Maharashtra Govt dumps books, NCPA dumps theatre records

central library mumbai

All the books and valuable documents from the library of the Maharashtra government’s headquarters, Mantralaya, in Mumbai are dumped since the last three years into a godown, no one knows where.

The same is the case with the Central library which the Maharashtra government is supposed to look after. The library is one of the four libraries in the country set up under a Central legislation to provide free access to all books published in all the main languages in India.

One thought better sense would prevail in the case of the NCPA, National Centre for the Performing Arts, a Tata dominated reputed institute with its wonderful seaface location at Nariman Point in Mumbai.

It has no convincing explanation about the archives containing precious material on music and theatre from different languages. It has cited lack of space as an excuse but who will buy that ? It has commercially built a high rise for the rich on the land given free by the state government for culture. And it has no space for archives built with painstaking effort by numerous committed culture lovers ?. What a sad state of affairs. The sadder part is that few people from the world of culture have the guts to question the NCPA , they succumb to its immense control over culture.

The precious documentation was done by music scholar Dr Ashok Ranade and his team at the NCPA . There is no catalogue of the collection. The Theatre Development Centre project did really good work. Chetan Datar, theatre director, , who died young, and others really lovingly worked on the project.

Strangely, no one in Mumbai’s rich cultural world was aware of the serious development until I brought it to the attention after viewing a webinar on archives in the country.

On the other hand the archive based on Ranade’s personal collection and set up posthumously is doing fine work in Pune under the leadership of Chaitanya Kunte.

The NCPA archive project funded by the Ford Foundation closed down years ago. I remember it used to regularly bring out newsletters.

It seems the most active theatre active now is the one set up in Delhi by veteran Nemichand Jain and managed by his daughter Kirti Jain, former director of the National School of Drama.

Samik Bandopadhya, noted critic and scholar, said the Natya Shodh Sansthan in Kolkata faced an uncertain future. He and others complained that in all centres it was found that theatre departments of universities took little interest in archives.

Sarvari Sastry, a Ph.D. researcher in Chicago university, seemed very disturbed after her visit to the NCPA in search of access to archives.

It is time people form their own archives on different subjects.. A lot of people have a lot of material which can be collected and it is not difficult to collect funds also, there is no shortage of people who do not know what to do their savings, people splurge lakhs of rupees on a single foreign tour.

Apparently the basic problem is at the administrative, government level. The Maharashtra government is not even planning to construct a new building for the state archives which is badly needed. Books of the Central library lie in godowns, it means we are depriving people of free access to knowledge. Surely, not a sign of a cultured society.

I have watched some memorable performances and heard good lectures at NCPA since its inception since the eighties. So we do have a good institution but there are too many problems there.

Arun Naik, theatre director, told me Dr A N Bhalerao and his father Bapurao Naik wrote many letters to each other during 1951-53 when his father was in England. It is a priceless collection. It contains a lot of information on theatre buildings in England and they used the material while planning the then state of the art theatre in Sahitya Sangh. All those letters are in the NCPA archives. P L Deshpande , then director of NCPA, made me give that treasure. I thought that was a better place to keep it, Naik said.

K T Deshmukh had an excellent collection of photographs. Pandit had another collection of letters etc. There was a lot of material in Bharat Itihas Samshodhan Kendra in Pune. Mumbai Marathi Granthesangrahalay has books and periodicals. All this for Marathi. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan had much on Gujarati theatre. Prithvi Theatre had on Hindi theatre. ADI Marzban donated his entire collection on Parsi-Gujarati theatre. A lot of material came from Alyque Padamsee. All this is in NCPA archives. Plus a lot of original recordings, both audio and video. Even Indian classical dance and music.

They don’t have space for a theatre archives, but a very large room houses a collection of western classical music records donated by a white man, said Deepa Gahlot, senior theatre critic.

Shama Zaidi, senior Urdu writer, asked if NCPA can be taken to court for violating the clause that the land was granted for culture, not for real estate.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and a culture critic




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