Rumours have been swirling that one of Delhi’s oldest halls, Akshara, is closing down or going dark as it cannot pay its huge electricity bills. Anasuya Vaidya, Technical Director, dispels fears by saying, “Akshara means imperishable.” She talks about measures that will keep the show going.
Are you closing down Akshara?
We aren’t. Akshara has weathered many storms in its 44 years. We have been threatened with demolition in the ‘70s and were almost arrested during the Emergency, but we have come through with the help of our audiences.
How did the crisis come about?
We were facing a massive problem due to a huge electricity bill of Rs 3 lakh. We do not have the resources for this and were afraid that our power may be disconnected and the theatre may go dark. On March 8, members of NDMC came to Akshara and we were in the process of working out a package by which we could pay the amount in installments.
How did the audience help in the crowdfunding?
Last weekend after our show, Babaji (Gopal Sharman, Founder and Artistic Director of Akshara) appealed to the audience to help in any way they could. Many of them gave donations while one young man came back the next day with the people who run bitgiving.com, and suggested that we appeal to a larger and wider group of people for help. So, a post went up on their website a few days ago and people are contributing towards the bill. In fact, on March 10, Papa CJ gave Akshara a cheque of Rs 3 lakh as an advance against booking through the year, so we can now pay our electricity bills.
How did Akshara, a hall that has a full calendar all around the year, fall short of resources?
We normally have a 50 per cent mix of shows by our Akshara Repertory and performances by young groups. In March, the theatre is being used for college festivals. We don’t charge a lot from them. Akshara is a 96-seater hall so we cannot earn a large amount from it. We are allowed to rent out 25 per cent of the building, but one of our tenants left with various outstanding bills.
What are your future plans?
We will continue to bring good theatre to Delhi. Next month, we have a festival of courtroom drama that should be exciting, where Akshara Repertory and other groups from the city will perform. It will be held from April 9-10 and from April 22-26.