Sometimes, cities become synonymous with their rich past and culture. The bustling, momentous city of Pune is one such city. The narrow roads and tiny alleys of the city have been witnesses to the evolution of the city that’s the cultural capital of Maharashtra.
Be it the markets of Tulshi Bagh, or the walls of Shaniwarwada, all have countless stories to narrate.
From war stories to love stories, from discreet lanes to vibrant shopping streets, from the smell of incense in the temple to the colours of the fruits at the market, Pune has something for everyone. Being one of the most important IT hubs in India, Pune is a perfect blend of the old and the new.
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While the history of Pune can be traced back to around 1000 years, it was during the Maratha and Peshwa rule that the city played a major role in the country’s political activity.
When talking about Pune’s culture, how can we forget about the city’s legacy in Marathi culture? From P.L Deshpande to Annasaheb Kirloskar, Pune holds a special importance in the heart of Marathi theatre artists.
The early period of Marathi theatre was dominated by playwrights like Kolhatkar, Krushnaji Prabhakar Khadilkar, Govind Ballal Deval, Ram Ganesh Gadkari and Annasaheb Kirloskar who enriched the Marathi theatre for about half a century with excellent musical plays known as Sangeet Natak.
It was in this genre of theatre that a stalwart was created, yes, I am talking about none other than Narayan Shripad Rajhans, popularly known as Bal Gandharva. Be it Manapaman, Swayamwar or Ekach Pyala, his performance as the female lead is something every theatre lover admires.
Made in the honour of this stalwart, the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir in Pune, is every performer’s dream theatre. Located in the centre of the city, this landmark has seen some of the most iconic plays of Marathi theatre.
Talking about her first memory about Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir as a performer, Pune theatre personality Dhanashree Heblikar says, “It was a time when Hindi theatre did not really have a firm holding in Pune, but still, our first show was held at Bal Gandharva. It was there that we realized that even Hindi theatre is liked by the audience, it was the kind of encouragement we needed at that point. It’s every actor’s dream to perform at Bal Gandharva. In a way, Pune is carrying forward the legacy of Narayan Shripad Rajhans.”
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It was built by Pune Corporation in 1968 with the initiative of the famous Marathi author and a Balgandharva fan, P.L Deshpande. It was inaugurated by Acharya Pralhad Keshav Atre. The foundation of this play theatre was started with very own hands of Balgandharva, while he was alive.
Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir was constructed in a time when the Tilak Rang Mandir wasn’t fully equipped to accommodate large crowds. After its construction, it became the centre of professional theatre whereas as the Tilak Rang Mandir became the hub for experimental theatre.
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In June next year, this institution will celebrate its Golden Jubilee.
The Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir is considered one of the best drama theatres in the city and is a part of Pune’s heritage.
The Bal Gandharva Ranga Mandir is run and maintained by the Pune Municipal Corporation. Looked upon as the main cultural destination of the city. It is available for cultural, educational, social and religious activities, as well as corporate and business seminars.
With theatre slowly becoming a dying art, I think institutions like Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir, should be maintained and promoted.
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