My family was surrounded by theatre. My father worked with Mr. Shashi Ji in his office. My elder brother ‘Baba’ handled the box office at Prithvi Theatre. He suffered from a disease called Thalassemia which meant there was lower than normal amounts of blood in his body. But what he lacked in bodily functions he made up for in spirit and personality. He was appreciated by everyone at the theatre. When he passed away in the year 1999, he had been with the theatre for 15 years. The groups that performed at the theatre and the staff at Prithvi all thought it would only be fair if someone from his family takes up the spot. That was how I entered Prithvi – as a box office handler and ended up becoming the theatre manager.
I got appointed as the manager of Prithvi theatre in the year 2006. I had done my small share of acting but managing a theatre was a full-time job. As a theatre, we host artists and the art they’ve worked hard to create, so providing them with the best possible environment to showcase the same is a must. My day starts at 2pm. I first take an update from the other staff and technicians at Prithvi in case there are any problems that need to be solved. Then I take a round backstage to see if the group that is setting up needs anything. Additionally, I do a check on the equipment in the theatre. The architect designed the wings in a way that they need to be at a certain angle for the sound to go straight to the audience. That has to be checked so the brilliance of the theatre acoustics come into play. After my checks, I head up to the office to review how the sales for the play are doing and decide if they need more push on social media. I do a final check inside the theatre before the first bell rings and the audience starts entering.
But that isn’t the end. The toughest part actually happens once the third bell has been rung, the gates are closed and the play has started. That is when I need to deal with latecomers to the show. Some people understand the fact that the actor is performing live inside, it’s a dark space with no assigned seating and moving about may disturb the craft and the audience alike. However, there are some people who like to stir up an argument at the gate. More often than I’d like, I’ve had to call the cops to resolve situations.
The going does get tough but the moment the play ends and smiling faces pour out of the theatre amidst showers of praise and discussions of the plot, I feel the effort taken to host that experience has been worth it. It’s not just a proud moment for the group that’s performing but for all of Prithvi’s staff when the audience stands up and grants us a thunderous applause. Prithvi has been a home to me for more than 15 years now. It isn’t just a physical space but a thriving emotion and every day I am grateful to be a part of the process that makes it so.