The writings of K.V. Subbanna reveal the range, dimension and courage of an intellectual who never, ever, let the pressures of contemporary cultural politics affect his free and open enquiries into the nature of the culture of the land he was rooted in. K.V. Subbanna was an organic intellectual who drew his intellectual powers from a sense of community that was vibrant and alive and never from the context of a centralising nation-state and its dominant quality of homogenizing practically every aspect of social and cultural life. The spirit of decentralisation was what a community symbolised for Subbanna and all his writings – on literature, theatre, cinema, language – engender this vital principle of decentralization. For that matter even the smallest community was, for him, a complex, heterogeneous universe, quite autonomous at one level, yet, at another, an integral part of the entire globe… In other words, for Subbanna concern for the community also meant a deep commitment to the whole world for the two are part of, and grow from,
each other. It was this faith in the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ that helped Subbanna locate Ninasam in Heggodu while drawing from ideas, thinkers, artistes from all over the world…This book contains three sections comprising several essays and lectures by Subbanna written and delivered at various points of time; an interview that he conducted and two interviews others conducted with him; and tributes paid to him by two individuals who are important cultural spokespersons of our times and happened to know Subbanna quite intimately.
Subbanna’s village was at home in the world and home to the world. It was a companionship more than a jajmani relationship of artists, intellectuals, performers and their various audiences. Thus it was based on friendship and hospitality. Conceived as a Dharamshala for ideas, it was also part gurukul and this hybrid of Dharamshala / gurukul created the equivalence of an ashram. If friendship and hospitality created the equivalence of an ashram, then, play and ritual guaranteed performance. It was a village for performances and a discussion of its performative aspects created the contours of village life in the intellectual sense.
– Shiv Visvanathan
Subbanna… entered the quiet lives of a generation or two of a limited number of people in a micro pocket of South Karnataka – but entered it with such quality and bandwidth that he virtually effected a molecular transformation in the thought and imagination and refinement of this segment of people. Located in the rural hinterland, connected to the outside world through a narrow strip of a dilapidated road, happy in the rootedness of their agriculture and trade as well as the resonance of their own language, they emerged as world citizens. A Kurosawa or a Kumar Shahani, a Satyajit Ray or a Fellini, an Eisenstein, a Bergman or a Ghatak, a Brecht, a Dario
Fo or an Adya Rangacharya, a Shivram Karanth or a Devanur Mahadeva, an Ananthamurthy, a Marquez, a Kuvempu or a Bendre, Subbanna managed to convert them all into personal friends of the local community.
– Sadanand Menon