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HOLDING on to a past

Lumbini, a playschool that doubles as rehearsal space for theatre groups, is hosting a photography exhibition by Anandi Chowriappa

The show highlights some of the important issues relating to theatre.

FOR NEARLY two decades, Lumbini Playschool on Museum Road has been a distinguished landmark. Scores of chirpy little kids thronged its precincts every morning, while theatre enthusiasts used its old rooms with tiled roofs and mosaic floors for rehearsing their plays in the afternoons and evenings. English language theatre cannot imagine Bangalore without it — not only for the unique rehearsal space it offered but also for the creative environment it set up and fostered.

The photo exhibition by Anandi Chowriappa titled Lumbini 1986-2004 A Last Curtain Call currently on at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, commemorates Lumbini's "wonderful and full life as a centre of the amateur theatre movement in Bangalore." The event also makes its comment on the dying architectural heritage of Bangalore. "Lumbini has now reached its twilight of its life," says the theme poster obviously referring to the property, which has been given up for urban development.

Given this context, as one goes through the photographs of the exhibition, the viewer expectedly perceives an overpowering feel of nostalgia tinged with a sense of melancholy. The first nine black and white photographs meander through the house showing the open door and passages lined casually with potted plants. There are close-up shots of wooden frames fitted with typically old stoppers, while photographs of uniformly-tiled roof and flooring are contrasted by those showing bent holders and milky white bulbs. A couple of shots sight an actor's feet on old but ornate flooring, even as silhouetted arms rest softly on window grills.

The next set of four colour pictures show rehearsing actors by arched doorways, and open doors and windows, their swirling movements deliberately rendered hazy to create an ethereal feel.

Sepia-toned pictures framing well-known theatre persons line the adjacent wall where one could sight, among others, Ashok Mandanna, Mahesh Dattani, Arjun Sajnani, Arundati and Jagdish Raja. Other pictures in the exhibition include shots of rehearsing artists in various poses and costumes. Some of them are wearing masks and standing by the window or watching their reflections in a mirror, while others seem to be practicing their words and actions, sometimes with exaggerated facial expressions.

The exhibition is definitely a worthwhile effort and highlights some of the important issues relating to theatre as also the relevance of landmarks, which seem to be vanishing due to commercial compulsions. The curtains for the exhibition itself would fall on June 19.


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