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19 yrs on, open-air theatre still under renovation

BMC had handed over Bandra's Bal Gangadhar Tilak Rang Mandir to a foundation in 1992 for redevelopment; locals sceptical about the deadline
 
It has been almost two decades, since the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) handed over Bal Gangadhar Tilak Rang Mandir, Bandra's only open-air theatre to a private foundation in 1992 for upgradation.

However, the locals are sceptical about the foundation meeting the deadline for completing the work.


In shambles: The Bal Gangadhar Tilak Rang Mandir at Bandra (W) has
been under renovation for nearly two decades. PIC/satyajit desai


Though the BMC had failed to provide an appropriate reason for upgrading the theatre located at Raosaheb Patwardhan Garden on Linking Road in Bandra (West), as per the Bombay High Court's order, the foundation has to complete the renovation work before August 31, 2012 and hand over the theatre back to the civic body.

Activistspeak
Aftab Siddiqui, an activist and president of the local ALM, has written several letters to the BMC, asking it to finish the renovation work at its earliest, and throw open the doors to the public, as it were earlier.

"Why has the foundation delayed the work? They have wasted 19 years from the lease period of 30 years, and would now be handing it over to the BMC only for its usage of few days a year. On one hand, they are fooling the BMC, on the other, depriving people of the culture that was once showcased and celebrated at the theatre," she stated.

Localspeak
A resident of Linking Road, Ranjana Barve has fond memories of the Marathi plays, dance and drama, she once enjoyed in the months of November and December before the theatre was shutdown for renovation.

"One fine day, the theatre was shutdown. Initially, we were afraid that it would be turned into a mall. But if they are re-opening it by next year, then it is a wonderful decision. Charges will go up if the theatre is privatised. Earlier, there were no auditoriums in the area; Rang Sharda and St Andrews auditoriums came up later. Earlier, we would celebrate festivals like Diwali at the theatre, I hope they allow us to do so," said Barve.
 
While another local informed that people from Vile Parle and Dadar, would flock the theatre for enjoyment and relish various cultural shows.

"New talent was encouraged, as the venue was available at affordable rates. However, for so many years, the place has been crumbling and lying vacant," the resident added.

BMCspeak
Commenting on the issue, an official from BMC's Development Plan Department said, "Though the Intimation
of Disapproval and Commencement Certificate for the work were given in 1993 itself, it was renewed more than six times. Despite several renewals, not much work has been carried on. Currently, work is on at a
place, wherein a 1,000-seater auditorium is built along with parking lots and a couple of stages. The place would be used for cultural programmes by the foundation and would be handed over to the BMC for 15 days a year."

Despite several attempts, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Western Suburbs), Manisha Mhaiskar, remained unavailable for comment.

Rahul Shewale, standing committee chairperson, BMC, said, "The issue is still pending and we are trying to work out something. We are hoping to revive the theatre by next year."

The petition
Last year, Aftab Siddiqui, president of a local ALM, had filed a petition in the High Court, seeking reasons from the foundation for the delay. Acting on her petition, on September 20, 2010, the HC ordered that the renovation work be wrapped up before August 31, 2012.

6
Number of times BMC renewed the Intimation of Disapproval and Commencement Certificate

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