Friday, November 07, 2008

The Corporate Circuit

This India Times article talks of how theatre impresarios in that country are tapping into corporate money:

Ashvin Gidwani typifies the phenomenon. Seven years ago, he was producing sex comedies in league with Bharat Dabholkar and though these plays were very popular , drawing full houses whenever they were staged, they never made much money. “I realised ticket sales are just not enough,” says Gidwani. “Left only to the box-office , even the most successful plays just break even. To make money, I needed to focus on corporate clientele.”

For starters, Gidwani decided to dump the bawdy sex comedies and find more conservative scripts, suitable to corporate tastes. Next, he began signing up actors from Mumbai’s film and television industry, whose names could be relied upon to draw audiences. Finally, he set up a marketing organisation that spoke the corporate language, selling his plays much like any other product. This was actually a fairly radical step, since most theatre companies are run by stars— creative people who might be uncomfortable selling their work to corporate executives.

De Cunha runs a theatre company called Rage and estimates that corporate theatre accounts for around 15% of his annual revenues — and 40% of his profits . “It’s a clean profit, irrespective of whether there are 100 or 400 people in the audience,” he says. “But we don’t actively market ourselves to corporates. They come to us.” Whether they have the resources to market themselves pro-actively or not, most theatre companies are now acutely aware of what will appeal to a corporate audience. De Cunha’s I’m Not Bajirao is a more popular (some would also say better) play, but corporates want Class Of ‘84 for its yuppie appeal. “Corporates want plays that show vignettes from Indian life, especially Mumbai life. This month, we’re taking Class Of ‘84 to Muscat, which is full of nostalgic NRIs from Mumbai.”

One production that’s come to be exceptionally popular on the corporate circuit is Chanakyashastra, a play about office politics, with well-known TV actor Rajendra Gupta in the lead role. Written and directed by corporate creativity trainer Sanjay Srinivas , the play has had 50 performances since it was premiered earlier this year and corporate clients include Kotak, HDFC, ICICI, Dell, Microsoft, Oman Oil and Ernst&Young .

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