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#puneonmymind: Vibhawari Dixit Deshpande, theatre artiste and actor on how Pune has always offered space to explore and expand culture

The city has a very strong cultural base, says Deshpande. However, she believes that there are still ways in which we can improve and strengthen it.

pune Updated: Jul 23, 2018 16:48 IST
Vibhawari Dixit Deshpande
Vibhawari Dixit Deshpande
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,maharashtra,pune on my mind
Vibhawari Dixit Deshpande, theatre artiste and actor.(HT Photo)

Pune has always been a hub of experimentation. Its tryst with culture and theatre goes way back to the times of the legendary Bal Gandharva (Narayan Shripad Rajhans, singer-actor), and beyond. The Progressive Dramatic Association founded in 1951 also formed a theatrical presence in the city.

Pune has always offered space for everyone to come and explore their cultural abilities. There is enough room and width for everyone to do something different. Till today, the city has lived up to its tradition when it comes to culture and theatrics.

I am not sure how many are aware of immersive theatre. I witnessed it about two years ago in New York. Recently, I witnessed this form in Pune on Sinhagad road. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this play by a bunch of young enthusiastic theatre practitioners. In immersive theatre, the audiences are a part of the play too and the premise is even more intimate than intimate theatre.

Also, the space is utilised to the fullest, incorporating all elements. This was one of the first experiments in this form that I came across in the city, and that too, in Marathi. And, they do a very good job at it. I was really thrilled to see the performance. It is a daring step to explore a new form of theatre which is unheard of and manages to garner attention. I am glad that they decided to do so in Pune!

Pune’s audience is evolved

For years together, every performing artiste has found Pune’s audience to be snooty and critical. However, we are also known for our constructive criticism. Having said this, the Pune audience is evolved and ready to experiment. Theatre-goers are always eager to explore new forms and medium. I have seen this at a personal level with Grips Theatre where we really go all out and experiment with children’s plays.

Highlights
  • Honestly, at this point the biggest challenge I see in the city is the lack of spaces available for experimental theatre. Yes, we have spaces such as Sudarshan Rangmanch, but again these are not designed to suit our needs. We are making do with what is available. Specially-designed spaces such as Balgandharva Rang Mandir and Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha are unaffordable for experimental theatre groups.
  • The city has a very strong cultural base and we cannot deny it. However, there are definitely ways in which we can improve and strengthen this. For example, I personally feel that an artiste who moves out of the city for more work or education should stay in touch with this city. They should keep coming back and presenting their works in Pune.

Aasakta Kalamanch and Natak Company are also an example of how Pune has helped support great experiments in theatre. All of them are doing theatre professionally and presenting something new every month. This goes on to show how the city is hungry for more and is not shying away from exploring. You can see it in cinema and music too.

Strengthen cultural roots

The city has a very strong cultural base and we cannot deny it. However, there are definitely ways in which we can improve and strengthen this.

For example, I personally feel that an artiste who moves out of the city for more work or education should stay in touch with this city. They should keep coming back and presenting their works in Pune. I understand how difficult it is to survive and work in a place like Mumbai.

Hence, if you keep coming back to the city, it will give you the strength and courage to do better. It will help you shake off insecurities and competition that builds up in Mumbai. It helps artistes’ strike a balance and every good artiste needs to find this balance.

Challenges to overcome

Honestly, at this point the biggest challenge I see in the city is the lack of spaces available especially for experimental theatre. Yes, we have spaces such as Sudarshan Rangmanch, but again these are not designed to suit our needs. We are making do with what is available.

On the other hand, there are specially-designed spaces such as Balgandharva Rang Mandir and Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha. However, these are not affordable for experimental theatre groups. Lastly, we need better hygiene at theatre spaces.

Pune is the place to be to find your soul, bread and butter. It has a vibrancy that stays intact and keeps breaking from the shackles of monotony.

First Published: Jul 23, 2018 14:48 IST