cinema and theatre should be seen in opposition. “They can meet. The two media must be brought together, artfully on stage.”