The city’s most popular cultural haunt, Epicentre, which shuts downs from Monday pending a fresh lease, signed off with a flourish on Sunday after regaling audiences with a theatre festival on celebrated Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.
Theatre enthusiasts making a beeline for the facility took home golden memories on its last day, as Ghalib’s timeless words rent the air and drew loud applause. The Epicentre will stay closed till such time it finds a new bidder and a fresh lease.
Dr M Sayeed Alam, playwright and director, Pierrot’s Troupe, said, “As our play showcased Ghalib’s struggle to stay relevant in the 21st century, the Epicentre, too, is battling to hold its ground in the age of multiplexes. The artistes aren’t sure how soon they can perform again in this cultural hub.”
Veteran thespian and actor Tom Alter also rued the temporary closure of the cultural facility and made a strong case for the setting up of a new one. “I have performed as many as 50 plays in this auditorium. This place is very close to my heart.”
Visitors were enthralled by the performances during the one-day ‘Ghalib’ theatre festival, which comprised three stage productions on and about the legendary Urdu wordsmith.
The plays that were showcased before the audience were “Ghalib”, “Ghalib Ke Khat” and “Ghalib in New Delhi”. They were a celebration of the poet’s life, his letters and also explored the satirical side of his waning relevance in this day and age.
The audiences sat mesmerised as the artistes put together a compelling presentation of Ghalib reborn in the 21st century and struggling to find his lost identity in today’s world.
The first play — Ghalib — featured music, poetry, literary anecdotes and historical episodes that took people back into the forgotten lanes and bylanes of old times.
“Performing three plays on Ghalib was a challenge but when you are doing something you like, it doesn’t take much of an effort to get into the character,” Alam said. The second play delved into the letters Ghalib wrote to his family and friends back in time.
Witty one-liners on movies, culture and religion in the modern times stayed with the audiences the most. “I enjoyed the performances. They are old but are still relevant and fresh,” Vikram Munjal, a resident of Sector 45, said.
The artistes hoped it won’t be long before the centre opens again and they get to perform in the city.
“Shutting down a centre which was home for many artistes isn’t good news. There’s no word on when this centre will open again. Though the people here can go to Delhi to catch stage shows, the shutting down of Epicentre will leave a huge void,” said Saif Hyder Hasan, who directed ‘Gardish Mein Taare’, starring Sonali Kulkarni and Arif Zakaria, and ‘Ek Mulaqat’ featuring Shekhar Suman and Deepti Naval. Both plays were staged in Gurgaon.
“I still believe there’s hope for theatre artistes in Gurgaon. We want another place like Epicentre to showcase our talent,” Ruby Kapoor, co-founder of Urban Suburban Productions, a Gurgaon-based theatre company, said.
The centre hosted plays apart of various other cultural events every week. It opened in 2008 and is located at Apparel House, Sector 44. The reason which made this place especially popular among artistes is that it could be reached both from the Delhi-Jaipur highway (NH-8) and MG Road Metro station that connects south Delhi.
The centre, being run by Old World Hospitality (OWH) on the premises of the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), had a lease agreement with AEPC for the past nine years. The lease expired on Sunday.
The centre is equipped with a 40,000 sqft exhibition hall, which can accommodate 2,500 people at a time and 150 exhibition stalls. It also has an auditorium, built on 11,600 sqft, with a seating capacity of 312 and an amphitheatre that can seat 250 people.
AEPC officials said they will soon invite fresh tenders for the place. “This is a temporary shutdown. We’ll soon invite new tenders,” Govind Madhwal, director, AEPC, said.