“The countdown has begun,” exclaims theatre actor and director Jay Jha, referring to the month of festivities in December. He is set to marry fellow theatre personality Preksha Trivedi on December 8 and his dream venture, Rangbhoomi Spaces in Hyderabad completes three years next month. As one of the directors of Rangbhoomi — the other two being Sanjeev Acharya and Prashant Singh — Jai says, “It is a sacred and a holy space for theatre, arts, music and dance lovers. The stage doesn’t ask a person’s caste, money or fame. Everyone is welcome here.” While he is involved with the creative and artistic aspects of Rangbhoomi, his team, Preksha and Kajol Dubey, take care of the business and content; theatre group Storyboard Productions provides the technical support for sound and lighting.
Platform to showcase diverse talents
“The space is a creative haven; it has provided a secure platform for the local community to showcase diverse talents,” says Preksha Trivedi, the chief finance officer. She adds, “It is heartening to witness the evolution of theatre within the confines of Rangbhoomi. From hosting just one or two music shows a month, to presenting seven shows a month, we have grown exponentially.”
She hopes to expand and enhance the overall experience . “The space is poised to grow bigger and better, welcoming a diverse array of groups and art forms. It has been a remarkable journey, and I am excited about its continued growth in the vibrant artistic landscape of Hyderabad.”
For a seamless experience
Kajol Dubey relocated from Delhi to Hyderabad when she got to know ‘her dear friends were embarking on a new venture’ in the world of theatre. Working as executive producer in the team since January 2021, she ensures the space hosts diverse shows and provides seamless experiences for partners and performing groups. “My primary responsibility revolves around meticulously curating and overseeing the programming of all shows and creating an environment where artistic expression flourishes effortlessly,” she says.
She hopes the space is an integral part of an exciting chapter in Hyderabad’s theatrical journey. “We are enthusiastic about contributing to the vibrant cultural tapestry that the city is yet to fully experience.”
Ups and down
Rangbhoomi opened its doors to the audience on December 20, 2020, with the play Ismat Ek Aurat presented by Sutradhar. The 35-year-old, also the founder of KissaGo theatre, wears many hats and dabbles in different mediums, theatre, films and commercials, including the Meesho commercial with Rashmika Mandanna. He quit his job at Deloitte to start Rangbhoomi, rejoined the same company to work for two years but finally quit the job this January.
Nervous about the sound and viewing experience of the inaugural show, Jai recalls wiping happy tears when it ended. “Rangbhoomi’s journey is like the crests and troughs of life,” he says. The idea, Jai says, germinated from ‘everybody’s favourite’, Lamakaan in Banjara Hills, where the noise from surroundings disturbed performers. that led to the creation of Rangbhoomi Spaces.
However, 2020 being pandemic-hit was not an ideal time to launch a venue for performing arts; so it led to financial hardships due to loans.
The city’s expansion in the west led to this cultural space — with its 140-seater stage and a small canteen — attracting cultural groups in the city and across the country, as well as the audience. “The line-ups are exciting and our ticketed weekend shows are full; we have music, dance and theatre shows in Telugu, English and Hindi,” enthuses Jai.
The venue buzzes on weekends, yet, some challenges remain. There is a gaping gap between income and expenditure and Jai reasons this is because their charges have remained unchanged since its inception. . “The expenditure with rent, staff salaries and maintenance exceeds our income here but we still continue because we want this space to be lively, a home for performing arts.”
Also, sharing premises with Hyderama Cafe and Bar on a busy main road poses a challenge in parking here. Jai adds, “We do not have state-of-the- art infrastructure; our equipment cannot match the expectation of troupes from other cities.”
His friends and partners support him financially and he does theatre workshops too to shore up revenues. “I put whatever I earn, here , so help it survive. I hope someday, somewhere somebody will give this a hand because art cannot survive on its own.” If that doesn’t happen in 2024, (the lease ends in one year), the team has to find a new space that is a ‘little cheaper, well connected and close to Nature.’ “Nothing stops us from dreaming. Koshish jaari hai, josh bana rahe (efforts are on, enthusiasm should sustain).”