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Lack of infrastructure holding back theatre scene in Gurgaon
If Gurgaon was to be described as a beautiful woman, one would say that it is boisterous, full of activities and always celebrating one thing or the other. The city, which is home to various communities from across the world, is buzzing and also the hotbed of cultural activities but theatre lovers would not agree.

“Coming from Kolkata and having grown on good plays all through my life, not having that kind of exposure to theatre, plays or musicals is a big adjustment. I agree, theatre people are niche audiences but that doesn't mean, we shouldn't have more choices,” said Sagarika Roy, a resident of Gurgaon who do not miss one single play, which comes to Apparel House (the only place, which can boasts of theatre shows in Gurgaon).

The theatre groups on the other hand are equally keen to present their work to Gurgaoniites. Demand and supply are the only two things required for a commodity to do well in the market, at least according to economics, so what is going wrong? Where is the disconnect as clearly there is an insatiable hunger for theatre and there are ample amount of production houses, who would want to come down to Gurgaon and perform?

While talking to a theatre enthusiast and resident of Gurgaon, one thing that struck to me the most was that people want more options. Talking about Apparel House and theatre culture in Gurgaon, this gentleman said, “My last play in Gurgaon as a viewer was Ghalib Ke Khat. Irrespective of the exorbitant ticket prices I went as I wanted to watch Tom Alter. However, the one thing that have turned me off theatre in Gurgaon is the fact that there are no eateries around the place. Apparel house just offers one pricey restaurant. What about those Gurgaon residents who enjoy plays but would also like to go light on the pocket?”

When I asked the same question to Anurupa Roy, Director of Bollywood Bandwagon, which was recently staged in Gurgaon she said, “I agree ticket prices are high in Gurgaon but audience here happily pay the price. You should know that 50 percent of that money goes into producing the theatre and paying the people involved. However, the remaining is quite a decent sum.”

Comparing Gurgaon to Delhi on the same matter, she further added, “One can't raise the prices in Delhi. Moreover, the entertainment taxes are more in Delhi.”

Commenting on the production rates, Pooja Shankar, Director of the play 'Page3Not3' said, “It is extremely expensive in Gurgaon on a daily basis- five times of what I pay in Delhi. The production houses are not able to get what they are spending. And there are just 315 seats and we cannot do shows five times a day. A lot of corporates are joining hands with theatre groups. Although, they are not easily available but I think corporates can do a little more.”

As most of the theatre lovers would know that Apparel house is the only place where Gurgaon residents can see some quality play. Talking about this Roy said that she in collaboration with Shri Ram Horizons is coming up with ipsaa, which provides theatre space to children. This would be more than welcome for the kids but presently one auditorium with just 500 or so seats is not enough for Gurgaon residents.

Agreeing to it, Roy said that most of the time Epicentre Gurgaon is booked and it is difficult to get a time slot. Shankar faces the same problems and she adds, “Sometimes it so happens that we have a production ready but there is no space and there is a policy in Gurgaon, where they do not repeat a show more than two times.”

While infrastructure is huge problem in Gurgaon what about audience? Recently, when I went to see the show Bollywood Bandwagon, the audience number was really thin. Agreeing to it, director of the show Anurupa Roy pointed out the marketing problem, which affects this issue.

She said, “There are networks in Delhi of theatre going people, which is absent in Gurgaon. A forum where people can spread the word is just not there. Marketing is weak and information are not reaching the right people.

However, Shankar doesn't feel the same. She said, “Delhi will remain the hub of theatre due to NSD but it is amazing to see the enthusiasm in Gurgaon audience.”

When we talk of audience- theatre etiquettes come to mind. In spite of tickets being printed with words like 'please switch off your phone once inside the auditorium,' there are people who BBM, message and even talk over the phone during shows. However, that is one category of people and they exist everywhere. True theatre loyalists do not however resort to such antics and are well versed with theatre manners.

Since Bollywood is India's main entertainment source, theatre is mostly pegged as a elitist entertainment media and to many it may appear dying. The same doesn't seem to be the actual picture, as Pooja Shankar and Anurupa Roy both said that the upcoming generation is really passionate about theatre and they are brilliant.

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Vibhav Kant Upadhyay
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