About us

Bharat Natya Sanshodhan Mandir

In 1894, late Dattatray Atmaram Phatak (Dadasaheb), along with a few of his interested fellow-students, set up a drama group in their high school, which was then held in a building named Vishrambag Wada. They named the group "Students Social Club". Using English names for such groups was then perhaps in vogue. Then Vishrambag Wada housed a Government High School which is towards the north of Shanicha Par and the building is used as a police station and a couple of Govt. offices these days. Students' Social Club soon hired a big room in a 'wada' owned by one Mr. Bhusari. The room was near the Government School in Budhwar Peth, and the room was hired for drama rehearsals. In 1985, in the evening of Dassehara festival, the students put up performances of two short plays, 1 st Act of "HAMLET" and "KRISHNA KRUTYA PRADEEP", an act written by a young enthusiastic member-Late Gopalrao Wad's play was based on a mythological story. The Club had begun its activities with great enthusiasm, with the help of home-made costumes, settings, curtains and borrowed kerosene lamps. The traditional "sutradhar and nati" (comperer and main actress) scene characterized the performance. The roles of sutradhar and nati were respectively performed by late Ramchandra Narayan Parad and Dadasaheb Phatak.

Students Social Club soon shifted to another spacious place, which was in 'Dhamdhere Bol' (narrow alley opposite to the building of the present City Post office in Budhwar Peth. The place was on the second floor of a Lord Rama Temple, owned by one Mr Thatte. It was a big room with seven 'khans' (sections). The rentals charged were 19 'anas' (a coin in the then currency), charged slightly on a higher side as the landlord expected the amateur actors to make a lot of dim during their rehearsals. Monthly subscription for the members was nine paise. The Club bought for itself, new floor matting for one and a half rupee.

In this Ram temple in Budhwar Peth, the club put up amateur performances of several plays such as 'Zunzarrao', 'Phalgunrao', 'Durga', and 'Kanchangadchi Mohana'. The audience used to be specially invited. Eminent personalities like Tatyasaheb Kelkar, playwright Khadilkar, Shivram Mahadev Paranjape etc., made it a point to attend such performances, especially to encourage the young players.

With the passing time, more and more theater lovers, educated actors joined the Club. It was a novel and admirable fact that educated students could establish a Drama Club; and run it successfully.

It was around 1904 that Dadasaheb Phatak passed his LLB and became a practising lawyer. It was an unusual and attractive legend for the contemporary society that an amateur theater actor; then looked down upon and jeered at by the term 'natkya'; could also become a successful lawyer.

Choubal, Abhyankar, Pimple, Koknur, Dixit, Alkutkar, Alekar, Vishnupant Patwardhan, Khambete, N.D.Oak, Yashawantrao Jathar were a few other active members of the Club, to name a few.

In 1904 only, Appasaheb Gokhale, Dattopant Kale, R.D.Gokhale and Bhausaheb Datar from the well-known Datar Contractor's family, too joined the club. The two Gokhales' were specialized in playing ladies' roles and Dattopant-alias-Dada Kale turned from ladies' roles to elegant gents roles. Now, Students' Social Club was capable of giving performances as sleek as that of professionals. Dattopant Paranjape, also a contractor by profession, father of a would-be director Raja Paranjape and another college student, Joglekar, fond of music, who later became a lawyer; also joined the club.

Students' Social Club, established in 1894, adopted a shorter name for itself i.e. Social Club. And quite rightly so, as young founder students had grown up into capable and established adults. So the change was apt and obvious.

Under the able leadership of Dadasaheb Phatak, the members of Social Club Presented play performances, such as 'Satvapariksha', 'Phalgunrao', 'Tratika', 'MohanTara', 'Soubhadra'-a musical, 'Keechakvadh' etc. The Club raised funds by performing plays and the funds were donated to several social organizations; a tradition originated then, still continues.

Thanks to the dedicated hard work of Dattopant Paranjape, the contractor, that the Club gave up the Ram temple soon; operated in Morobadada Wada for a while, and then the Club shifted to the place where it has its establishment at present.

Dattopant and other dedicated members constructed a 24' x 18' hall here, through their own hard labour. A connoisseur, member Raosaheb Joshi, donated the land to the Club in 1923, where Bhausaheb Datar, his son Bandopant Datar, Dadasaheb Kale from the Railways contributed to construct a bigger hall of 50' x 18'. The Club was allowed to use a lot of open space before and behind the hall where New Kreedabhuvan Club, a sports club ran its activities under the kind auspices of Raosaheb Joshi. Most of the sports club members were also the members of Social Club and the landlord Raosaheb Joshi had fatherly love for both the institutions.

The Club also started theater and movie research activities with the help of Appa Gokhale and playwright Madhavrao. N. Joshi. They initiated the herculean task of gathering vast information and documents regarding every single person stirving for the Marathi theater. They started documenting such persons' life, work, photographs, scripts of plays, vintage theater artifacts and what not. A picture gallery and picture collection was set up as a result of hard work of Bhausaheb Datar, his uncle from Panvel Dattopant Marathe and an artist-Hari Keshav Phadke. Social Club and Natya Samshodhan Mandal-a research Institution.

In 1935, the hall was transformed into an openair theater, thanks to Bhausaheb Patwardhan. The then Collector of Pune Mr. Mac'Lacklon inaugurated the theater on 4th May, 1935 and the Club put up its famous play "Tratika" on this occasion.

Twenty-seventh session (meet) of All India Dramatic Meet (Bharat Natya Sammelan) was held on 25th and 26th May 1935. Eminent actor Govindrao Tembe presided over in the Clubs' hall. An ardent well-wisher of the Club, S. N. Chaphekar was the co-president for the function. In 1935 Bhausaheb Datar has already published the account of the event, which was also attended by Dr. N. K. Gharpure and Dr. Y. G. Lele.

The then Governor of Mumbai Nek Namdar Lord Breborn visited the Club on 13/10/1935; at which time the Club was genially guided by Dattopant Potdar, Tatyasaheb Kelkar, Abasaheb Mujumdar, Prof. Malshe, Madhavrao Joshi, Abasaheb Akutkar etc.

The Club was official registered in 1935 and got its Registration Certificate as per the Act 21, 1860; on 8th July, 1935.

The exemplary work of the Club was visited, watched and appreciated by eminent personalities; such as kings, emperors, governors, collectors, political leaders, leading artists and well-known persons from all strata of the society. Missionary work of collecting books, paintings, photographs and research continued with zeal as a result of devoted efforts of honest, industrious, amateur volunteers.

The Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary) of the Club was celebrated with pomp and show on 27/9/1944, on the Vijayadashmi festival day under the Presidentship of eminent litterateur Tatyasaheb Kelkar. The occasion also witnessed a performance of 'Totayache Band'.

A formal and official Constitution of the Club was written down and published and implemented in a novel way on 15/8/1950.

Besides Social Club, several other amateur dramatic clubs were also active in Pune. V.G.Joshi and Baburao Vijapure took initiative to organize a get-together of all of them on 25th and 26th April 1941, in the Clubs' auditorium. A similar meet was organized for amateur actors, by Social Club in 1951. Senior actor Keshavrao.Date adorned the Presidential Chair.

A group of students from California University visited the Club on 26th July 1952.

The Club performed a large number of shows in charity to render aid to several social organizations; during 1942 to 2003. A detailed list of such charitable performances can be seen in the Institution office.

The Club's open-air theater was transformed into a temporary pandal-theater in 1963. Ranade the Contrator, Baburao Vijapure, Bandopant Datar, Bandopant Sathe played vital roles in the task. With the co-operation of Bandopant Sathe and the members of the New Kreeda Bhuvan tennis club; the adjoining vacant land near the tennis ground was acquired. Shrikant Bhide, Kaka Date, Appa Tamhankar, Mehendale and other young zealous volunteers mooted the idea of running the pandal-theater on a professional basis. The Club ran the theater professionally; certainly a difficult task to be achieved, and earned love and patronage of theatergoers, in addition to bigger monetary gains.

This pandal-theater had also to be changed soon. It was necessary to pull down the pandal theater and to build a permanent cement-concrete theater complex in its place. A three- storeyed construction was needed to be erected on both the sides of the spot where the present stage is located. Hence, the Club purchased the tennis court land from Joshi brothers and their sons for Rs. 49,451/- in 1969.

A serial of speeches was organized in memory of the great playwright Ram Ganesh Gadkari's 50th death centenary under the able leadership of Dr.R.S.Walimbe and V.G.Joshi. The event got good response from theater lovers.

In 1969, the Club completed its 75 years and celebrated its Platinum Jubilee. The year proved very fruitful for the Institution that was visited by famous personalities, ministers, such as Vasantrao Naik, S.Wankhede, and Desai etc. When theater-goers enjoyed famous old, new plays such as 'Mruchhakatik', 'Soubhadra', 'Manapaman', 'Durvanchi Judi', 'Katyar Kaljat Ghusli' etc., everyone urgently felt the need for a permanent theater complex.

We had our own problems in executing our project of a full-fledged theater complex. Our eminent well-wishers and theater enthusiasts helped us out. Pune's Police Commissioner Marathe, Bhujangrao Kulkarni from Pune Corporation, who had taken up the job of re-constructing Pune after the Panshet floods, Narubhau Limaye and others were a few important personalities who rendered useful aid.

The Club decided to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee in its own theater complex. Narubhau Limaye once remarked that the Club was rather unaware of the great goodwill it had amassed through their selfless service of the Marathi theater. This goodwill, that was the outcome of dedicated service of people like Abasaheb Mujumdar, Baburao Vijapure, G. L. Apte and hundreds of others, was accompanied by active co-operation of eminent persons like Narubhau Limaye resulted in the Government's official permission to build the theater-complex. The Municipal Commissioner Bhujangrao who believed in propelling socially useful projects; instead of blocking them, putting finger on some government rule, sanctioned the theater plan. It was also sanctioned by the newly elected young corporators who gave consent to it. The neighbouring Institutions, Maharashtra Education Society, Bharat Itihas Samshodhan Mandir, Dhondopant Joshi and all other offered co-operation, in spite of a little inconveience.

27th July 1969 was the day on which the resolve was formulated. Finance was the main problem. The secretary of the Governing body, B.K.Parad offered a ready cash of one lakh and 80 thousand rupees for the construction of the theater-complex. Many more offered contributions. Some even doubted if an investment of about six lakh rupees was really within the reach of the Club. But, the Club members had tremendous faith in themselves.

All pieces started falling in proper spaces. On 19th March 1969 receipt books for donation amounts were readied and the first auspicious receipt was written in front of Lord Peshwe's Saras Baug Lord Ganesh. People started donating amounts that started piling. The architect for the theater-complex, V. B. Deshpande, though a friend of Narubhau Limaye, had not come in contact with the Club before. Once, while our legal Advisor Raosaheb Phadke was discussing some contract terms with V. B. Deshpande, the architect passed an amusing comment,"When I was a child, I used to watch plays of this Club peeping through its torn side-curtains secretly. Then some elder from the Club would allow us kids to take free seats in the 'pit' and we would enjoy the remaining show. For this, I'm going to work for the Club on whatever terms and conditions as well. It's my Club as well!".

On 20th July 1969 Krishnarao Phulambrikar, in the honourable presence of Revenue Minister Balasaheb Desai, laid the foundation stone of the theater-complex. Everybody was reminded of Keshavrao Date who had donated Rs 6000/- for the cause from the amount he was offered six years ago on the occasion of his felicitation ceremony. Keshavrao and the likes had always felt that the drama companies such as Gandarva, Maharashtra, Samarth, Lalit Kala etc visited Pune to perform; and there was not a single, well-built, proper theater for them.

Within a few months the theater-complex started coming up fast. The foundation was laid on 1st August; and just after nine months and nine days i.e. on 9th May, the auditorium was inaugurated. A few persons were always seen hanging around the construction that was going on. Baburao Vijapure; with his characteristic shoulder bag was one amongst them. Various thoughts regarding the theater and plays always haunted his mind. How to dispose off old belongings of the Club, how to get more donations, which new plays to be put up; and hundreds of such ideas, all for the betterment of the Institution. Accepting donations for each seat in the theater individually and inscribing the donor's name on it was a novel idea of Baburao himself. The idea clicked very well and donations of theater lovers literally poured in. Natya Sampada volunteered to donate the front velvet curtain and Prabhakar Panshikar sent a dozen huge mirrors for the greenroom. Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar rightly remarked that the gestures showed people's love for the Club.

Narubhau Limaye's diary was as peculiar as Baburao's shoulder bag. The diary contained hundreds of tips and details about the on-going construction, govt., permissions, liences, electrification, acoustics, chairs, etc.

Then one day, all of a sudden Narubhau declared that the theater-complex was to be inaugurated on 9th May and the Club's 100th anniversary to be celebrated on 10th May. The man had already contacted Honourable Home Minister Mr. Yashwantrao Chavan and fixed the date with his consent on the 9th May 1970 Social Club-alias-Bharat Natya Sanhodhan Mandir had successfully constructed its very own theater-complex comprising an 850 seating capacity auditorium.

Baburao Vijapure was really a completely devoted person who had simply become one with the Club and its activities. He was an able organizer and motivator because of whom all facets of various fine art developed with gusto.

The Club started taking part in the Maharashtra State Drama Competition in different languages such as Marathi, Hindi, prose as well as musical plays. A few noteworthy plays were the muscicals named 'Swayamwar', 'Vaireen Zali Sakhi', 'Bhetata Priya', 'Shakuntal', 'Sharda', 'Katyar Kaljat Ghusli', 'Panditraj Jagannath', 'Soubhadra', 'Manapaman', 'Samshaya Kallol', 'Matsyagandha', 'Mirchhakatik', and 'Nihshabda Majgharat'.

Change is the law of life. In the year the Club made amendments in its Constitution. Several other amateur drama companies started holding their drama/one-act-play competitions in Bharat Natya Samshodhan Mandir's theater-complex. The following well-known and popular drama competitions are presently held here:

  1. Purushottam Karandak one-act-play competition.
  2. Firodiya Karandak (Trophy).
  3. Marashtra Govt's State drama competitions.
  4. Kamgar Kalyan Kendra's competitions.
  5. Industrial Lalit kala one-act-play competions.
  6. Hindi State level play competitions.
  7. Sanskrit State level play competitions.
  8. Children's play competitions.
  9. Aradhana Trophy one-act-play competitions.

This list proves that all amateur theater artists have a special affinity for the theater-complex of Bharat Natya Samshodhan Mandir. The Club runs its own activities such as Economical Plays Scheme, Cultural programmes, and Summer Music festival, Late Vasumati Vijapure Solo Acting Competition etc. Some of these activities are celebrating their Silver Jubilee. In 1994 when the Club completed its 100 years, it really reached a landmark apex. The Institution published a Souvenir on this occasion and cast a look at the progress of more than a century. It was realized with due pride that the Institution persisted performing prose plays when musical plays were at the height of fame; and in the present times when prose plays are most popular, the Club carries forward the tradition of musical plays persistently. Such musical plays include several titles including 'Manapaman', 'Sharada', 'Matsyagandha', 'Swayamwar' and 'Katyar Kaljat Ghusli'. The Club has produced 'Nishabda Majgharat', a musical play written by Ravindra Khare, a member of the Institution.The play received a grand appreciation at New Delhi, in the State level Drama Competitions.

In short, Bharat Natya Samshodhan Mandir has played a noteworthy and major role in maintaining and growing the tradition of prose as well as musical drama in Maharashtra. In our post century and a decade period under the able guidance of Prabhakar Karandikar, we have attempted to spread the glowing history and work of the Institution world over through its special website.

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