The restoration wasn’t an easy task, either on pockets or on time. It required a lot of passion as well and a heart at the right place because restoration didn’t only mean repairing all that was broken. It meant a minute inspection and research of what the theatre used to be more than a century back. Layers of paint were peeled off to uncover the original colour of each wall and pillar. As per the Gaiety Theatre website, all repairs and material used were in congruence to the initial design of the building. The process started in 2003 and took almost 6 years to complete. Recently, when I was watching Dylan Moran’s comedy show at the Journal Tyne Theatre in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, the splendour of the theatre made me realize the full extent of the task that must have lain before the Government of Himachal Pradesh when they first set out to restore the Gaiety Theatre. It must have required a lot of perseverance and dedication to go through with it.
Today when you walk in the corridors and the halls, it is very easy to find yourself stepping into a bygone era where spectres of Victorian women in their corsets and gowns stroll around with their hands around the arms of their men wearing black tail coats and hats, sipping expensive, old wines while discussing the latest developments in politics and literature. You blink and you are back in the carpeted, empty halls of today with British voices just fading away beyond the frequencies receptive to human ears. Such is the thoroughness of the restoration that I can add without hesitation that the people who undertook and completed this task have every reason to be proud of their achievement.
For any country to progress and any society to prosper, cultural development is a must and should go hand in hand with industrial development. Culture gives a society its personality and character and is the soul of a nation. Art in any form be it paintings, poetry, stories, books or drama forces us to reflect upon our society and, as a result, take steps for improvement. One of the key strengths of Indian society right from ancient times has been the ability to change. It has never been easy but change has always had a few eager and open minds that were willing to lend their ears to its reasonings. That has helped us withstand years of plunder and foreign rule and still bounce back as soon as we had the first opportunity as a much stronger and mature society. And this is the reason why Indian society has come such a long way from where it was left, broken, in 1947. Today when a lot of people will see value in restoring an old theatre, a few will still argue that we have too many problems to solve before we can indulge in such luxuries. To them I would like to say that there will never be a time when we will not have problems. However, a healthy development in culture will always be a good move and will only help in making the country a better place to live in. A calculated and positive step in this direction can never come too early.