Mumbai: Some time back, celebrated British-Bangladeshi dancer Akram Khan’s performance had wooed the audience at Bandra’s St Andrew’s auditorium. His highly technical show, what with stunning sound and light, was testimony of the technical bandwidth and facilities at the venue. Through the year, the biggest names in the music, dance and theatre industry perform at Mumbai’s most visited venues that include St Andrew’s, NCPA, Nehru Centre and Shanmukhananda Hall.

Whether it is Hema Malini, Terence Lewis, L Sivamani or a visiting troupe from London’s Globe Theatre, all have graced these stages giving the city’s culture buffs much to savour. While the lay public is witness to a terrific show what they are unable to gauge is the background work as far as the technical aspects that make or break a performance, are concerned.

A matter of choice

While some artists prefer the stage at St Andrew’s, others root for Shanmukhananda at King’s Circle. However, several theatre artists feel that St Andrew’s auditorium is the best if one takes cutting-edge equipment into consideration. Perhaps, this has got to do with the fact that Roger Drego, the man whose company supplies some of the best sound and lighting equipment in India, runs the show here. “We have state-of-the-art equipment. There’s a professional motorized LED backdrop. The entire auditorium has LED fixtures. We are in the process of making the foyer LED as well.”

Drego claims that no other city venue has such a facility, adding that the next step will be to run the general lighting, foyer and campus lighting through solar panels, which his team is in the process of working on. Raell Padamsee, who stages her musicals often at this venue agrees, “The auditorium has been designed using superior equipment. NCPA and Nehru Centre are good too but a lot of the equipment has to be rented. At Andrew’s, we get everything that we need,’’ she adds.

Theatre director Rahul Da Cunha, who opened his massive production Jesus Christ Superstar here, echoes the view: “It is the best technically-equipped stage to handle International productions in Mumbai. They have their own sound and light equipment. But when there is a need for special equipment, it gets sourced. Though the venue has a good stage and great auditorium, it’s not suitably equipped to handle a large orchestra,” he reveals.

Different stages, different acts

“The NCPA has multiple stages that have been designed for specific purposes,” says Nayan T Kale, GM, Technical, NCPA. Tata Theatre is meant for classical music and dance, Jamshed Bhabha, for Operas while the Experimental Theatre is designed to stage plays. Apart from equipment, the individual or team that handles the console is crucial, feels Mahesh Babu, Managing Director of Banyan Tree Events, who have been organizing events regularly at the Nehru Centre in Worli. “Our sound engineer travels with us for every programme. It is important to have a good person at the console, who understands every genre of music,” explains Babu.

According to their sound engineer, Jayawanth Rane, Shanmukhananda Hall is the best for sound systems, whereas NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha and Tata Theatre top his list, for lighting equipment. “For a performance to be a success, the speakers, microphones and stage monitors need to be good. In a dance performance, the boundary microphones are very important,” elaborates Rane.

Kathak exponent Uma Dogra, who has been hosting the Pandit Durgalal Festival at Nehru Centre for 22 continuous years, feels that for dance performances, the light projected on the artist’s face, to depict the abhinaya (expression), and the foot microphones, for the ghungroos, are important. “Nehru Centre and the NCPA are great in taking care of such requirements,” she says, adding that rentals can be the deciding factor, at times.

When contacted, Qazi Hussain, Director (Culture), Nehru Centre tells us why the venue is a favourite with artists: “We have fully digitized systems. We provide professional light and sound and do not allow outside equipment.” Clearly, most venues seem to be in the process of upgrading or procuring new equipment as the stakes and challenges to host technically sound national and International performances get higher.

“St Andrew’s auditorium has a professionally built-in sound system; one can monitor the sound, air conditioning, power consumption, cameras in the auditorium from my office or from anywhere, via the Internet.” – Roger Drego
News Courtesy: Mid-Day