With more than five decades of history, Ravindra Bharathi personifies the city’s cultural essence. Inaugurated on May 11, 1961, by the then President of India, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the centre is one among the five cultural spaces across India that were started as a gesture to honour Rabindranath Tagore and acknowledge his contribution for the country.
Since its inception, the centre has actively been into promoting performing arts with main focus on classical music, dance, drama, etc.
Over the years, the institution personified traditional art forms; yes, there were other programmes too that were held here but, on a larger scale, it was limited to certain art forms only. There was a massive paradigm shift that was observed in the mechanics of the cultural space after the formation of the Telangana State.
“The centre started embracing talent in all its forms — language, religion, cuisine, filmmaking, arts, music, mime mimicry and magic. It is also the first cultural centre to have its own YouTube channel,” says Mamidi Harikrishna, Director, Department of Language and Culture, and Secretary, Ravindra Bharathi.
The jewel in the crown is that the centre lends a helping hand to people with special needs with their ‘Cheyutha’ initiative where all the halls are allotted to them free of cost. Harikrishna says, “This is our way of promoting inclusivity and giving them a fair chance to grow.”
Talking about a few special programmes conducted, he says, “2016’s 125-day cultural festival which included Burrakatha, Hairkatha, Oggukatha, Surabhi natakam, Girijana nrutyalu, etc., created a record in the 58-year history of Ravindra Bharathi. Similarly, in 2018, ‘Salam-E-Telangana’, the 30-day Urdu cultural events, which was the first-of-its-kind in the city were interesting and new.”
The building consists of three floors — one main hall that can comfortably accommodate 1,000 people at once, and two others with a seating capacity of 150 and 112 people respectively. The centre is completely air-conditioned and Wi-Fi enabled. It also refurbished the space (behind the auditorium) that is now called ‘Rangasthali’ where they conduct open-air workshops of martial arts. It is now equipped with high-end audio-visual facilities, and the second floor which was left unused for almost 25-30 years is now revamped into the Paidi Jairaj Preview theatre.
There are at least six to seven different programmes that happen in Ravindra Bharathi on a daily basis. The centre is the busiest on the weekends owing to their special screenings. ‘Shanivaram’ is now turned into ‘cinevaram’ which gives young short filmmakers a chance to screen their films. “It is our aim to give at least 15 promising filmmakers to the industry. In short, it’s an informal film training institute,” Harikrishna says. The ‘Sunday cinema’ is when the centre screens world classics. “Our concept here is to ‘think beyond Hollywood’. This is why we pick and choose some rare classics from different languages like Iranian, Japanese, and Korean, and project them onto the screens,” he adds.
The centre, which was, earlier, believed to be a place for senior citizens, has now turned into a youth hub. Harikrishna elaborates, “It’s all because of the shift in the nature of activities we do here.” He further adds, “Earlier, the cultural space was accessible to a select few. But, in the past few years, the centre has widened its horizons and threw the doors open for anyone and everyone who wishes to showcase their talent and learn something new.”