HYDERABAD: It is a well established fact that Hyderabadis love to watch movies. But if the past couple of years are of any indication, they also love theatre. Lamakaan itself would have hosted close to 300 events in its premises. Of these, more than a hundred have been plays staged by over 30 theatre groups ranging from rank amateurs and casual stage hoppers to outstation enthusiasts trying to woo the city theatre lovers. This includes repeat shows of over a dozen popular plays, a testimony to the fact that there is a new crowd which seeks live entertainment on stage and willing to pay for it. If one takes into account the regular cultural activities in other well-known venues like Ravindra Bharathi, Lalitha Kala Thoranam, Shilparamam, the aficionados of theatre seem spoilt for choice. The economies of scale for cash-strapped drama troupes is tilted in favour of private locations such as Lamakaan as compared to the government-owned ones. “The rent is unaffordable, the bureaucracy is unfriendly and the audience unpredictable,” says a veteran who has been constantly staging his group productions in private locations.
One of the most well-known theatre places in the city, the Dramatic Circle of Hyderabad (DCH) has come up with over 75 productions in the last 50 years. From Beckett to Shakespeare and from comedy to tragedy, DCH has done it all. Now entering its 50th year, DCH is trying its hand out with the modern short play concept to encourage young talent to participate and join the theatre movement.
Saurabh Gharipurikar, founder, Udaan Performing Arts has had 17 shows, Hindi and Marathi plays with repeat ones in all, out of the 100+ staged at Lamakaan in the past six months and more. He says he is now full-time into theatre and is seen perennially, on and off the stage in this location.
His play ‘Miya Biwi’ recently was staged for the 25th time and Gharipurikar credits the recent surge in audience interest to a fellow theatre wala, Ratna Shekhar Reddy of Samahaara theatre group who launched the Hyderabad Theatre Festival in 2009, which opened new vistas for drama lovers in the city. “Earlier, the youth preferred the multiplexes but when a few of their friends saw that they could have their creative satisfaction and a new image of being an actor, they started coming to plays,” he surmises.
“With weekend entertainment expenses routinely touching new highs, watching a play is cost-effective too at just ` 100- 150 per head,” Saurabh adds.
The emerging scene is only likely to get brighter for the theatre activists in the twin cities. From puppetry experimentations to LGBT monologues, the Hyderabadis are exposed to the widespread range that the theatre actors can offer. Students of local colleges are boldly showcasing their acting skills in association with drama professionals and the results have been very encouraging. Social causes like autism awareness have been taken up by young enthusiasts like Suzanne Patel who runs her group Mint Tea Productions day by the end of this week, one time on July 15.
There are examples of leading groups like Sutradhar and later entrants managing 300 and more people on two successive days at the venue to watch their plays. “More spots like Lamakaan are needed at Hyderabad and hopefully institutions with built-in auditorium facilities can help in spreading the theatre movement,” says Gharipurikar. He says, if that happens, Hyderabad can challenge Mumbai, the hotbed of India’s theatre movement. Either way, theatre has evolved in a huge way in the city, and if recent activity is anything to go by – it is here to stay.