By Harihar Swarup
We are at Mumbai’s newest landmark, Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre, on a Monday evening. Preparations are in full swing for award winning Broadway musical—Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Magic of Music – which will begin playing early May. Ambani says this will be first time an international Broadway production will be staged in India, and the entire team has flown down from the US and stay almost for almost a month. Nita Ambani, who is personally involved with everything at the NMACC, has just held Muhurat Puja ahead of the show, after which she meets us. It is 8 pm on International Workers’ Day, and Ambani looks radiant in a pink sari, as if her day has begun. She is self—effacing and gracious as she warms up for a candid conversation, along with a mug of coffee.
“I don’t even have any concept of what I do at this moment ….between Mumbai Indians (her IPL team) and the state Puja for the sound of music. They said it is better than any theatre they have performed in. We should do anything that brings Indian art and culture into spot light. I talk as a mother and grandmother. We don’t want to loose all this,” she says, her eye sparkling with excitement.
The NMACC, which is a part of the larger Jio World Centre in Mumbai’s plus business district of Bandra Kurla complex , consists of the 2,000-seater Grand Theatre, the 250-seater The studio Theatre and the 125-seater the Cube. The aim, says Ambani, is to provide an accessible space for the Indian exhibition of Indian and international art and culture.
“I am sure that soon Indians will no longer have to fly to New York or London, to broadways or West End to enjoy best of theatre. My and Mukesh’s dream is to take our shows to Broadway. I think we should do our productions given that we have the skills and the talents”, she says.
Ambani performed on stage at the grand Theatre on the opening day of the NMACC. . Recalling the hours, she put into practice, she says, “I was practicing for the NMACC opening and I used and make Aadhya, Isha’s four-and-a-half month daughter, lie down on the cot thinking, let her soak in whatever she can absorb. I tell them, for me the interest (grandchildren) is more important and more precious than the principal (children).”
In a interview, Ambani talks about her passion for dance, sports, philanthropy and more. She said that she had gone to Sydney and saw an opera. And went on a guided tour to see not only theatre but also transport and logistics. According to her ‘all of us had gone to the Kodak theatre which is now called Dolby. Then Nita Ambani said
“Why can’t India have something like this? We have such a rich legacy of arts, including performing arts and visual arts in our country. That is where the dream started. I thought this is the place where I could do something for the country in the realm of the arts. It is actually a tribute to India and an ode to our heritage that we have all inherited.”
Nita Ambani continued ‘I then started ideating with Mukesh about what we could so to bring the artist into the spot. For the opening show, most people told men to just get a Broadway production. But I was very sure that I wanted Indian artists and Indian art and that’s how ( the musical) Civilization to Nation was born. I roped in my friend Feroz Abbasi Khan, whom I studied with in college. We used to act in college, plays together and that time there was nothing for amateur artists. We really had no platform, no money or anywhere to display our talents. That is how the whole idea of The Cube and The studio, which are incubators of talent, came about. They are very reasonably prized (tickets) and I think they are the soul of the NMACC. We worked nine years to put this together’. (IPA Service)