A city that has been witnessing a beautiful blend of aesthetic sensibilities and grandiloquent conventions for past decades, Lucknow is now subjected to a deluge of “Festivals”. These festivals are a representative of a completely new scenario of Lucknow’s vibrant consciousness of art and cultural legacy, is a foreshadow of a silent revolution creeping in. Lucknow Literature Festival, Lucknow Literary Festival, Lucknow Mango Festival, Sanatkada Lucknow Festival, Lucknow Kathak Festival, Wajid Ali Shah Festival, Lucknow Thetare Festival, Lucknow Mahotsav and Ahimsa Festival are just a few among the numerous festivals that are currently being hosted in the city every year. Topping this rundown is the Repertwahr Festival which is returning for its 8th season in the city.
This sensational festival lay the first stone in 2009 as a theatre festival. But in its 8th edition this year, to be held from 11th to 17th December, it also features live music and makes a debut at stand-up comedy. The festival this year will feature 28 ticketed shows, with more than 150 performers from all over the nation, most of whom will be performing their shows in Lucknow for the first time.
The festival team itself comprises of 200 professionals and volunteers who are bringing together a celebration of seven days that expects to welcome more than 22000 people to attend the festival this year. According to Repertwahr’s organising committee claim, they sold more than 13000 tickets in the past year, which in itself is a favourable sign for performing arts in a ascending megalopolis like Lucknow.
Right from its inception Repertwahr has been an ingenious influence on Lucknow’s temperate, and at times, inert cultural landscape. In a city used to watching customary, non-ticketed thespian productions without a price, Repertwahr brought in contemporary subjects, top-grade production values and expensive tickets, which lead to in frantic debate all over the city. This added innovation to this festival at the time. Themes like gender discrimination, sexual preferences, digital desertification, casteism and urban lifestyle were explored with firmness.
It earned it both acknowledgement and vitriol. While the issue of sustainable art is a long standing discussion, it was certainly an intriguing experience for the city. Prior to this, professionally organised and nationally acclaimed theatre productions were a scarce in the city. Most of the theatrical presentations were prepared by city-based theatre groups with constrained finance and traditional thematic content, at minimal or no cost to the viewers. It was a challenge to initiate costly tickets, non-traditional subjects or avant-garde theatrical forms in the city and still be able to attract audience for the same. But over the period of time, Repertwahr has carefully brought-up a loyal following in the city that is willing to pay for ticketed shows and is also appreciative of the non-conservative themes of its presentations.
The price range this year is between 300 to 500,which might be considered high in terms of Lucknow but the organising team hopes that the response will be positive and enthusiastic.
Bhupesh Rai, Co-Founder of the festival says, “Repertwahr tries to bring on stage ,performances that the viewers in Lucknow do not generally have access to.The shows presented at the festival are audience oriented. The team aims at choosing performances which have an entertainment value but do not forget to leave a message. There is a huge risk involved in selection of the performers because the ball lies in the court of the audience. Repertwahr focuses on making performing arts more subjective.This festival highlights the different flavours of performing arts”On the question of the ticket prices being high Bhupesh said that a ticket is value for money and time. The managing team puts in their heart and soul in bringing up the best resources they have in the city and in order to make this effort professional, a monetary return along with the positive feedback of the audience,is necessary.
Rohit Shukla, a theatre enthusiast and student from Lucknow claims, “It is true that the culture of performing arts has seen a downfall and festivals like Repertwahr help in promoting the essence of creativity, but the students are usually not able to afford such expensive tickets when they need it in bulk. Another issue is that ,some measure needs to be taken at a more permanent basis to remove the lack of exposure and opportunities for the youth that wants to make these art forms more effective. Just one week of of celebration will not be sufficient.”
In the eighth edition Repertwahr plans to make a mark with well-known plays like Barff, Chuhal, Loretta, The Gentlemen’s Club and Dhumrapan. For the debut in stand-up comedy, top talents like Varun Thakur, Rajneesh Kapoor, Abhishek Upmanyu, Kunal Kamra, Gaurav Kapoor, Sumit Anand, Varun Grover and Sanjay Rajora will be gracing the stage with their presence. The city that is well versed with laughter gigs of Raju Srivastava and K.P. Saxena,is now ready to welcome the rising stars of the digital age.The heart soothing musical section this year includes When Chai Met Toast, Kabir Café, Parvaaz, Namit Das and Anurag Shankar, Ankur and the Ghalat family, Mame Khan and Indian Ocean. The line up once again goes against the traditional taste of the city.
A boon or a bane, nobody can say it with surety but Repertwahr is definitely paving a new way for performing arts. There is a Lucknow that celebrates its nostalgic inheritance and characteristic elegance and another that breaks the barriers of old paths.And between the two lies the entire spectrum of Lucknow’s intellectual and artistic journey.