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Promoting the proscenium

About a decade ago, a young mechanical engineer left his job to pursue his dream — to make a mark in the theatre scene in Delhi and to experiment with different genres.

Now, Sunil Rawat is one of the founder-members of Saksham Theatre Group, which for the past nine years has been holding a theatre festival in Delhi. In its 10th edition, he brings to the stage plays in the genre of black comedy and sci-fi, to the daily struggles of common people. “It’s a blend of all genres,” he says.

Running from April 8 to May 13, the festival this year has two new plays to offer. “Black Comedy” which depicts the story of a struggling sculptor and his ways to impress his fiancé’s family which ends up in some disastrous results. The other play, “Ek Mamooli Aadmi” raises questions about family relationships and human values by portraying the life of a retired man who realizes he has cancer.

Most of the theatres in Delhi are based on comedy or have certain social and political messages. It was the need to break this monotony that drove him to start his own group. “We do not want to restrict ourselves to any particular genre,” he adds.

Explaining that the theatre culture of Delhi is not as developed as in Mumbai or Kolkata he says, “The audience here is only interested if it involves free passes. To build a culture where people willingly invest, we need to stage new ideas.”

Starting with only six plays it has increased to 11 this year. Rawat adds confidently that his audience keeps growing because of the variety of content they provide. “It’s a rare breed of plays.” His cast is a mix of students and professionals who have all come together for the love of the stage.

Rawat recalls his initial days of skits in school programmes from which his interest developed. Apart from the festival, his group also conducts workshop and plays in schools and colleges across the country. Rawat says that he just makes enough to sustain himself.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is the very high cost of auditoriums. Even with a full house the cost cannot be recovered,” Rawat explains. Adding to that, most of the halls remain booked throughout the year for government functions.

“People question why I continue with theatre if it involves such huge losses. It is my passion that keeps me going,” he says. So, in case you are interested in watching something different, then head to the India Habitat Centre this weekend.