Theatre has become an integral part of the Chandigarh’s cultural calendar with the city’s theatre groups organising, against all odds, more than 10 festivals a year, roping in directors and actors from across the country.
While such festivals provide the artistes a platform to showcase their talent, it is a constant struggle for the theatre groups to get funds and sponsorships, and also to pay the actors, so that they can pursue theatre as a profession. Until now, the culture of buying tickets to watch theatre or a music and dance recital has not caught up with the residents in the city. In most of the cases, the theatre groups issue passes before a play or a recital is to be staged.
To promote the culture of buying tickets for theatre among residents, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Tagore Theatre Society are organising a three-day Chandigarh Theatre Festival from April 22 to 24 and have introduced tickets of Rs 100 and Rs 200. The tickets are available on bookmyshow.com or at Tagore Theatre. Information about the festival is being spread through advertisements.
The response to the introduction of tickets has been encouraging with more than 800 tickets already been sold and the Tagore Theatre making arrangements for people to collect tickets, to avoid long queues.
Kuldeep Sharma, director, Tagore Theatre, said both the audience and theatre groups have welcomed the move to sell tickets for shows and it is imperative that the residents watch professional theatre.
Sharma said four years ago, a group from Mumbai had staged plays and introduced tickets for the same and 90 per cent of the tickets were sold. “It isn’t only about the money, but the sense of respect and dignity an actor or director gets when people buy tickets to watch a play. This festival will hopefully open new windows for professional theatre groups and give them the much-needed financial aid, with most of us struggling to find ways to stage a play,’’ said Chakresh Kumar of Alankar Theatre, who organises a national theatre festival as well as streets plays and independent productions.
Kumar feels that the administration and the Tagore Society must support local groups, helping them organise festivals with ticketed shows, so that quality work can be encouraged. “We, as artistes, must play our part and give the audience the best, so that they are encouraged to come back and buy tickets to watch us perform. We also can make a living from theatre,” he said, who is also working on a festival, which will have tickets at a nominal price.
Sangeeta Gupta of Roopak Kala and Welfare Society is taking a breather these days. The constant work of getting funds for productions has left her tired and disillusioned.
“It breaks my heart when I cannot pay my actors and they have to find work outside to make a living, and do theatre in the evenings to follow their passion. Sponsorships and government support are tough to get. So, when the audience agrees to pay for tickets to watch a play, it is supporting our endeavour and effort. And we have the responsibility to give them quality work and confidence that we are worth their time, money and belief. We hope this festival opens minds and gives a new dimension to our art,” said Gupta, who recently staged a seven-day festival dedicated to women.
Sudesh Sharma of Theatre for Theatre, who is known for staging three national festivals a year, feels the support of the audience is paramount to give theatre and artistes the space to grow and be on par with the best.
The three-day festival will begin with IPTA Mumbai’s production, Simla Coffee House, a comedy with actors like Asif Sheik, Rakesh Bedi, SM Zaheer. The second production, Massage, is a solo comedy play by Rakesh Bedi. The third production is by Shekhar Sen, who will bring his plays on the life of Kabeer to the festival.