Mahindra ups corporate support to Indian theatre

New Delhi: Corporate support to Indian theatre has got a fresh shot in the arm with the Mahindra Group hiking from Rs.60,000 to Rs.75,000 its honorarium to troupes nominated for the sixth Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) that will host 10 plays in the capital March 2-7.

"Every year, we pay the troupes a fee to perform, besides their travel and lodging expenses. This year, we increased the honorarium to tell the theatre fraternity that there was money on stage and it could well be a standalone means of sustenance," META secretary (secretariat) Ankur Bharadwaj told IANS.

There are prizes in 13 categories. The best play carries a purse of Rs.100,000 while the cash booty for other categories varies between Rs.45,000 and Rs.75,000. A lifetime achievement award carries a kitty of Rs.500,000.

"Over the last six years, we have increased the budget for the awards to Rs.3 crore," Bharadwaj said.

This year, the nominations are "Maharashtra-heavy", with seven of the 10 shortlisted plays from Mumbai and Pune, Bharadwaj said.

The nominees are -- "Ambedkar Aur Gandhi (Hindi)", "Mumtazbhai Patangwaale (Hindi)", "Red Sparrow (Hindi)", "Aaj Rang Hai (Hindi)", "The Interview (English)", "Dancing on Glass (English)", "Bayaa Daar Ughad (Marathi)", "Tichee 17 Prakarne (Marathi)", "Mythical Surrender (Manipur)" and "Punascha Honeymoon (Marathi)".

"The selection committee chose 10 plays from 240 entries. This year, META received the highest number of entries since it was instituted six-years ago.

"The selection committee had assembled in the capital for a week to review the plays. There were entries from Nepal and Bangladesh. West Bengal topped the list with the maximum applicants," Bharadwaj said.

Ravi Dubey, the creative director of META, said: "With each passing year, META is not only seeing an increase in the number of entries, but also in the sheer quality of the work. It is an honour to promote, preserve and present plays that capture the essence of theatre."

The jury for 2011 is an eclectic lot from all corners of the country, comprising National School of Drama (NSD) director Anuradha Kapur, veteran theatre personality Arundhati Nag, Marathi playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar, Gujarati stage personality Utkarsh Mazumdar and NSD veteran Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry.

Delhi-based founder of the Asmita Theate Group, Arvind Gaur, the director of "Ambedkar Aur Gandhi", said awards like META were important in promoting "serious and controversial theatre like `Amebdkar aur Gandhi` which government drama institutes are scared to include on their festival panorama".

"My play, `Ambedkar Aur Gandhi`, which has played at 70 venues across the country, has not yet been included on the list of plays at the Bharat Rangmahotsav, the annual theatre festival of NSD.

"It is sensitive and controversial, but META has nominated it as one of the 10 best plays for 2011. It is the only entry from northern India," Gaur told IANS.

Lamenting the lack of theatre education in the country, Gaur said: "India should have at least 12 NSDs across the country to keep theatre connected to its regional roots."