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Memories of Prithvi Theatre

Kasturi Borkotoki



I have been living in Mumbai for many years now, having relocated from Guwahati in my mid-thirties. The adaptation from a small and secure city to the big metropolis was a major change but I soon discovered the art and culture route of the city.

In Mumbai I started painting seriously and blogging about my art and got connected to many other artists in the process. Portrait painting group from Art Society of India, Nature paint outs and life painting sessions were excellent ways to discover the culture of the city. Some of the interesting groups were about Urban Sketching. Going to spots and painting the interesting scenes live, gave insights to what went on in a place. One such place I want to talk about today is Prithvi Theatre. Founded by late actor Prithviraj Kapoor in the 1970s, it is a unique place to go and watch some of the excellent plays by well-known actors and also hang out in the famous Prithvi Café.

The bookings for shows would be full at least a month in advance and one was lucky if one got a last minute cancellation. The most impressive part of Prithvi however lies in the inclusive treatment of all and sundry. Prithvi is usually full of celebrities, some who have shows in the next hour or so and others who have come to watch the next show and yet others who come there to hang out with other artists and theater directors for creative discussions over a cuppa. If you go for a show at a scheduled time it is mandatory to form a queue at the ring of a bell, which goes off at about half an hour or so before the show starts. Few minutes before the show the gate opens and the gatekeeper lets you in from the first person in the queue stopping just to check the ticket. This applies to any common man or celebrity! I once stood next to the wife of an actor who was the protagonist in the show I’d gone to watch, who was also a Bollywood actor. This is not all! The seating system is a gallery set up (something like a closed amphitheater) and seating is as per choice. There are no seats or seat numbers. So one can choose to sit where one wants to and usually the first people in the queue grab the places they like. You may well be sitting next to one of the most famous actors, coming to watch the same show. The gate closes before five minutes to the show and no late comers are usually allowed! Shows mostly start on time.

I started going for sketching sessions to Prithvi on Sunday mornings and would sit in the famous Prithvi Café outside the theatre and sketch. Sunday mornings had shows for children and the place would be teeming with children and parents. This café is famous for its celebrity clientele and Irish coffee and Suleimani tea.


Empty food counters at the Prithvi Cafe, Sketch by Kasturi Borkotoki


The crowd comprises classy people with chic dressing. Prithvi is the place to bump into singers, actors, flautists and artists hanging around discussing projects or just sipping coffee thinking about the next production!


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[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]

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