Main nikla gaddi leke, the hit number from the Sunny Deol starrer Gadar - Ek Prem Katha was shot here. That’s trivia enough to arouse inquisitive travellers. So that the next time you go to Shimla, you don’t miss this 123-year-old landmark. Gaiety Theatre, which could earlier be visited only to watch plays, has been thrown open to tourists who can get a feel of the time when Britishers descended for an evening of entertainment.
“To showcase the rich heritage of Gaiety Theatre, we decided to open it for tourists. It will remain open throughout the week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except Mondays,” said state language and culture department director Prem Sharma. “We want to popularise the monument as well as raise awareness about the diversity of our cultural heritage,” he said.
Gaiety Theatre was Shimla’s cultural hub right from the day it opened in 1887. Time Will Tell was the first play staged there. Gradually, the popularity of English plays here that earned Shimla the nickname, Mecca of Theatre. Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, actors Prithviraj Kapoor, KL Sehgal, Balraj Sahni, Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendall, Raj Babbar and Naseeruddin Shah also performed there.
Five years ago, Gaiety was closed to public for renovation. A sum of Rs 120 crore was spent to restore its original Gothic style architecture. “Since last June, we started opening the theatre to the public only when plays were showcased. But there were always requests from tourists that it should be opened on other days too,” said Principal Secretary (Tourism) Manisha Nanda. So last Friday, the theatre was opened to the public and the response has been “good” so far.
“We have hired guides to highlight its historical aspects. A visual of the theatre’s restoration work and techniques used in re-building it will also be shown,” Sharma said. Nominal fees would be charged from tourists. Indian tourists will have to pay Rs 10 per person without camera and Rs 25 with camera. For foreigners, the charges per person are Rs 25 without camera and Rs 50 with camera.