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Get set for concert season

Friday, September 28, 2018

Vocalist Jayateerth Mevundi

Pic courtesy: Pancham Nishad Creatives

Mumbai has a host of venues for the upcoming concert season, but while private options have much to offer, the government-run auditoriums leave much to be desired, says Tanmaya Vyas

From big-ticketed shows like the upcoming Bryan Adams concert in October, newer bands performing,  Bollywood Award Nights, and Dandiya-Garba, to Indian Classical Music events... the last quarter of the yearly calendar is marked with maximum activity in the Maximum City.

The city has venues for events of all scales and requirements—be it small or large-scale, outdoor or indoor. Some venues have a historic significance while some are constructed with state-of-the-art facilities and amenities. Two years ago, Royal Opera House—the only surviving opera house in India—was restored according to the current needs but retaining its original charm. “Royal Opera House is a part of Mumbai’s heritage. Therefore, our goal is to bring forth the best curated events which are aesthetically designed and produced, it’s just not about presenting a show,” said Asad Lalljee, Senior Vice President and CEO-Avid Learning, The Essar Group and Cultural Curator, The Royal Opera House. The venue, initially known simply as Opera House, was acquired by the Royal family of Gondals in the ’50’s.  “I took over as a curator for events a couple of years ago. We make sure that we present legends and veterans along with new talent, to give them a credible platform.”

In Bandra-Kurla Complex, which is essentially a commercial space, there is one of the fanciest venues that the city currently offers—the Reliance Jio Gardens. The garden doubles up as a concert venue, accommodating over 1,000 people and over 2,000 cars in the underground parking lot.

Further ahead in the suburbs, NESCO, better known as Bombay Exhibition Centre, is the largest exhibition centre in the private sector, and is a preferred choice for many event organisers. According to Krishna Patel, Managing Director, BEC, “Holding exhibitions and events at the BEC is a breeze for organisers from India as well as overseas. Having a variety of different sized halls makes it convenient for organisers to optimise their layout. The BEC offers in-house catering of the highest standards, with a wide variety of cuisine options. The greenery also provides great serenity to the millions of visitors and exhibitors who visit the events.”

Spread over a sprawling 60 acres, BEC hosts several domestic and international trade fairs and music shows in auditoria that range from  20,000 sq.ft to two lakh sq.ft. Safety during emergencies is always a concern.

Shashi Vyas is Founder and Managing Director of Pancham Nishad Creatives, the leading organisation for curating and managing large-scale Indian classical music events. Sharing his insights, based on his two-decade long experience in the field, he says, “The choice of a venue depends on the genre of event planned—whether it’s a music concert or a dance concert or anything else, as the requirements of seating, presentation, and target audience differ. Ideally, we look for a venue which has a well-equipped backstage, as in good green rooms, stage and acoustic system for the artistes. For the audience security, cafeteria, parking, and washrooms are of major importance. Nehru Centre in Worli comes closest to being an apt choice for classical music events.”

Nehru Centre was conceived by the eminent lawyer, Rajni Patel, and the foundation was laid by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. It has a planetarium, art gallery and cultural wing spread over six acres.

The Sri Shanmukhananda Chandra-sekarendra Saraswathi Auditorium in Central Mumbai is also a centre of cultural activity; it has one of the largest indoor auditoriums in Asia with a seating capacity of 2,763 people.

Reliance Jio Gardens

Moving on from larger spaces, Mumbai also has venues for intimate concerts. One of the founder members of BlueFROG, Ashutosh Phatak, collaborated with legendary percussionist Ranjit Barot and formed a cosy place called Live at Quarter, set in the premises of Royal Opera House.  Ashutosh shared, “We did not come up with the idea of Live at Quarter for just for the sake of being called niche. The idea was always to create a space that would be a handshake between the audience and the artists. We don't just do bookings. Having someone like Ranjit on board, we make sure that we bring forth concepts and develop them. Also, because of The True School of Music, (a music academy managed and owned by Ashutosh) we have a lot of raw talent and international faculty. Like, if we think of having a Cuban night, we know a group of Cuban jazz musicians. We also focus on improvisations more than set patterns of music. This engages the audience well."

While all these are privately owned venues, the venues or auditoriums managed by the government are a different ball game altogether. Although the booking rates are comparatively lower, the facilities, and especially maintenance, is an issue. The procedures to book the venues are tedious too. However, the ticket rates at these auditoriums are reasonable and sometimes even free—an attraction for the salaried class.

Shashi Vyas adds, “Unfortunately, the condition of government managed venues is appalling. Take Ravindra Natya Mandir (Prabhadevi), for instance, a wonderful and centrally located venue, but the state of seats and washrooms is really bad. However, it is wrong to continuously blame the government, as I think it is a responsibility of the  executing staff—be it security services, the ushers or the cleaning staff, they have to take utmost care of the venue. The micro-management is to be done at the  staff level and not by the top authorities.”

Another hindrance currently is the on-going Metro work. Recently Amitesh Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police shared that large-scale events are causing clogging of roads at the Western Express Highway, considering the on-going Metro work and hence approvals for large-scale events or exhibitions will take longer than small-scale events. BEC, however, is equipped to face the situation, “Ongoing metro works may marginally hamper the equilibrium of daily traffic. However, there is no impact of Metro works on exhibition bookings”, adds Krishna Patel

The last quarter of this year promises to be an exciting one, as the city gears up for the concert season. It is time, however, that some of the concert venues available, gear up as well.

Quick facts

  • Mumbai’s concert season plays host to a range of musical activities across genres.
  • In recent times, private venues have added to the facilities that the city has to offer.
  • However, the government-run venues, while relatively affordable, need to be better maintained. 

“Unfortunately, the condition of Government managed venues is appalling… However, it is wrong to continuously blame the government, as I think it is a responsibility of the executing staff there—be it security services, the ushers or the cleaning staff, they have to take utmost care of the venue… It is our responsibility too as Indians to take care of our properties.”

- Shashi Vyas, Pancham Nishad Creatives

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