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Handouts for culture vultures

The city’s cultural calendar is buzzing with free-for-all events, here are six places where you can hang out for gratis.

entertainment Updated: Jul 16, 2011 14:37 IST

Six ways of chilling out without spending a penny are not so hard to find in this city. Anyone regular on the art circuit will tell you tales of people who come uninvited, ask pointless questions and never forget to fetch their starters and wine.

Some wear the same clothes every time; some eat ‘disgustingly’ using their hands; and others bring small bags to pack the free food and take it home. Here are six places where you may bump into such people, or perhaps even satiate the freeloader in you.

1 NCPA
The cultural centre has been hosting various music, dance and theatre events for over half a century now. But come rain or floods, a steady crowd of culture vultures make sure that no event is short of houseful. “We do have particular groups of people who show up at various events. We don’t know how they find out, but they are genre-specific groups, who seem to know what they are interested in,” says a spokesperson from the venue, on the condition of anonymity.

Hosting lectures ranging on issues as diverse as children’s music to environmental crises, the centre has seen many sipping wine at jazz or Western classical concerts. “There is a line of people waiting for passes at high-profile events, and that’s where we offer tea, wine, sandwiches and the likes.”

2 Film screenings
The British and French cultural hotspots — British Council (BC) and Alliance Française de Bombay — are known for their foreign film screenings and other art and dance events that are quite a crowd puller. However, even as the films are screened at peek hours of the afternoon, they are always packed. “They are not freeloaders in the real sense, since movie screening don’t have free food but it may be the air-conditioning that invites many of them. I’ve sat next to people who can’t understand English or French, but who’ll sit and watch a foreign film anyway for its risqué content,” says Gauri Pandit, a regular attendee at Alliance Française.

While Sheryn Mulla of the French cultural centre denies having encountered any freeloaders, a spokesperson from British Council seems to have noticed the cultural hangers-on. “Most of our events are not held within our premises, but we’ve seen a steady crowd that pours in at art show openings or workshops that we organise. They seem to wait till the lunch break and disperse post that,” says the BC employee, on the condition of anonymity.

3 The Prince Of Wales Museum
Now rechristened as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, this museum at Kala Ghoda is reputed for its numerous artefacts and for its regular exhibitions, lectures and special events. But this princely establishment too gets its fair share of those just in for the ride. Zasha Colah, the museum’s curator mentions, “Freeloading be should welcomed. If the food and drinks attract those who wouldn’t come otherwise, it’s great and the best reason for the wine to be there.” Colah adds that she hates it that young art students are often turned away from openings. “Galleries are public spaces and I support any reason that brings in new people to see art,” she says.

4 Goethe-Institut (Max Mueller Bhavan)
The German cultural hub of India, Max Mueller Bhavan, regularly organises language courses, seminars and pretty much anything related to German culture. Jayshree Joshi, programme officer for the institute shares many humourous anecdotes on ‘regular freeloaders’. “I’ve observed that there are at least 10-12 regulars at each event we organise; two women, a mother-daughter duo always catch my eye. The aged mother, probably 60 years or older can barely climb the steps! They come, have their tea and snacks and leave within 15-20 minutes.” She adds, “I’ve noticed that there is a network of freeloaders who keep each other posted on events with free food and alcohol via emails and SMS. Some freeloaders make it their moral obligation to participate in the talks, but they end up asking utterly irrelevant questions like ‘What is your opinion of Hitler?’ just because they are at the German centre. Others I’ve seen even pack stuff and take it home.”

5 Art openings
Miscellaneous art and exhibition centres around Mumbai are perhaps the best place to quickly slip in, catch a glass of wine or Champagne and some cheese for starters. Such openings and shows usually have no entry or invitation, making them rank high in freeloaders’ lists.

A gallery owner in South Mumbai who wishes to remain anonymous says, “We’ve often noticed these two Parsi women, mother and daughter, who make it a point to come for the food and wine. Sometimes, they bring friends along too. We’ve often asked them to leave.” The owner also adds that, “though such women are usually well-dressed, a single look at the men tells us whether they’ve come just for the drinks. Their standard reply is that they’re from the press,” the owner laughs.

But art critic, Zehra Jumabhoy says, “I don’t think too many people freeload in Mumbai. Such people are usually intimidated by these events and stay away.” 6Blue Frog, Lower Parel The city’s music venues are buzzing with audiophiles on any day of the week. But the Cinderella deadline for Blue Frog is 9 pm, and post the hour, you need to shell out R 300 to bob your head to the music. Most people ensure they reach before 9 pm just to save on the entry.

“We wanted to reach out to a wider audience, and we know that not everyone has the money for it. So it’s our way of reaching out to the city’s music lovers,” says Emmanuelle de Decker, programming head at the venue. “It’s mostly college goers who make it for the early set, since they do not have loose cash,” she adds.

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