STAGING TRANSITIONS – THEATRE OF THE 90s IN INDIA
The initial emphasis of the Structural Adjustment Programmes of 1991 was to incorporate private businesses in manufacturing and production to revitalise public sector enterprises while the government continued to maintain its monopoly over social and development undertakings, including education and culture. But an increased competition among the corporates in the aftermath of liberalisation and globalisation resulted in the exploration of new avenues for visibility and consumer base expansion. As a result, private enterprises began to look to culture for their marketing. While this move was welcomed by fund deprived organisers and artists for private and experimental undertakings that did not comply with the government canon and funding rules, theatre groups had to provide space for brand promotion.
The brochure of the 2003 Prithvi Festival sponsored by ICICI Bank along with Indian Airlines, Juhu Hotel, British Council, Mid Day and Sangeet Natak Akademi reads, “Prithvi’s continued efforts in promoting the best traditions in theatre, while engaging in a constant process of experimentation and innovation is reflective of ICICI Bank’s initiatives in the financial sector. The diversity of the festival offerings and its creative and vibrant spirit truly symbolize the corporate banking personality of ICICI Bank”.
The rise in corporate sponsorship and the resultant increase in net inflow of funds for arts in the 90s raises some important questions –
Did corporate funding target theatre organizations with high visibility and socio-cultural capital in order to widen and reinforce the sponsors’ consumer base? If so, did this widen the resource gap between established and emerging groups, impeding professionalisation of latter? Did corporate sponsorship lead to compromises in artistic independence? With new profit oriented funding sources, did ticket prices rise or fall? As corporate funding was directed towards high visibility groups and a profitable consumer base, did niche audiences for certain groups and performances emerge?
Image Courtesy- Anand Gupt collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archives