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Theatre groups worry over lack of venues

With the government-run Kalagrama auditorium closed and rents high elsewhere, the lights are dimming

Kalagrama, the government-run auditorium in Mallathahalli, was a buzzing venue for theatre. But a fire accident damaged parts of it, and it has remained closed for six months.

Theatre groups took out a silent bike rally on Monday to seek restoration of the space.

The other option, Ravindra Kalakshetra on JC Road in the heart of the city, is huge, but theatre groups aren’t going there in big numbers.

“Though it is centrally located, the traffic makes it difficult to get there,” says Ganesh Shenoy, founding member of the 30-year-old theatre group Sanchaya. “Also, plays have smaller audiences, and don’t fill up such a big hall.”

Groups have to book at least three months in advance for a hall. “Sometimes plays are in a queue,” he says.

Many groups are not even aware of how places like Gubbi Veeranna theatre in Gandhinagar are now, he adds. That is again a government-run venue that has remained neglected by the authorities.

That is what makes Kalagrama such an important hub for theatre aficionados.

C Basavalingaiah, director of the Bengaluru centre of the National School of Drama says, “Only two spaces in Bengaluru are now run by the government --Ravindra Kalakshetra and Kalagrama. The area around Ravindra Kalakshetra has turned commercial. Kalagrama is a great space dedicated to theatre.”

He finds the delay in restoring it ‘shocking.’  He wonders how much time it takes to repair damage caused by a short circuit.

“Most theatre groups can’t afford big places like Chowdaiah Memorial Hall. Various college auditoriums were helping out, they are now bound by legal problems that bar them from giving space out to non-educational entities,” says Krishna Hebbale, actor who teaches theatre. 

Ravindra Kalakshetra, managed by a Karnataka government department, has another problem.

“Many government programmes are held there. Even if you have a prior booking, your booking is cancelled if a government event needs to be held,” he says.

K H Kalasoudha in Hanumanthanagar is in a narrow lane, with no parking. “It needs to be maintained better. It leaks when it rains,” he says.

Shilpa Rudrappa, actor, says dedicated spaces for theatre are the need of the hour. “The demand for spaces like Kalagrama is higher because it has ample parking space,” she says.

Actors with Bollywood reputations who produce plays in English and Hindi price their tickets high and get sponsorships, but for others, theatre is getting uphill, groups say.

"The delay in repairing Kalagrama is shocking."
C Basavalingaiah, Director,National School of Drama, Bengaluru.

Approx rents
Kalagrama:
Rs 3,000
Ravindra Kalakshetra: Rs 5,000
Ambedkar Bhavan: Rs 60,000-plus
Chowdaiah Hall: Rs 1 lakh-plus

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