Bengaluru's Ranga Shankara Theatre turns 17 today. The institution is marking the occasion with a festival of plays.
Named after late actor Shankar Nag, the theatre is nurtured by his wife, actor Arundhati Nag. She works as the Managing Trustee and Artistic Adviser for the theatre.
"17 years, I can't believe it. It seems like yesterday we had a 45-day festival and people from all over the country coming to perform for the inauguration of this space. Sometimes it seems like yesterday - sometimes it seems like the Swiss Alps and the Himalayas put together that one has climbed in these 17 years!" Arundhati Nag told NDTV.
The pandemic, and the restrictions it brought, was hard on performing arts, say, theatre.
"This year of course has been so much more challenging," she said.
"The time of the pandemic - nobody ever imagined that theatre would come to a standstill... Between no house, half a house, going digital - I have really felt like a monkey trying to innovate new ways of just surviving," she added.
Going digital was a challenge for artists used to performing before an audience.
"We were never prepared for (online.) And we also come from the conviction that the real thing is the real thing. To adapt to this reality that the pandemic brought with it .... Not being able to touch one another. Not being able to look into each other's eyes - was very, very difficult on all of us. But we tried to help the community, keep its enthusiasm going - I think as an institution that becomes our job. Last year we went completely digital because it was really harsh around this time. This year we have a hybrid festival, because till about a month ago we didn't know which way it was going to go," said Arundhati Nag.
The festival is called 'Staying Alive' - to acknowledge the difficulties that were faced by a theatre to survive in the time of Covid. It will be available in both live format and online.
"We have a physical festival," Arundhati said. "We have supported 4 local groups from Bangalore to create new pieces. In response to the difficult times we all went through, they are not all sad plays. The theme is Staying Alive. Within that theme, we have put together a package of three Kannada plays, one Hindi play performed by local troupes of Bangalore. That also ensures we have 4 new plays playing in Bangalore. And we have one play with a team from Jaipur but has actors also from Bombay, a director from Pune - who dared to meet 10 days a month during this pandemic and rehearse a play."
"We have a digital festival curated by Amitesh Grover. People can go to the Ranga Shankara website, register - then they can get access to that. Some are paid and some might be free."
There will also be half hour pieces performed in different parts of the distinctive Ranga Shankara building. That is also a back-up plan in case the government had to shut auditoriums. T
Though 100 per cent occupancy is permitted, those attending the festival will have to show proof of at least one vaccination.
Temperature check and masks are also compulsory.