She set up the first all-women troupe in Karnataka

The last rites of noted theatre personality R. Nagarathnamma were performed at Harishchandra Ghat in Bangalore on Sunday in the presence of family members and friends.

Govind M. Karjol, Minister for Kannada and Culture; S. Suresh Kumar, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs; B. Jayashree, Master Hirannaiah, and Girija Lokesh, theatre personalities; Malathi Sudheer, chairperson, Karnataka Nataka Academy; Hamsalekha, music composer; and B. Vijayakumar, president, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, were among those present.

Nagarathnamma, 87, died at her Rajajinagar residence on Saturday night. She is survived by her son and two daughters. According to family sources, Nagarathnamma returned home on Thursday after undergoing treatment at a private hospital for 14 days. Born in 1926 to a traditional middle-class family in Mysore, Nagarathnamma was attracted towards Kannada theatre when she was 12.

She worked in professional theatre troupes such as Sri Chamundeshwari Nataka Sabha, H.L.N. Simha Select Artists, Hirannaiah’s Mitra Mandali and Gubbi Company of Gubbi Veeranna.

She set up Stree Nataka Mandali, the first all-women theatre troupe in Karnataka, in Bangalore, and led it for several years. Nagarathnamma shot to fame by performing male mythological characters such as Kamsa, Krishna, Ravana, and Bheema.

Besides performing in Karnataka, Stree Nataka Mandali performed in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Punjab. Krishna Garudi was Nagarathnamma’s most popular play. Stree Nataka Mandali was different from other women’s theatre troupes as it was one among the longest surviving troupes solely because of Nagarathnamma’s exceptional talent and disciplined approach towards theatre.

According to theatre artiste Manjula, Nagarathnamma’s sister, the group did not involve men at any point, both in administration and on the stage. She was very protective of her troupe members. She was touring at the time of her husband’s death and did not go home because she did not want to leave her colleagues behind.

Nagarathnamma acted in over 15 Kannada films that include Kamanabillu with Rajkumar and Parasangada Gendethimma with Lokesh. She acted in Tamil films too. Movie buffs still remember her performance in Rosapoo Ravikkaikari with Shivakumar. She was conferred the Padma Shri in April.