Indian theatre gets another welcome boost, as Aadyam, a corporate-backed initiative, tries to bring in fresh perspective to our understanding of watching a play
AFTER ITS maiden run in Mumbai in February, Aadyam—a new theatre initiative—is now headed to Delhi with its second round of shows.
On offer are five new plays from reputed theatre groups like Rage Theatre, QTP, Masque Theatre, AKVarious and Arpana Theatre. The groups will stage The Siddhus of Upper Juhu, The God of Carnage, The Merchant of Venice, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon (in Hindi), respectively. “The plays are diverse, and Aadyam intends to make the experience of watching each play special by packing in surprise elements that will allure the connoisseur and novice alike,” says an organiser of the festival.
In its first year, Aadyam has generated quite some interest among theatre-makers in Mumbai who have been very appreciative of the festival’s effort. “They see this as a bold and correct move to attract larger audiences and to developing good theatre. Audience responses, too, have been excellent for each of the five premiering plays we’ve presented,” says Divya Bhatia, artistic director (theatre), Aadyam.
As per Bhatia, of the five plays, two had a house strength of 75%, a third touched 90% and two were sold out. “We’re now bringing the plays to Delhi and are hoping for a good response here as well,” he adds.
Talking about the diverse mix of shows, Bhatia says: “Combined, these groups have been associated with an enviable variety of projects that cover the gamut of theatrical experiences in Mumbai. Their work has been experimental, original and popular; development-oriented and commercially savvy; small and intimate, as well as large-scale; pioneering and celebratory; both thought-provoking and entertaining; and covers production, direction and creation (writing, staging, training and performing).”
The good news is that Indian theatre is slowly but steadily getting its due, especially from corporate houses. Apart from Aditya Birla Group, which is backing Aadyam, the Mahindra Group is also actively involved in the cause. For a country our size, clearly, there is a lot to be done. For sure, there is a large quantum of support required. And corporate support is hugely needed and extremely welcome. But is that enough? “Audiences, too, have to be willing to spend money on tickets—very often the freebie ‘complimentary ticket’ is in greater demand than a paid-for one. Some theatre producers and groups are ready to be less niche in their choice of themes and subjects, less indulgent and more open to responding artistically to life around them—and they need to be bold and daring as well,” offers Bhatia.
While professional theatre has been fairly widespread across languages in the smaller towns and villages in India, much of it has evolved (and, therefore, survives) under a populist paradigm. However, little of it makes it to the larger, more cosmopolitan cities. “I am reminded of the popular theatre in Assam and the unique Parsee theatre that still gets full houses (in thousands) in Alwar, Rajasthan. These productions are hard to bring to the cities—costs are prohibitive,” says Bhatia, adding: “For the most part, the cities have also become the bastion of amateur, contemporary theatre—feeding TV and film.”
Now, more than ever before, there is a tremendous opportunity to build and develop the live performing arts—particularly theatre—for the newly appreciative audiences in larger cities. “We’re already seeing increasing support and growth trends in live music. Theatre, if approached with confidence and elan, will not be far behind. The next 15 years will change the way we understand, appreciate and create live performances,” Bhatia adds.
* The Siddhus of Upper Juhu
July 4: 7.30 pm; July 5: 4 pm & 7.30 pm
* The Merchant of Venice
July 11: 7.30 pm; July 12: 4 pm & 7.30 pm
* The God of Carnage
July 25: 7.30 pm; July 26: 4 pm & 7.30 pm
* Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon
Aug 15: 7.30 pm; Aug 16: 4 pm & 7.30 pm
* The Hound of the Baskervilles
Aug 22: 7.30 pm; Aug 23: 4 pm & 7.30 pm
All shows at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi