Has theatre really received its due as an integral part of art and culture in the city? Has it been promoted well or is it left to the mercy of a few ? One of the major challenges faced by the art form is constant dearth of places for rehearsals. Theatre lovers and artistes primarily blame it on government apathy.
Mayank Kapur, a theatre artist associated with the group Desires Unlimited recalls an incident which reaffirms the fast-catching up belief that theatre is on its way to bite the dust soon.
‘In 2007, other performers and I rented out a basement in Malviya Nagar area for Rs 12,000 per month to rehearse. But then we had to give it up because of lack of funds. The root problem is dearth of finances to hire places for rehearsals in theatre’.
‘Another major factor which plays an important role in this regard is that amateur theatre groups are on a rise in Delhi now. Theatre as a hobby is getting popular. But very few people are taking it up professionally because there are financial constraints and affordability issues,’ points out Deepak Dhamija, president, Shoelace Productions, an independent theatre group in the city.
But what about the places and institutes constructed mainly to showcase and promote art and culture like Kamani auditorium, Little Theatre Group Auditoriumn, Shriram Centre, Lalit Kala Academy etc? ‘They are all a hoax. These set ups have aquired money from the government on the pretext of promotion on subsidised rates. It’s their obligation to promote art and culture. But the reality is otherwise unfortunately. They end up serving big corporate groups and hold events for them,’ points out Dhamija.
‘There is no government policy which supports theatre. All the centres charge exorbitant rates for rentals. Shri Ram Centre and Kamani Auditorium charge anywhere from Rs 36,000 to Rs 52,000 for five to six hours of rehearsals. How is it monetary feasible for any theatre group to shell out so much of money?’ questions Gaurav Mishra, core member, Asmita Theatre Group.
At times when there are no rehearsal spaces available, places like open parks, university campuses and other educational institutes come as a rescue.
‘With not many choices around, we often rehearse at university basements, open parks and school auditoriums. Obtaining permission involves a barter system where we agree to conduct a couple of free theatre workshops for their students,’ says Dhamija.
But can these places substitute or replace the real essence of a theatre venue? Theatre in Delhi is not open to experimentation unlike in US and UK where varied kinds of places are fixed for theatre.
In order to fully utilise these places, there is a need to bring all the concerned parties together to figure out the needs. ‘The primary requirement is to get a place where performers can give their best performances without facing any constraints in terms of space, lighting and ambience during rehearsals,’ says Kapur.
However, the dismal truth is that there is a grave dearth of rehearsal places for theatre and until some concrete step is taken, the subject remains open for deliberation.