The usually cheerful face of PD Sathish Chandra wears a glum look. He heads the Prakasam Trust, which leased KH Kala Soudha in Hanamantha Nagar and nurtured it into a popular performance space. The place has been shut from February this year as the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) quadrupled the rent to Rs. 40,000 per month. It has now sought arrears of Rs.7.8 lakh from the Trust. Here is Sathish Chandra giving a first person account of his angst.
Kannada theatre is on par with nation's other regional language theatre and appreciated worldwide. But unfortunately, in the main hub of Kannada theatre i.e. Bangalore, there are no performance spaces. There is Ranga Shankara which is not accessible to all performing groups, Ravindra Kalakshetra and Kalagrama are completely under government control making it too bureaucratic for a theatre person’s liking. Hence, we at Prakasam Trust saw a need for an alternative theatre space. We found Kala Soudha in mid-2009, did our RTI rounds, got the place to ourselves in a shattered and shambling condition. Prakasam restored KH Kala Soudha and transformed it into a sought after performance space.
Our intent from the beginning was to get youngsters a place to perform, an ‘affordable’ place to perform. To our surprise after one year of our struggle we realized that Kala Soudha has become as important performing space, on par with Ravindra Kalakshetra or Ranga Shankara. Our struggle had paid us off with young talents booking our auditorium for their productions, college productions, newly formed theater groups were our high at that time. To add to our joy, Kala Soudha became the second most loved destination for theatre lovers, after Ranga Shankara, as per an article by Times of India in 2013.
The booking policies at Kala Soudha were really fluid, if the dates are available you could book it, no questions asked and unlike Ravindra Kalakshetra, no cancellations if government butts in. Due to increase of demand, we started to lottery system for the bookings towards end of 2106. This system ensured that there was equal and ethical sharing of the weekends which were much in demand.
The place grew in through all dimensions what we thought would be a hub of theater became a hub of all cultural performances. Internationally, Kala Soudha got recognition & became the coziest performance space in Bangalore. Short film screenings on Sunday mornings, college level competitions, dance festivals, music concerts you name it we have staged it in Kala Soudha.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that a bunch of senior citizens who come for walk in the park next to Kala Soudha demanded that a programme list is kept outside for benefit of everyone who comes around the place to know what is happening in the theatre. It became a meeting place for all cultural minds, I have seen many big feature films getting set on steps outside Kala Soudha. Meetings, arguments, cultural conferences all were witnessed outside the now barren and empty foyer of Kala Soudha.
We just want it back, how it was… as it was… #savekalasoudha please!
Featured Image: A still from Prakasam's play Hosa Belaku, staged at Kala Soudha Image Credits: Prakasam