Vikash Khurana is a well-known name in the theatre circuit of Nagpur. The veteran heads the theatre group Stagecraft and has himself acted in and directed many plays over the years. In a tete-a-tete with Nation Next, Vikash Khurana speaks about his family, Stagecraft and the problems and scope pertaining to theatre in Nagpur.
Where does your family come from? How did theatre happen to you?
My paternal grandfather shifted to Nagpur from Pakistan in the 1940’s and started a bricks manufacturing unit. My father Abnash Khurana took care of the family business after my grandfather passed away. I have been born and brought up in Nagpur and after I finished my education from Sydenham College, Mumbai, I too joined the family business. I have had passion for theatre since school. I did my first stage performance in class three when I played Cinderella! Thereafter, I performed consistently at various school functions and would represent the school in inter-school drama competitions. When I was in Mumbai, I was part of Satyadev Dubeys theatre group wherein Amrish Puri, Sunil Shanbag, Harish Patel, Veena Joshi, Veena Kulkarni and Mohan Bhandari were my contemporaries. My first major role in Mumbai was in the play Aadhe Adhure. The play had Amrish Puri, Sunila Pradhan and Mohan Bhandari playing the lead roles. After doing 10-12 shows, Mohan had to go somewhere and there were 6-7 shows which were already lined up, so I filled in his shoes.
Who do you owe your interest in theatre to?
My mother, Indira Khuranas family was from Mumbai. During his college days in Lahore, my maternal grandfather, Dewan Sharar started a theatre group called Landmark. He toured the country taking his plays and mushairas to different places. After that he got involved in films and started working with Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani who are considered as the pioneers of Indian cinema. My grandfather wrote the Indian talkie Karma? in 1933. He then started working with V Shantaram and they made films like Shakuntala, Geet Gaya Pathare ne and Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani. My mother also use to do theatre in college. When she got married and moved to Nagpur, she use to do plays on All India Radio. So the theatre genes can be attributed to my maternal side.
You brother Akash Khurana is quite an established actor and has appeared in films like Sarfarosh, Company, Koi? Mil Gaya and others. Did you not have ambitions for films like your brother?
When my brother finished his mechanical engineering and MBA, it was pretty obvious that he would come back and look after the family business or probably start a separate manufacturing unit. But he didn’t want to come back as he had interest in theatre and films. After I finished my education from Sydenham College, I made my mind to return to Nagpur. A week before I was to leave, Dubeyji called all of us and told us that Shashi Kapoor was auditioning for the film Utsav. Dubeyji, selected 10-12 people from the theatre group including me for the audition. The audition date was the same date my tickets for Nagpur were booked. I asked my father and he told me to audition. I thought that if I change my mind now, I will always remain very fickle. So on the date of Utsav auditions, I left Mumbai for Nagpur. I don’t regret it; I made a decision and stuck to it.
What made you start Stagecraft??
After I came back to Nagpur, I joined the family business. While in business, I along with some friends use to do one play in a year. The production use to be very ordinary and only the friends and family of the actors would come to see the play. If an orphanage needed to raise money or a school needed to raise funds for the new building, we would do a play for them. It was our hobby coupled with charitable cause. In 2003, I was not very happy doing business. Nagpur was developing and I thought of giving a professional feel to theatre in Nagpur and I started Stagecraft in 2003. It took 2-3 years to wind up the family businesses completely and finally by 2006, I got fully into theatre.
How would you describe Stagecraft??
Stagecraft is an amateur theatre group where like minded people come together on a common platform to exhibit their talents. In the beginning, I was perhaps the only person who had both formal and informal training. I had worked under theatre veteran Satyadev Dubey in Mumbai. Then, over the years I attended workshops at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and the Royal Shakespeare Company. I’m also a merit holder of the Trinity College, London in the speech and drama exam. Apart from me, none of the people who joined Stagecraft had any kind of exposure in theatre. I tried to teach them whatever I learnt. It was difficult but fortunately I had a group of young people willing to learn. At Stagecraft, there has never been a restriction on who can join. If somebody couldn’t act, he/she was welcome to handle production. In the last fourteen years, more than 300 people have been associated with Stagecraft and we have done more than 60 productions.
How would you say theatre scenario has changed in Nagpur in all these years
Long time back, Dhanwate Rang Mandir, the auditorium at Jhansi Rani Square, was the theatre hub of Nagpur. There was an amateur artists association headed by Narayan Gwalani which use to organise one-act play competitions at least two-three times a year at the auditorium. Even Rajkumar Hirani performed there and there were quite a few other theatre groups as well. Theatre scene in Nagpur was pretty happening back then. After the pulling down of Dhanwate Rang Mandir, it was as if everybody lost interest in theatre all of a sudden. There was a major spell in between, when there were close to no activities concerning theatre in the city. Now, there are theatre groups from outside Nagpur, who perform in Nagpur once in a while, and there are groups in Nagpur which perform just for competitions. To be honest, we are the only theatre group who have been consistently doing plays in English and Hindi over all these years. We don’t participate in any competitions at all; we do theatre to entertain as well as to educate.
Is theatre commercially viable in Nagpur?
Not at all! People have become more aware of theatre as compared to the past, but it’s definitely not commercially viable. If we get a sponsor, we break even. If we don’t get a sponsor, we occur losses. Ticket sales alone cannot cover the production cost. The production cost in Nagpur is extremely high. The rent of a venue will cost anywhere between 35K and 50K. Plus, add to that the sound and light cost. We have been going to Mumbai and performing for a couple of years now. Prithvi theatre in Mumbai charges you on the basis of how much ticket rates you have. For instance, for a play I did, the ticket rate we kept was 150 Rs per ticket, so the rental was 4.5K which included the hall, the air-conditioning, the sound, the light and the service. If only 30 people come to watch the play, I’ll break even!
The rental of auditorium is pretty high in Nagpur and many of them are in poor state. Do you think that inspite of the resources available in Nagpur, people in governance underutilize the resources
We have absolutely no infrastructure and no one is bothered about even improving the existing infrastructure. More than governance, the focus is always on commerce. People in governance think that they should make something which will bring in a lot of money. Nobody is thinking in the larger interest. Plus there are other problems as well. For instance, in January 2015, I was to do a play at Deshpande to raise funds for a trust. The show was on weekend. Three days before the show, we were told that our booking had to be cancelled because Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Cabinet Minister Nitin Gadkari were scheduled to visit the hall for a function on the day of the show. With this sword hanging over the head always, who would want to go and perform there? I come from a business family fortunately, so I can bear the loss at times, but what about other groupsAt the end of the day everybody wants to break even. People in Nagpur need to think beyond their needs. Glass and concrete does not make a city, culture does.
In the recent past, Marathi theatre has picked up a lot of pace in Nagpur. Prominent Marathi theatre actors have come and performed in Nagpur. Does Stagecraft plan to get into Marathi theatre?
If somebody from the group wants to direct a Marathi play with a good script, I would be very happy to help them. I can’t do it because I understand the language but I’m not fluent with it. As a director I should be able to understand the language first before I direct a play.
Theatre was always been in your genes. Do your kids have a knack for theatre too?
My daughter, Sonakshi is a trained chef, so shes an artist in a way. My son, Vardan is more of a performer and hes into music and has a band and has a job in Pune. But, while he was Nagpur, his band composed music for a couple of our plays.
Rushikesh Lohit reigns as numero uno in Rapid Championship; Shaunak Badole tops Nagpur Blitz Championship
Rushikesh Lohit won the Nagpur District Rapid Championship while Shaunak Badole won the Nagpur District Blitz Chess Championship held at Vivekanand Hall, Shraddha House, Kingsway, Near Kasturchand Park in Nagpur.
The championship was organised by Chess Association Nagpur in association with Kalpana Prakash Welfare Foundation and G.H.Raisoni Sports and Cultural Foundation. Muktanand Pendsey finished second in the both Rapid and Blitz Championship. Rushikesh Lohit and Muktanand Pendsey will represent Nagpur in the Rapid Championship and Shaunak and Muktanand will represent Nagpur District in the Maharashtra State Blitz Championship.
Mangesh Kashikar, Secretary, Nagpur District Badminton Association and Vice President of Maharashtra Badminton Association was the Chief Guest who distributed the prizes. Bhushan Shriwas, Secretary, CAN and Kalpana Prakash Welfare Foundation, SS.Soman, Working President, CAN and Amrish Joshi, Chief Arbiter were present on the occasion.
The Top two finishers of Rapid and Blitz Championship were awarded Trophies whereas the players finishing from 3rd to 10th place were awarded Medals in both the championship. In addition to the main prizes, age group prizes were also distributed to top two finishers in each group.
The championship was conducted by Chief Arbiter Amrish Joshi assisted by SNA Swati Kumbhalkar, SNA Amit Tembhurne, Shyam Agrawal, Prayas Amabde and Prathamesh Machave.
Wine connoisseurs come together at Wine and Food Festival 2022 in Nagpur
Wine connoisseurs came together at Wine and Food Festival 2022 in Nagpur, which took place on December 3 and 4. This was the ninth edition. It was hosted by Nagpur Wine Club, and was held at Bhagwati Lawn. The festival was open to all, where people enjoyed wine tasting and lip-smacking food by The Breakfast Story, Nagpur. Nation Next brings you some exclusive photos from the event.
‘Maharashtra government responsive towards issues of traders,’ assures Eknath Shinde
At the outset Dr Dipen Agrawal, President of Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industry and Trade (CAMIT) welcomed Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde with a floral bouquet in prominent presence of Krupal Tumane MP, Ramtek and submitted memorandums highlighting harassment of traders by Local Body Tax department across the state under the garb of LBT Assessment. He also appraised about the issue of Nagpur Metropolitan Region Development Authority (NMRDA) and he further brought to the notice of CM about the exorbitant hike in rent by Corporations & their coercive action on traders.
Dr Agrawal on behalf of traders of Maharashtra expressed his gratitude towards Eknath Shinde about Local Body Tax being abolished (LBT with effect from August 2015. Though LBT was abolished in 2015 but the ghost of LBT is haunting traders now and then, department in routine are passing ex-party (best judgement) orders raising inflated and fictitious tax demands and using them to justify continuance of LBT Department. Records from LBT Appellate Authority will evidence the correctness of this statement. He also informed that LBT Department in various Corporation indulged in issuing back dated assessment orders for previous financial years. He appealed to CM that the issue requires his urgent attention, intervention and directions for closure of LBT Department in all Municipal Corporations with immediate effect to ensure ease of doing business in the state and save traders from unnecessary harassment.
Eknath Shinde acknowledged that he is aware of the issue. He assured to discuss the issue in cabinet and ensure that the issue is addressed on priority basis.
Dr Dipen Agrawal informed CM, that since last few years Municipal Corporations across the state stopped renewing lease/license of property leased/licensed by them. In 2019 the state government came up with Maharashtra Municipal Corporations (Renewal of Lease or Transfer of Immovable Property) Rules, 2019. These Rules were strongly opposed by trade associations. However, after its implementation the litigation between the lessee/tenants and Corporations went to court added Dr Agrawal.
After great persuasion by the then LOP, you as minister for UDD agreed to the demand to put the notification dated 13/09/2019 in abeyance and review the exorbitant annual rent at 8% property value and fix the annual rent acceptable to all stakeholders.
After the issue was raised on the floor of the house, the State government stayed the operation of notification dated 13/09/2019 and constituted a committee of government officers to review and fix fresh rent. When we approached few members of the committee to submit our suggestions’ we learnt that the committee is of opinion that the notification in question does not apply to the Licensee holder.
Hence, in the background of above facts and circumstances Agrawal requested CM, to intervene and have the pending notification issued and fix the rent at 0.5% of Ready Reckoner value for residential & 1% for commercial lease holder Galedharaks . He further requested to notify similar rules and frame a single policy for the Licensee Galedharaks across the state and in cases where shop/otta is licensed by Corporation the annual rent be fixed at the rate of 2% of value as per ready reckoner and as the lease/license fee will be calculated on ready reckoner the clause of periodic increase dose not survive also the lease / license should be transferable and transfer fee to be charged equal to one month rent/fee for transfer within blood relation and equal to three months’ rent/fee for transfer outside blood relation and the agreed new lease rent/license fee to be made applicable prospectively and not retrospectively.
Eknath Shinde said that the issue is under active consideration and assured to look into the matter and discuss with Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
Dr. Dipen Agrawal further informed Eknath Shinde that the first notification declared 5 Km area touching outer limits of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) as Nagpur Metro Region issued in 1995 which was thereafter increased time to time to present limit of 25 Km from boundary of NMC. In 2010 Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) was entrusted with responsibility of Special Planning Authority for Nagpur Metro Region the limits. In 2012 NIT passed resolution for preparing development plan for Metro Region and published Draft Development Plan (2012-2032) calling objection and suggestions, in the year 2015. In 2017 Nagpur Metropolitan Region Development Authority (NMRDA) was established. In 2018 Final Development Plan (2012-2032) for Nagpur Metro Region was sanctioned and notified. NMRDA action is based on following three main reasons:-
1) Side margins are not as per 2012-2032 DCR; Dr. Agrawal highlighted that majority of units i.e., 59% were established before the 2012-NIT resolution and 85% were established before the first publication of 2015-Draft Development Plan (2012-2032), and pointed out that it is unjust on part of NMRDA to expect these units to maintain the margins prescribed in DCR (2012-32).
2) Building plan/ Non-agriculture use is not sanctioned by competent authority; Dr. Agrawal pointed out that under MRTP Act the power to change use of land is can be delegated to Thasildar and powers to authorise development to Gram Panchayat concerned. Invoking these powers Thasildar was approving and sanctioning NA Permissions and Gram Panchayat was sanctioning Building Plans. The units in good faith have taken these permissions from them and further submitted to other Government agencies.
3) Land earmarked for purpose other than industrial/commercial; MRTP Act provides for survey and preparing ‘existing-land-use’ map by Planning Authority after its declaration of intention of preparing a Development Plan. It is surprising to note that the area of many units established prior to declaration of intention of preparing Development Plan is not classified under industrial/commercial zone.
Dr. Dipen Agrawal humbly requested CM to grant an Amnesty Scheme for regularization wherein interest & penalty would be waived and also direct the authorities to notify that the MSME units established prior to 06/01/2018 (the date on which the DCR 2012-2032 for Nagpur Metropolitan Region was notified) should be saved from the provisions of the said DCR.
Eknath Shinde said that the government is sized with issue and assured to resolve the matter in the best interest of all stakeholders.
Dr. Dipen Agrawal, President-CAMIT on behalf of business community of the state expressed his gratitude towards Eknath Shinde, Chief Minister, Krupal Tumane, Member of Parliament, Ramtek for being sensitive towards the issues of trade & industry of the state.