India’s Oldest Stage at Gaiety Theatre to re-open next week in Shimla, Himachal

Shimla: Emerging out from two years of restoration works, Gaiety Theatre – the theatrical hub of the city supporting a new look is all set to stage plays and musicals, once again.

Next week, on June 25, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal would announce opening of the renovated Gaiety Theatre, said an official spokesman.

Restored under the stewardship of leading conservationist and theater architect Ved Segan, the renovated building has been blended with the existing skyline of the municipal corporation building alongside.

“For a building that was started in 1887 and completed in 1889 and three floors demolished in 1911, it would be wrong to say that Gaiety has been restored to it is original self. I have given my life for the project and done whatever was best possible under the given circumstances, said Segan who has also helped to restore Mumbai’s Prithvi Theater and currently is working for constructing Indian National Theater at Mumbai.

The restoration project was mooted in 1984 and actor Shashi Kapoor was in the forefront pushing for restoring its, says Raaja Bhasin, a writer closely associated with the restoration work.

Besides the Victorian style theater, the old ballroom in the complex has been converted into a multi functional hall, the old Viceregal drawing room would be a art gallery where Lalit Kala Academy would hold exhibitions, the Tavern would be a museum of the city’s history and the Gothic hall would be part of a club.

Other than that there is a green room, cultural spaces, eating spaces and an open air theater in the complex. Work on the project started in 2003 but the main works only took off about three years ago, says Sagan.

Designed on a Bijou theatre model, quality of the sound of the performing stage artistes remained unaffected at the farthest corner of the hall.

From playacting in British resident drawing rooms to full-fledged theatre, cultural life of Shimla around Gaiety Theatre evolved into one of the earliest dramatic institutions of European tradition in the country.

The Shimla Amateur Dramatic Club has a history that spans over a century in which viceroys; lords and their memsahibs actively participated. Actors like Prithvi Raj Kapoor, KL Saigal, Pran, Prem Chopra, Manohar Singh, Anupam Kher, Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendall and Naseerudin Shan have given performances at the Gaiety theatre.

It has also figured in several films like Chetan Anand’s Kudrat, Sunny Deols Gaddar and several others.

Famous lyricist and playwright Gulzar speaking on sidelines of a lecture tour here in February said that the original Gaiety Theater was far more beautiful. “However to save the historic building from total collapse, renovation was necessary,” he said on the occasion.

Photo by: Sarvjeet Kumar.

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