Tuesday, August 31, 2010
On theater, spaces and seating
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We were at the experimental theater of NCPA to watch Padmashri Leela Samson dance. This is not about the dance, which I would not dare review (One, I am arts illiterate, plus two, she is the principal of the college where my daughter is learning dance:)..This is a general letting off at how seating is organised in such spaces in Mumbai.
My husband swears he booked the seats after seeing the layout in their website (he booked online). And chose some good ones, giving front view. Yet, when we entered the auditorium, we were asked to walk up the steps and sit on the sides... I first thought, wow, I get such a wonderful bird's eye view of the dancer. Alas, and woe betide and the rest of the sad exclamations later, all I can say is that it was very bad place to be sitting. And even if Rs 200 is less than Rs 300 (were all sold out, no doubt to members at a discount), I felt like a pariah who had to twist her frame completely to get a decent view of the profile of the dancer:( It was physically taxing. Thank god I do kickboxing and am used to twisting from the hips and may actually think that sitting awkwardly for more than an hour is good exercise and will def make my future kicks better:)
These top side seats run along, and over the auditorium, along its side walls. Some seats, far down and ahead, must have been even worse... Seeing that the seats to our right were empty, we moved a few seats to better our experience. It still felt the same... :(
I recall once we were at a Shiamak Davar show (the annual thingie where students perform) we were given seats near the speakers(at Shanmukananda Hall, Matunga). I thought my heart would break, since the thud from the speakers (that too Bollywood remixed for high-energy dances) was something else altogether: hellish and if you know any biology you will that sort of proximity can be extremely dangerous. Can u imagine? Rs 300 for a seat and win a heart attack?!!!
Prithvi theater is getting by with it old fashioned style of having no numbers. This means when there is great play (like Chanakya, Manoj Joshi's, which I thrilled to, despite most of the shudd Hindi going over my head) there is a maha scrunch for space. I have seen stragglers coolly moving the early-comers to squeeze their butts into non-existing seats. Scrunch, scrunch, some hip-twists and everybody in chalta-hai Mumbai is happy. And cash-starved Prithvi Theater is ok with a few extra bucks. Does Sanjana have a ceiling on the number of tickets Prithvi sells? Is this based on any informed study on the size of Indian butts? Maybe some research to also indicate that certain plays attract the starving sorts (smaller butts) and some more popular plays attract the well-fed butts (big butts)? I would dearly like to know. Do journos who write flowery pieces on restaurants in the city ever think of looking at the city from this angle and churning up a story worth reading? Along the way get more flowery quotes from theater lovers. Here would be a sample: " we love theater and we don't mind the sweaty neighbour. We can even tolerate the deprived Indian male (oh, not many of them come to watch plays, maybe?) moving his elbow over our love handle and breasts."
And since the seats are not reserved, u don't pee during the interval. Some brazen ones, I have seen, can argue their right to more space or walk over from where they don't want to be sitting, to take over the space of some poor fellow with a weak, incontinent bladder. U can see really brazen behavior and nobody says anything... ushers try gently to tell people from sitting on the wooden steps...
So somehow we manage... in this city where space is such a problem, we are sooo happy we still have culture, what?