Theatre and Theatre Artist of Delhi by Rajat Sharma (2014)

Theatre and Delhi are deeply connected to each other… the theatre of Delhi is like the city itself- multi-cultural and diverse and cannot be reduced to a single homogenous trend. Theatre in Delhi is also supplemented by the booming Television and Film Industry- both regional and National.

About the writer: This work is the subject of 6 weeks research (of Rajat Sharma). I am presently doing my MBA.
My research journey was really enlightening. Why I chose this topic was not because I loved theatre… but because I knew nothing about it. Please consider this work as a work of an amateur… who has just set hisfoot in trying to understand Theatre.
I visited several institutions and platforms that are considered the hub of theatre in Delhi and also met a few exponents of the art. There is a drastic transformation from my perceptions on the theatre and the city by the time I was concluding my work. Initially likemany of my friends I wondered, ‘ who goes to see a theatre…’ But after a few visits I realized that the audience for theatre was much larger than I have ever imagined….
Theatre and Delhi are deeply connected to each other… the theatre of Delhi is like the city itself- multi-cultural and diverse and cannot be reduced to a single homogenous trend. Theatre in Delhi is also supplemented by the booming Television and Film Industry- both regional and National.
Like me, many artists who took to theatre, initially, were unaware about the depth of the theatre world. Most of the young Artist who I met realized gradually that it’s not easy to survive here unless you have the kind of passion, patience and hard work. Hundreds and hundreds of people join theatre in Delhi every year… but only a few sustain it. Like any other form of art and unconventional life … theatre needs sheer passion to survive.
Colleges of Delhi University also provides a very lucrative ground for students to join Theatre Clubs and explore their talent. Shakespeare Society of St. Stephens, Anukriti of Miranda House, The Players of Kirori Mal College and many more theatre societies in many more colleges…. These Theatre societies have not just remained a place of acting… but a place where students learn to think, question and debate and internalize the world around them.
Speaking about the lifestyle of theater people, Mr. Mayur Gupta (Asmita group, 24) says that he was very shocked at the starting of his journey when he saw most of the artists spend their whole days on cups of tea-biscuit.
Mr. Saurabh Pal (student NSD, 26) recalls how his fascination for theatre introduced him to the world of theatre. He says that his brother was in theatre and he always from very young onwards felt that the right place for him was in theatre. And he says that ‘the trademark of theatre artist wearing a black kurta or having several cups of tea is not because people don’t have money … it shows the culture they carry and we enjoy that, it differs us among all… and has become one of our many identity symbols.’. Any theatre place is surrounded by tea-cookie stalls. It is flooded by theatre arts who surrounds these stalls to take small ‘chai’ breaks and have important discussions. These tea-stalls have become the real platform for meetings,discussions, philosophy and what not…
Delhi is called the hub of theatre and rightly so. This also echoes from every other theatre artist. Delhi as a place of cultural heterogeneity gives theatre the right elements to breed. People from all regions, states and different cultures come together and share the commonmedium of theatre as an outlet of their creative expressions.
Delhi also houses many theatre institutes and platforms…like the NSD- National School of Drama and the likes. And so provides the right kind of mix- of opportunity and talent.
Though other places have theatre but facilities in Delhi as compared to elsewhere remain unmatched. Mr. Abhishek Malik (asmita group,24) says ‘we have done many street shows all over the country. In one such trip, we went to Bihar. Our play received great response from the people there. But we were surprised toknow that there were no facilities for theatres there. Many were keen to join theater but hardly had any scope of growth.
There is pretty common grievance that a career in theatre cannot be opted as a full time profession, as it does not pay well. Nitisha Kashyap in Times of India wrote “Even though Delhi has a very active theatre scene, its theatre actors have often complained about getting a raw deal. Most television or film actors who come from theatre say that “they do theatre for the love of it, but films for money.”Actor Kabir Bedi had said recently, “I am essentially someone who comes from theatre. I love theatre, but unfortunately, it doesn’t pay the bills. Only in theatre abroad, I get a wage.” Actor and director Barry John, after living in Delhi for more than three decades, moved to Mumbai because, he said, “Theatre activity has sunk to an all-time low.”
Speaking on this issue, young Artist Mr. Mayur Gupta(student of Asmita theatre group) says it is correct that in comparison to other contemporaries the money is less in theatres and this should improve incoming future. On the contrary, Mr. Abhishek thinks that there is a lot of money in the theatre as well, if one has the talent.
Mr. Gautam who is the director of RKz group told, it islikely to be the most common issue that there is no money in the theatres and the artist should make up their mind to spend their life in one black kurta. He says ‘there is a lot of money in the theaters, but only for the higher ups … as,gradually when the money filters down, the last one suffers the most in the hierarchy. He says that the theatre groups get a good amount for every artist from the organizers or the sponsors, but they do not pass it on because they are aware of the lack of knowledge of the artist and lack of transparency in the system. He shares how at the start of his career, as a fresher he was ready to work without being much concerned about the money… And this carelessness of the actors motivates director and others to cheat with the artist. Also, every theatre group after 3 continuous years can avail monetary help from the govt.
Moreover, there are many artists who charge a good amount of money even for the cameos. And the organizers are very much comfortable by it because they are worth it. People have their own fan following and audience in theatres.
One of the common grievances of the theatre personnel is that there is lack of affordable auditoriums. Damandeep says ‘the rent of the auditorium is very high… without sponsors it becomes very difficult to get the desired place. Moreover platforms such as Shri Ram,Habitat etc remains booked through out the year…. For instance-Shri Ram centre is booked with its dates till 2016.
Also, most people do not want topay for theatres. And would rather arrange (jugad) a pass than buying tickets. Suresh Bharadwaj, a student in delhi says- people in Delhi always try to find any ‘JUGAAD’ for the tickets and passes they don’t want to buy the tickets but the passes through jugaad. The only case they buy is in case of any celebrity presence in the show.
Before this, I never had the chance to watch a play. But this work took me to Habitat Center to see ‘Log Bag’ by Asmita theatre group.And to my surprise, I was mesmerized by the awesome performance by the theatre Artist. Initially I thought that Theatre is dull and boring, and mostly old age people come to see it. But I was so wrong… hundreds of young people poured in… And very soon I saw another play, ‘ ‘Ambedkar aur Gandhi’. And I believe my journey for liking theatre is just a beginning.
-Edited by Shehnaz Parveen