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High art chases fashion’s skirt for survival

Mumbai, July 22: High art has to give way to fashion for moneys.

A near-broke National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), the former citadel of high art that is hosting the India Fashion Week for the first time, today said its survival depended on such events.

“NCPA will have to stand on its own feet,” said Kallol P. Banerjee, the head of its sales and marketing team. “NCPA is not broke, but would go broke soon if there were no funds,” he said.

The sales and marketing team, too, was set up two months ago to bring in more funds. “Funds from national and international sources are drying up. We had no choice,” said Hosi Vasunia, a theatre personality and consultant with NCPA who held an impromptu news conference to announce the new strategy.

The sprawling art complex, standing by the sea at Nariman Point, boasts of five theatres, a recording studio, an art gallery, 5,500 hours of archival music, a host of other facilities and the recent Zubin Mehta performance. It took great pains to justify the fashion show on its premises.

Responding to the fear that with the glitzy event NCPA will encourage “non-artistic” shows, it sought to expand the definition of art and include fashion in its scope. “There may be a section of people in Mumbai who feel that NCPA will gradually become a venue for events other than artistic shows,” said Vasunia. But fashion, given the effort and skill required in the business, qualified as art.

NCPA, run by a governing council that includes members from the government as well as individuals, was set up in 1966 and gifted to the city by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. It has been funded to a great extent by the Tatas, but “there’s a limit to what they can do”, said Vasunia.

He said that for several years, the premises were under-utilised. “But expenses are going up regularly, particularly cost of power and other infrastructure. The NCPA continuously requires upgradation” for which the centre will be forced to look at “different” kinds of events, but will be selective, with high quality of the events guaranteed.

Symposiums and seminars will be on, as will be “receptions of a certain quality” like the recent Dhirubhai Ambani Memorial function attended by the President.

But not just big bashes. “We may hold a doctors’ conference, but not a wedding, or a birthday,” said Banerjee.

Vasunia said this move was a reflection of the trend worldwide. “When I visited the Lincoln Centre, I found they have a marketing team of a hundred people.”

NCPA added that the money generated from the new kind of events it is opting for would go to fund artistic endeavours, one of the reasons it was constituted.

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