Saturday, 5 August 2017

Gaiety, colonial theater steeped in Brirish tradition - Simla

Gaiety Theater, Simla. snnehh.com 

Gaiety Theater, Simla. Sukhsagar Regency

 The Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex  on Mall road, Simla is about 1.5 km from Simla railway station. Since Simla became the hub of political activities as it was the summer capital of the Raj, there arose a cultural necessity for the Europeans and their families to spend their leisurely time, watching fine theatrical programs, etc. Amateur theatrical events were held in this place which was  earlier called Town Hall. In those days theatre was looked upon as a major and serious source of entertainment for the fun-starved Europeans.  So, the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex became an important centre for all the theatrical, cultural and literary events of the British. It is said to be the oldest cultural complexes in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex  was opened on 30th of May in 1887 -
Queen Victoria's Jubilee Year.  One lord Bill Beresford, took tremendous efforts and saved the Simla A.D.C.(Amateur Dramatic Club), time and again from near financial  disaster . The Victorian-styled Theater Complex , following Gothic style, was designed by architect Henry Irwin, who built the Viceregal Lodge

Gaiety Theater, Simla, Hill Post

At the outset,it was a  a five-story building with all facilities such as  theatre, ballroom, armoury, police office, bar and galleries. Roughly two decades later in 1911 the building was found to be structurally unsafe. However, the theater part had been left out untouched.  It was not pulled down. 
  
The formal inauguration of the Simla A.D.C. (Amateur Dramatic Club) took place in the year 1888 and since then plays had been conducted regularly and the attendance was good.  Field Marshal Lord Roberts, remained president of the Club from 1891-1892 and during his tenure, the Gaiety theater was very active. Countless personalities were associated with this theater which produced best plays overseas next to London. Mention may be made of P.H. Dayer, a distinguished producer and actor; Lord Bill Beresford, V.C. who was the Military Secretary to Viceroy Lord Lytton, famous poet and author Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchner, Mrs. Deane, Major General Sir Godfrey Williams, and others. 

 As for Indian film persanalities,  K.L. Saigal, Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendall, Raj Babbar, Anupam Kher, Manohar Singh, Nasseerudin Shah and others performed on the stage here.

interior, Gaiety Theater, Simla. alamy.com

The theater is also put to use for other purposes such as exhibition of contemporary and traditional arts, displaying historical arts and crafts of the Himalayan province, as done by the city museum, etc. There is an Amphitheatre for hosting cultural performances. The multi-purpose theatre  hosts conferences  in the main hall along with the old theatre for theatrical and classical events.

  A sum of Rs 1.5 crore plus was spent on the restoration of this historical theater by the state government headed by  Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh who evinced keen interest  in safeguarding the old monuments in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Glad a historical and colonial theater is not lost due to negligence on the part of the government; on the contrary, it is restored back to old glory and it will be a boon for the posterity.
 http://hpshimla.nic.in/sml_heritage.html