Prithvi Theatre: Mumbai’s friendliest corner
The theatre is a small one, with a limited capacity. It’s probably this, that makes the theatre so special. Because of the limitation of space, the audiences feel a part of every performance that takes place at Prithvi. ‘This works both in favor of the audience and the performers,’ says Lalit Sathe, the manager of Prithvi Theatre. ‘The performers don’t need to stress their voices. The audiences are right there! Even the light and sound technicians have it easy. They have spacious, well equipped rooms that overlook the entire stage so that they can carry on with their work without goofing up. And for the audiences, from any corner of the theatre, irrespective of which seat they are sitting on, they can see the performers’ expressions and their body language very well.’
Also for the actors who put up a show, the Prithvi stage is a sacred one. It is a stage where the best of the theatre world have performed. These include Naseeruddin Shah, Benjamin Gilani, Om Puri, Alyque Padamsee, Satyadev Dubey, Rajit Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher and Makrand Deshpande among many others. ‘Prithvi spoils you rotten! Putting up a show here is just another experience. Prithvi is like a family. The technicians, the café walas, the management, the co-stars and theatre; all are like this little happy family. It is an awesome platform for any actor to work there,’ Deeksha Sonalkar, a theatre actor, said to me over chai at Prithvi.
‘We respect the arts here. It’s not about the money. The rent we charge is way lesser than many other theatres do. Also, our ticket rates are extremely reasonable. In fact, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays our ticket rates are just 125 rupees. And mind you, we have some of our best shows on these days. The rates aren’t really high for the rest of the week as well. We usually don’t cross 300 rupees,’ says Lalit.
Apart from theatre, Prithvi provides a platform to promote cinema, poetry, music and literature. Prithvi is partners with Alliance Francaise, Caferati, Thespo, PEN, Vikalp, Chai & Why and Mehfil. These partners conduct workshops, put up shows, hold science discussions, book and poetry readings, screen movies and conduct an open-mic at Prithvi among many other activities.
Paperback@Prithvi is Prithvi’s book shop. The speciality of this book shop is that they have a collection of rare books at extremely cheap prices. The book shop apart from novels has an excellent collection of coffee table books on photography, interiors, fashion, food and travel. The book shop allows people to pick a book and sit reading it right inside that little, cozy shop.
The café is probably the prettiest part of Prithvi. An open air café that is surrounded by beautiful trees and decorated aesthetically with soft lights, Prithvi Café serves the best chai in the whole world! Go there and try it if you don’t trust me. Prithvi Café’s specialties also include Suleimani chai (black tea flavored with mint leaves and a wedge of lemon), iced tea, Irish coffee and the chutney cheese sandwich. Mornings and afternoons at the café are the best time to sit with a good book and glass of iced tea. In the evenings however, the café is crowded with people who come to the theatre to watch a play.
Evenings at the café are also times when someone at one of the tables pulls out a guitar and starts playing it for the rest of the café. An old friend of the café, who is known as Guruji fondly, sits under one of the trees and plays his flute on some days. There is nothing more beautiful that sipping on chai and listening to Guruji play his flute on these evenings.
The entire Prithvi space; be it the café, the theatre, the book shop or Prithvi House (opposite the theatre) is a space where you can just make yourself comfortable. The Prithvi Space doesn’t have a gate. It is open for one and all. Everyone is welcomed, valued and loved equally here.
If you’re alone here, the cats will entertain you. The café area has a couple of cats running around the place at all times. These cats instantly become friends with you if you are ready to share your food with them.
Making friends is not difficult at Prithvi. The best time to make friends in during the summers. The café tables have Ludo and Snakes n Ladders’ boards painted on them. This is the time of the year when absolute strangers sit together to play a game of Ludo. Trust me; I am saying this out of experience, playing Ludo at Prithvi is an addiction. Every day, the same faces turn up to bond over a game of Ludo, and become best of friends by the end of summer.
Prithvi Theatre was founded by Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal in 1978. It was founded at a time when theatre in Bombay was dominated by English Theatre in South Mumbai and Marathi Theatre in Dadar. Prithvi gave Hindi theatre a platform in the suburbs of Mumbai at extremely affordable rates. Though founded by Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal, their daughter Sanjna Kapoor made Prithvi what it is today. She, with time, became the face of the theatre. Her extremely friendly smile and approachable nature helped spread warmth in the space.
Now, even though the management of the theatre has shifted from Sanjna to her brother Kunal Kapoor, the space continues to have the same kind of warmth. With the change in management, Prithvi has in fact, become friendlier to senior citizens and handicaps. The theatre now reserves special seats for them so that they can enjoy their play comfortably.
Prithvi is always bustling with energy and activity. It is a space that leaves its charm on you. It is a space that loves you back.
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