When PD Sathish Chandra of Prakasam Trust took the KH Kala Soudha auditorium in Basavanagudi on lease in 2009, he had just one thing in mind. To provide an affordable space to youngsters in the city to perform.
However, since February this year, the space has been closed to theatre enthusiasts as the BBMP has increased the rent of the building.
The ongoing #SaveKalaSoudha campaign is seeking to persuade the BBMP to reduce the rent and open the auditorium once again.
"We were paying a monthly rent of Rs 10,000 and used to charge Rs 3,000 for shows on week days and Rs 5,000 for the ones on the weekend. BBMP has increased it to Rs 40,000. If we agree to this, we'll have to charge three times of our current rate," said Sathish.
The BBMP's rationale, he states, is that Kala Soudha falls in the category of structures such as Town Hall, which pays Rs 80,000.
Prakasam Trust, a Bengaluru NGO which promotes performing arts, had taken Kala Soudha on lease in 2009. While the lease expired in 2014, the NGO asked BBMP to let it run the place till the new bidding process was initiated. In February this year, the BBMP asked them to pay the new rent or shut down.
This manifold increase will shoot up the rent of Kala Soudha, thus beating the very purpose of why they were running it, argued Sathish.
"Kala Soudha is like a white elephant. Most of the equipment it had when we took over were prehistoric. To give you an example, a bulb is usually about 700 gm. The ones given to Kala Soudha, probably by a vendor who made a lot of money, were lights weighing up to 14 kilos. I have upgraded the facility now. But at the start, it had taken 18 people 22 days to just clean up the place," he said.
Speaking about why he decided to take Kala Soudha on lease even though it was far from being perfect, Sathish said, "I just wanted a place for youngsters to perform. By that time Rangashankara had become very choosy about who they would rent out to. Ravindra Kalakshetra and Kalagrama, the two other options in Bengaluru, are owned by the government. And even if you get a booking, you could be asked to cancel your show if any government programme took place on the same day."
He added, "But because the rent was so low, although the overheads were high, I could afford to give if for 3,000 bucks a production. And now not only does the BBMP want us to pay four times the rent but also arrears from the period that the lease expired."
Prakasam Trust has been trying to communicate with the BBMP and is hoping that the campaign, which is being supported by theatre groups and citizens alike in the city, will be able to change the civic body's mind.
An online petition to #savekalasoudha has received over 2,400 signatures already.
The campaigners will submit a letter regarding the same on Thursday to the Joint Commissioner of the BMMP. On Friday, members of the groups supporting the campaign will organise protest performances in front of Kala Soudha.
"We used to run 22 shows on an average a month. We had 2,500 productions since 2009 and more than 30 new theatre groups were formed through Kala Soudha. We've had international level performances and also students from local colleges performing here. We are hoping the BBMP will listen to our request," Sathish said.