Why I will not go to any play at Chowdiah on weekdays…..

I live in south Bangalore, and there was a time when Chowdiah was *the* venue for all theatre. But, after having gone yesterday (Friday, 11th July 2008) for a play at Chowdiah, I have resolved not to go there again, if it is a weekday. This, of course, is a purely personal decision, but here are the reasons why:

1. First, and foremost…..if I do what most of my fellow-Bangaloreans do and drive a car…..the traffic. No matter how many flyovers and underpasses and magic boxes have been built, the traffic volumes make sure that the roads are so choked in the evening that the vehicles just inch forward in clouds of smoke and roars of revving engines. I do hate sitting in a car which is at idling speed, guzzling petrol, and releasing fumes into the air, along with all the other vehicles doing the same thing.

Yesterday, we *had* to take the car; we left for Chowdiah at 5.45pm…and got back at 11.40 pm. Six hours for a play that ran an hour and a half…not viable, to my mind.

2. The utter lack of public transport. Not wanting to take a car means that I must take a bus or an auto to Chowdiah. The first alternative means that a. I must change buses at Majestic, and even then, it is a fairish walk to the hall. On the way back, I must walk (late at night) at least to Shivananda Circle to try and get a bus to Majestic. All this means a two-hour journey each way, added to the time spent in watching the play.

2a. If, instead of taking a bus, I want to save time by taking an auto, I may get to Chowdiah in reasonable time…but what about when the play or concert finishes? No auto will be available at that time, and I will either have to cadge a lift from someone or do that long walk mentioned in (2) above.

Why can we not have feeder vans running from Chowdiah to major bus stations (or at least to Majestic)? Why is this utter disincentive for people to use public transport, leaving them the only alternative of bringing their cars (and causing massive traffic jams after the show)?

All of the above is not to do with the hall, specifically, but with its location. But at the hall, too, I have issues.

3. No play or concert ever starts on time at Chowdiah. If an event is billed for 7.30pm, it is a safe bet that it will not begin for at least 20 minutes thereafter. This, of course, pushes the ending time also into the area where finding transport to come back becomes a major logistics issue. Further speeches and thankings during the course of the show further delay its end.

4. There is no audience discipline at all. Yesterday’s performance was scheduled at 7.30pm; at 8.25 pm, people were still walking in…and were being allowed in by the organizers. In this regard, I have a very high opinion indeed for Ranga Shankara, which gives real respect to the performing artistes by not allowing anyone to walk in and disturb the proceedings after 7.30pm, when the show begins (punctually…in 4 years, I have seen only two occasions when the show started late.)

5. The canteen at Chowdiah is also pathetic. They have about 1000-strong seating, but they never seem to realize it, and all the snacks and tea run out within the first ten minutes of the intermission, and even if I want a bag of chips or those oily-fried samosas, I cannot. I might have come hungry to the venue, but must remain hungry until the end of the show. Once again, the temptation to compare this with Anju’s excellent cafe at Ranga Shankara is there….the cafe actually serves food according to the play that is running at the time, and instead of the inscrutable visages of the servers at the Chowdiah canteen, it’s a pleasure seeing the smiling faces of Anju and her helpers, who try not to run out of snacks. It’s a whole difference in attitude. The cafe at Alliance Francaise is pretty good in this respect, too.

6. The new arrangement of the toilets. For some reason, the gents’ and ladies’ toilets have been interchanged, but it is NOT nice to walk into the “ladies” toilet and be faced with a series of men’s urinals….why on earth have they been retained in the ladies’ toilet?

I repeat, this is a personal opinion, and I do not expect others to share it, or even agree with it…but nothing is going to get me to Chowdiah Memorial Hall on a weekday any more! :)

3 Comments so far

  1. prasanna on July 13th, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

    As Treasurer and member of managing committee, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused to you during your visit to CMH owing to the ongoing renovations and repairs.

    First two points are related to transport problems and we will try and work something out with BMTC, if that is possible. Regarding third and fourth points, these are not in control of the management of Chowdiah Hall; Organisers have to be sensitive about this and we will endeavour to acquaint them of the situation.

    The ladies toilet had to be temporarily accommodated elsewhere as the renovation work of the existing one is in full swing. The hall is 28 years old, and the managing committee felt that the basic facilities needed a major face lift. This is in keeping with our policy of providing the best possible experience for the discerning audience.

    Renovation is nearing completion and the ladies toilet will be back in the same place. I can assure you that this major uplift would be appreciated by all. [After this, the gents toilet renovation would be taken up.. we hope that they would not have to face much inconvenience.]

    As far as canteen is concerned, we have taken your comments seriously and will take steps to make arrangements to provide food for those who stay late particularly those attending plays. Please understand that given the variety and nature of programmes being conducted – with varying audience strength -, it will not be easy to get good canteen contractors. This is not to say that we do not understand your concerns.

    You can always reach us at chowdiah.hall@gmail.com with your comments / feedback if any.

    – Prasanna Kumar K.
    Academy Of Music

  2. siddharthkrish on July 14th, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

    i totally agree with the fact that the "canteen" must be looked at considering the fact that
    a) the tickets are usually more expensive
    b) the plays tend to go on for a bit (start late and end late) as you mentioned.

    if Mrs. Anju can do such a great job I’m sure its not beyond the management at Chowdiah to do the same.

  3. Deponti (bglr_deepa) on July 15th, 2008 @ 9:35 am

    Dear Mr Prasanna Kumar,

    I was immensely happy to see the response from you on behalf of Chowdiah Memorial Hall to my post. Thank you very much; response to feedback means that Chowdiah is responsive to the needs of its viewers. I write as an ordinary person who comes to watch plays or listen to the concerts.

    We, as part of a volunteer group, are in dialogue with BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) on various issues of connectivity by public transport; I intend to take up the matter of our cultural venues being connected properly by bus, so that every concert- or theatre-goer can attend events at these places without having to depend on a car or worrying about how to get home afterwards.

    Of course, neither of us can do much about the traffic that makes it such an ordeal to come to Chowdiah on a weekday from South Bangalore!

    Hoping to see the improvement in punctuality and catering at Chowdiah soon, too,

    With regards,

    Deepa Mohan.

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