Gurgaon pays to see good plays

Mamta Sharma, 3rd September 2012, The Times Of India

Gurgaon may well be one of youngest cities in India, its theatre is mature and is experimenting with new styles, thanks to the audience that responds well to new plays.

The number of theatre goers has also gone up as the enthusiasts search for richer experience than Bollywood movies that play in multiplexes. As a result, most of major theatre groups have visited the city and uploaded the audience which has huge appetite of different genres.

While the popular names perform in packed venues, even experimental plays are garnering good response. “We organize theatre shows on at least 3 weekends a month, if not all four,” says Vidyun Singh, director at the Epicentre, which hosts some of the most renowned theatre companies.

The plays performed at Epicentre range from Delhi groups like Feisal Alkazi’s Ruchika Theatre Group, Lushin Dubey, Gauri Nilekantan Mehta’s Pact, Sarita Vohra’s Living Room Theatre, Sayed Alam’s Pierrots Theatre Group, Slap On The Greasepaint, Shoelace Productions, Arvind Gaur’s Asmita Theatre Group, plays from Feroz Khan, Rahul Da Cunha’s Rage Productions, Lillete Dubey’s Primetime Theatre, Orchid Room Experiment ,Salim Arif’s Essay Communications, plays from Motley Theatre Group and Akarsh Khurana’s Akvarious Productions amongst others.

City-based theatre artist Smita Bharti, who has directed and acted in many critically acclaimed plays, has seen the audience grow in both numbers and taste. She likes it when visitors respond to her work and ask for encore. “It’s a pleasure to perform in Gurgaon. This audience is discerning and demanding for performance with high production value,” she says.

Even though Gurgaon lacks subsidized venues for plays like Delhi, the enthusiasts make for it by paying more. Bharti says tickets sell within days of announcement and even highly priced shows are houseful if the work is promising. “The sponsors also support the plays as they find merit in the footfall,” she adds.

Singh of Epicentre says that demand for famous names like Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Farooque Shaikh, Anupam Kher, Shernaz Patel, Vir Das, Rajit Kapur, Lillete Dubey, Rakesh Bedi, Salim Shah, Vikram Kapadia, Zafar Karachiwala, Anahita Uberoi and Suchitra Pillai is overwhelming.

The limited number of performing venues, however, limits the possibilities and the frequency of theatre performances in Gurgaon. “Epicentre is generally booked for 6-10 months in advance and most of theatre happens only on weekends. This cuts down the scope for small groups like ours,” said Ankur Sardana, founder of Nautankibaaz, a local theatre group comprising enthusiast from various professions. “We need to accept that theatre is not just entertainment. So if a new group is performing, we need to go and watch even if we don’t come out humming a song. Once this mutual respect sets in, we will be on a roll,” he added.

Bharti also says that the number of auditoriums needs to go up in order to accommodate all the performing groups in Gurgaon: “If we can get more venues, it’s possible to have our very own Leicester Square”.

Ashvin Gidwani, producer of several blockbuster theater shows, recently presented his production ‘Get Rid of My wife’ at The Leela Kempinski at the Ambience Mall and seemed quite optimistic about the theatre scene in the city. “It’s an evolving business hub of India where theatre will be appreciated. The numbers show that the diversity of culture and audience in Gurgaon will surpass other emerging cities in India,” he said. “The city has the appetite and values quality entertainment. The emerging affluent audiences have more discerning taste and our work is best suited for Gurgaon,” he added.

Come October and the city audiences can enjoy the best of theatre in Gurgaon at a theatre festival being organised at Epicentre. ” The festival from October 12 to October 21 brings five of the best plays of the year gone by in both English and Hindi. We are still finalising the line up but will definitely have ‘The Bureaucrat’ by Rahul Da Cunha and ‘Nothing Like Lear’ starring Atul Kumar & Rajit Kapur,” said Singh.

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