Thursday, June 22, 2017

‘Balgandharva’ turns 50 years


PUNE: It's an address, a landmark, an acoustic marvel and an iconic auditorium that is the picture of art, music, dance and culture. Balgandharva Rangmandir, which is celebrating its golden jubilee this year, is the stage where everything from drama to tamasha rocks.

It stands evidence to the fact that something stronger can come out of a flood ravaged Pune. Its foundation stone was laid in 1962 along the Mutha after the devastating 1961 Panshet floods. The auditorium was established in 1968.

Five days of events will be held from June 24 to mark the occasion. A procession to celebrate its grandeur will be held on Saturday at 2pm from its gates to Shaniwarwada and back. Actor Subodh Bhave, who played Balgandharva in the movie, along with Mukta Barve and Dipti Devi will participate.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar will inaugurate the celebrations along with guardian minister Girish Bapat and mayor Mukta Tilak on Sunday. Actor Rohini Hattangadi will be awarded a lifetime achievement award by Pawar.

As many as 30 programmes will be staged in the next four days which include interviews with Ashok and Nivedita Saraf, Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar, Sonali Kulkarni, Sachin Khedekar and Rinku Rajguru.

Lavani performances where only women will be seated will be held. There will also be one-act plays and musical soirees thrown in. Former corporator Shirkant Shirole who held office when the auditorium was inaugurated said, "The auditorium was one of its kinds back then. The foundation stone was laid on October 8, 1962 and it took six years to complete it. It was built along international standards. A committee headed by renowned humorist P L Deshpande was appointed by the municipal corporation to oversee the construction."

Veteran actor Madhav Vaze, who was a member of that committee, recollected how Deshpande was extremely passionate about having a state-of-the-art theatre in the city. "The theatre was built at a cost of approximately Rs 35 lakh. However, people were opposed to the idea of building a theatre and the money spent on it. Deshpande remained adamant and due to the support of PMC members and the municipal commissioner, the theatre became a reality," Vaze said.

He remembered it was hard for people to accept that the theatre was air-conditioned as they thought it was needless. But being the visionary that he was, Deshpande insisted on air-conditioning. In addition, it had a crying room for babies, six make-up rooms, and ramps on the backstage to bring theatre sets and other equipment.

Yet all does not seem well with the auditorium today. "I feel sorry when the authorities and the people could not maintain the standards of the theatre. The walls and the corners are stained with paan spit marks. There is news about finding alcohol bottles in the rooms. This is sad as in the very first speech I remember Deshpande saying that he had faith in the authority and the public that no one would spit and there would be no drinking. He would have been deeply saddened with its current state," Vaze added.


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