Soon after the formal opening of The Company Theatre Workspace — a sprawling art residency by the Vadivale lake in Maharastra’s Kamshet — with a dusk-to-dawn cultural programme earlier this month, came the news of the theatre group sweeping the META awards by winning five trophies for its play Piya Behrupiya. Atul Kumar, the theatre artiste behind the residency and play, talks about his amazement, inspirations and agenda ahead.
It has been nearly two years since Piya Behrupiya premiered at the UK’s Globe Theatre. The play has now won the META awards. What’s the secret of its popularity?
The secret is Amitosh Nagpal and Gagan Dev Riar and of course the rest of the ensemble cast. It is really Amitosh’s translation and Gagan’s music. To tell you the truth, I am as amazed by its popularity, with tickets being sold out in two days when we toured the Capital. In Delhi, I met a person who has seen it 16 times.
When did you come up with the idea to create the residency?
The idea came from seeing French theatre director Ariane Kmouchkine move away from Paris to Cartoucherie, and Peter Brook form an international laboratory away from London. In India, Protima Bedi and Daksha Seth have done it. Veenapani Chawla, who set up Adishakti near Pondicherry, has also been a huge inspiration.
Tell us about your search for the ideal location.
Finding this place took just one year, but buying it took two years. We decided not to pay bribes for speeding up our work, so thanks to bureaucracy and all the paperwork that sent us from one office in Pune to another, we probably ended up spending much more money and time to get everything in order.
Other than selling paintings, do you adopt any other other methods to raise money for the residency?
It was my colleague Nimi Ravindran’s idea. We got lucky because the fine arts community trusted me and the art market in India was at its peak at that time. We went to each artist shared our dream and begged for a painting. We also continued with crowd-funding .
What kind of structure and residency do you have in mind?
We are in the process of turning the big house into two different units. One unit will be a full-fledged indoor workspace and the other a guest house. In time to come, we are planning to construct a guest house for 16 artists, have an open workspace, a master kitchen and dining space and other smaller structures like a water tank, an office, a cowshed and enough parking. This will finally be a residency where more than one project can be hosted simultaneously.
How did the idea to have an all-night inaugural event come about?
The idea is stolen from Nrutyagram’s Vasanta Habba and also from 48 hours music programmes that I grew up with in Delhi’s Old Fort. This was just a nostalgic trip — and it worked. We want to make it an annual or biennial event. We are still negotiating that within the group.
Tell us about your curation process.
It’s done by the group as a whole. The most difficult thing was to, and is to, work with time constraints, budget constraints, and the availability of the artist. This festival was also partly crowd-funded — main contributions came from dear friends who value our work. We also received a Ministry of Culture grant that formed 1/3rd of our budget. So finally, the Government of India is holding our hand and that’s a good thing.
How are you planning to draw artistes to Kamshet?
There is no real plan. In the last 15-20 years, we have made friends with many artists and collaborated with organisations for our work. We already have a self-sustaining system that will ensure a constant flow of artists and projects. There are just too many artists and too many projects from around the world who are keen to come to Kamshet — now is the time to make the correct choices.