BENGALURU: The iconic Gubbi Veeranna Rangamandira (GVR), which has been closed for nearly two years due to poor maintenance and lack of government support, has left artistes in distress and patrons disappointed.
“I’ve started my acting career when I was seven in this ranga bhoomi and I feel saddened to see the current condition of this place” said 63-year-old Jayalakshmi, a senior actor.
The foundation stone for the Rangamandira was laid in 1982 and it was inaugurated in 1992. The theatre has hosted numerous shows in various genres. It has a seating capacity of about 500 and used to run three shows every day.
“People from various parts of the state have watched plays here. I used to travel from Vijayapura to watch plays here”, said Rajashaker S Gowda, a retired teacher. “This Rangamandira is a landmark. People who travel used to always catch up with a show here and then leave. I was one of them. I’ve been watching plays here for over 10 years now and I feel sad to see the state of this place.”
The Rangamandira has been a source of income for nearly 100 artistes like Jayalakshmi and many noted actors of Kannada theatre and film industry have started their careers here.
“We feel neglected by the authorities. It’s been close to two years since this place was closed down. We cannot afford the rent for this place,” says Jayalakshmi.
The group is now seeking financial aid of Rs 25 lakh per year from the government for artistes who live on performances and not for the hobbyist or part-time artistes.
While the other theatres like Ravindra Kalakshetra, ADA Rangamandira and Chowdiah Memorial Hall have gone the internet way for ticket booking to attract crowds, these artistes feel left out. In 2014, BBMP Ward Works Committee Chairman A H Basavaraj had announced Rs 50 lakh to give the Gubbi Veeranna Rangamandira a facelift, but little has been done so far.
“The Works Committee in the recently-dissolved council stopped the construction work for reasons unknown,” he said.
“Karnataka Rural Infrastructure Development Limited (KRIDL) was tasked with execute the restoration work. I will be writing a letter in this regard to the BBMP Commissioner and Administrator, urging them to take up the work at the earliest. GVR is a historical landmark of the city. It is the responsibility of the authorities to keep this theatre alive,” he added.
On Sunday, Kannada activist Vatal Nagraj, who had performed and watched several plays at GVR, staged a protest outside the theatre demanding that it be reopened within a month.
“Kannada actors Dr Rajkumar, Master Hirannaiah, Narasimharaju and several other prominent actors started their acting journey from here. It is the irresponsibility of the BBMP which led to this place being closed,” he said. When contacted, BBPM commissioner G Kumar Naik said he will look into the matter.