Stage set again for Shimla’s Gaiety Theatre (With Image)

February 5th, 2009 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Feb 5 (IANS) Time took its toll on the 120-year-old Gaiety Theatre where Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling and legendary actors Prithviraj Kapoor and Balraj Sahni had once performed. Now, the curtains are set to come up on the historic stage once again.The Gaiety Theatre here is all set to stage a comeback by March-end as the renovation work of the building enters its final phase.

“The exteriors and interiors of the theatre complex and facade have undergone massive restoration work, keeping in mind its original architecture of the Gothic style,” Ved Segan, a Mumbai-based architect, who is supervising the restoration work, told IANS.

He said the use of slate for roofing, glazing work inside the complex and ornamental stonework on outer walls has been done as per the old pattern.

“The revival of the historical building in its original Gothic style was a herculean task. Before starting its renovation and conservation work, we (the architects) have carried out research to ascertain that the restoration is done as per its original architecture and style,” Segan said.

He said no cement had been used in the building as it was not used in the original structure either. Lime mortar was used in masonry work. Fine grained hard and non-porous sand stone has been used, all of which has been brought specially from Solan district.

The Language, Art and Culture Department is now the custodian of the theatre.

“Being funded by the union ministry of culture, the Gaiety Theatre Restoration and Conservation Project is almost nearing completion,” said Prem Sharma, the department director.

“We have expedited the work. Both the theatres within the complex - the original one and another coming up on the second floor - will be ready by March end.”

According to Sharma, all facilities for organising cultural and artistic activities would be created within the premises for the convenience of art lovers and the theatre would again become the venue for national and international events. So far, the government has spent Rs.90 million on its restoration work.

While the top floor will have a big auditorium with a seating capacity of 500 people, the first floor will have a greenroom and a hall with 200 seats. The groundfloor will have a museum, gallery and library.

“The Gaiety Theatre is really a dream place to perform. I would love to perform there with new additions of acoustics and lighting system,” said documentary-maker Vivek Mohan, who is now settled in Mumbai.

The Gaiety Theatre has been the centre of cultural activities in Shimla right from the day it was opened in 1888. “Time will Tell” was the first play staged there. Since then the popularity of English plays earned Shimla the nickname - ‘Mecca of theatres’.

“A record number of 29 plays was staged during 1896,” said Prem Parkash Pandit, in-charge of the archives wing of the state government.

Even legendary writer Rudyard Kipling had taken part in a number of plays in The Gaiety Theatre, he said.

The erstwhile summer capital of the British in India is also known for producing some great artists like Anupam Kher and Vijay Kashyap, while greats like Prithviraj Kapoor, K.L. Sehgal, Balraj Sahni, Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendall, Raj Babbar and Nasseerudin Shah also loved to perform here.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

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