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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Unlocked but still shut: Pune theatres and cinemas tread cautiously before reopening

With refurbishments underway, stage performances yet to be curated and Diwali season round the corner, Pune residents will not be able to enjoy a new play or new movie for some time.

Written by Ruchika Goswamy | Pune | Updated: November 8, 2020 1:01:22 pm
pune coronavirus latest updates, pune covid cases, pune theatres, pune theatres reopen, pune city newsSeveral owners of single screen theatres in the city have decided to wait till a Covid vaccine is made available. (File/Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

The recent ‘unlocking’ of cinema halls and theatres in Pune may not lead to a flurry of shows and screenings anytime soon, with many of them opting to stay shut right now for a variety of reasons. With refurbishments underway, stage performances yet to be curated and Diwali season round the corner, Pune residents will not be able to enjoy a new play or new movie for some time.

“Theatres had been closed for over eight months. Although we welcome the unlock decision… our theatre hall is currently under renovation and we are expecting to be ready by mid-December. We need to prepare the premises in adherence to safety regulations,” said Harshad Rajpathak, theatre manager of Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha in Shukrawar Peth.

Rajpathak said theatre halls Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha and Sudarshan Rangmanch, under the Maharashtra Cultural Centre, have decided that theatre groups can perform free of cost provided there is no ticket charge for the audience.

“While the doors of our theatre are open, we have decided to take inquiries from theatre and performance groups only after December 1. We are still holding back as Diwali is around the corner and people will be celebrating… and there can be a possible surge in cases….,” said Shubhangi Damle, joint secretary at Sudarshan Rangmanch in Shaniwar Peth.

Popular performance venues Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Hall in Camp and Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Kalamandir in Aundh, on the other hand, have decided to stay closed until there is a vaccine against coronavirus.

“We are utilising the time to work on the hall space and prepare it according to the SOPs,” said Vikas Thanwal, theatre manager at Bhimsen Joshi Kalamandir.

For Dramalay School of Acting and Theatre Performance, the prospective reopening period has shifted to the month of January. “Considering the well- being of all our theatre participants, we shall not be opening until next year. However, we will be organising our very first online Karandak competition for local theatre groups in December, where the audience can view and vote for their favourite under the oeople’s choice category, from the safety of their homes,” said Vikrant Mahalle, director at Dramalay.

Abhijeet Choudhary, director of Swatantra Theatre, said they are still apprehensive about bookings and shows. He further explained that due to the months-long lockdown, a lot of preparations were needed before reopning.

“Although the decision is an optimistic one in such times, drama groups and companies need adequate time before they can put on a new show for the audience. Additionally, much backstage work is involved in each show, so even if we begin, we will need time for rehearsals and preparation of the set,” he said.

For multiplexes like E-Square and City Pride, lack of new films as well as inadequate preparatory time will delay reopening.

“We are yet to prepare cinema halls and work on sanitation… firstly, we will have to gather our team… then, lack of content might compel us to screen old releases as has been happening in other states,” said Prakash Chaphalkar, secretary of the Multiplex Association of India and owner of City Pride Multiplexes.

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