The memory is fresh in Jay Jha’s mind. During the inauguration of his dream project, Rangbhoomi Spaces at Gachibowli, Hyderabad in December 2020, veteran theatre personality Prof Bhaskar Shewalkar had given a rousing speech. “Shewalkar sir said, ‘My name will be etched in Hyderabad’s theatre history for taking a leap of faith in launching Rangbhoomi, a space created by artistes for artistes. The speech gave me goosebumps,” recalls Jay, founder of KissaGo theatre group.
It had been the theatre actor-director’s dream to open an indoor cultural space dedicated to theatre, in Hyderabad as only indoor auditoriums (like Ravindra Bharathi) give production houses the freedom to experiment with stage, lights and design. “Theatre is far more evolved in other cities as artistes get opportunities to imagine and try new things,” he adds.
- Spread across 3000 square feet, Rangbhoomi... launched on December 28, 2020. The space has had 15 different cultural events till now — Plays by theatre groups Rangdhara, Sutradhar, KissaGo and Collessium Productions; shayari night by Anjumain, stand-up comedy by Rajasekhar Mamidanna, Hriday Ranjan, Rohit Swain and Vivek Muralidharan and a singing session by Bhuwin Khursija.
- Attached to a cafeteria where snacks like samosa, chai and nimbu paani are available, the indoor air cooled and sound proofed auditorium has proscenium style seating and advanced LED lights. The concealed console hub ensures that technicians do not distract the audience. It is an intimate space with 180-seating capacity but now, due to social distancing, only 100 seats are allowed.
- Rangbhoomi is open for theatre, live performance, events, workshops, seminars, poetry, dance and music. “Anything that doesn’t need a huge stage but a good space for the audience to invest in the performance,” elaborates Jay Jha.
Rangbhoomi has been a two-year dream for Jay. Supported by theatre actor Shailja Chaturvedi, he co-founded the space with Prashant Singh Jadon and Sanjeev Acharya. The trio zeroed in on the suburb as ‘many Hindi theatre admirers live in the IT hub but there are hardly any cultural spaces.” Architect RK Shenoy, also the founder of theatre group Dramanon, gave a physical structure to their imagination but they were taken aback at the estimated budget. Finally, the team pooled in finances and the project took off in January 2020; but the lockdown from March nearly stopped their project.
“We were halfway through when the lockdown began and it seemed like somebody pressed a pause button. In this state of chaos, we were financially and emotionally exhausted and I began to wonder if I had made a hasty decision,” he recalls.
Thanks to his ‘commendable team’, the efforts paid off and the space opened with its first play Ismat Ek Aurat staged by Sutradhar. Jay makes a special mention of Storyboard Productions, a team led by Jonas David, Harika Velagah and Sandeep Tadi; Jay recalls warmly , “Jonas said, ‘Bhai, do it’. We didn’t have money to pay for the lights and sound, but they came forward to support and now it is maintained by Storyboard Productions.”
A former Deloitte employee, Jay hopes theatre will continue to light his life. “Many felt Rangbhoomi was a bold step. Now I do not worry but am proud that we have done it. I hope the stage becomes a thriving space for different art forms. One has to just spread the wings to unfurl the colours,” he signs off.