Mumbai, a city renowned for its art, culture, theatre, and the Hindi film industry, has long yearned for a world-class cultural centre. In the meantime, the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) was inaugurated in Mumbai's Bandra Kurla Complex on 31 March.
The three-day grand launch was marked by the presence of prominent Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities in the city.
But what makes NMACC the first of its kind in India, and will it be able to fill the void of a cutting-edge cultural hub in the country? Here's a breakdown.
What Makes Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre a First-of-its-Kind in India?
What Is the Purpose of a Cultural Centre?
A cultural centre is an organisation, a building, or a complex that preserves and promotes arts and culture. These centres can be government-sponsored, private facilities, run by activists or community-led organisations. Cultural centres can be performing arts spaces, museums, or heritage centres.
How many cultural centres does India have? According to the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the Indian government has set up seven zonal cultural centres across the country for the conservation and development of arts, culture, and crafts. The headquarters of these centres are in Patiala, Nagpur, Udaipur, Prayagraj, Kolkata, Dimapur, and Thanjavur. Besides, there are several private cultural centres in the country.
What Does NMACC Promise?
Envisioned by Nita Mukesh Ambani, NMACC is a multi-disciplinary cultural space that aims to promote and preserve India's art, heritage and culture through varied forms of art.
As per the cultural centre's official website, it aims to showcase both Indian and international visual and performing arts, including the spoken word, community-based programming, comedy shows, educational initiatives, and workshops for children, from both Indian and global productions.
The cultural centre is accessible and free to children under the age of 7, students, senior citizens, and the differently-abled.
Speaking about the NMACC, Nita Ambani shared in a press statement, "Bringing this Cultural Centre to life has been a sacred journey. We were keen to create a space for both promoting and celebrating our artistic and cultural heritage in cinema and music, in dance and drama, in literature and folklore, in arts and crafts and in science and spirituality. A space where we showcase the best of India to the world and welcome the best of the world to India."
What Makes NMACC a First-of-its-Kind in India?
In addition to its massive infrastructure, the NMACC has three dedicated spaces for performing arts. It has a Grand Theatre, a Studio Theatre and a Cube, all equipped with state-of-the-art technology to cater to a wide range of experiences.
What is the Grand Theatre? As per the NMACC's official site, the 2000-seat theatre is a combination of an integrated Dolby Atmos Surround Sound System and Virtual Acoustic System, with advanced seating arrangements and a programmable lighting system. It also has 8,400+ Swarovski crystal enhancements, to give the audience a multidimensional experience.
What is the Studio Theatre? It's space for intimate performances with a 250-seating capacity. The studio has a telescopic seating system, integrated voice recording, and production capabilities, to make it flexible for both the audience and the artistes.
What about the Cube? The Cube is a 125-seating space that can be transformed to host a variety of performances.
The Cultural Centre also has a visual arts space called The Art House. As per the NMACC site, the four-storey, 16,000-sq feet space is built as per global museum standards.
Besides, NMACC is also braille-friendly.
How Will it Represent India on the Global Front?
In an interview with Town & Country Magazine, Nita Ambani shared that NMACC's key mission is local yet global. "To have everything under one roof, performing arts and visual arts, is going to put a spotlight on all kinds of artists, not only from India but from the world," she claimed.
To mark the opening of the cultural centre, a number of cultural programmes have been scheduled for its visitors with ticket prices starting from Rs 199 to Rs 500. These are the opening events at NMACC:
The Great Indian Musical: Civilization To Nation: It will narrate Indian culture through the tenets of the classical Natya Shastra by playwright Feroz Abbas Khan.
Indian in Fashion: Curated by Hamish Bowles and designed by Patrick Kinmonth and Rooshad Shroff, the show will showcase the impact of India’s sartorial traditions on global fashion from the 18th to the 21st century.
Sangam/Confluence: It's an art show curated by theorists Ranjit Hoskote and Jeffery Deitch that will celebrate the works of contemporary artists inspired by India.
In addition, The Art House will also open its doors to workshops and educational events designed by Richard Gluckman, who is known for designing the Musée Picasso, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Mori Art Museum.
What are Some of the Other Cultural Centres in Mumbai?
From the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) and Prithvi Theatre to the Royal Opera House, Mumbai has been home to several cultural centres for decades, owing to its rich artistic history.
The Royal Opera House: Widely touted as Mumbai's cultural crown jewel and India's only surviving opera house, it was inaugurated in 1911 by King George V. In addition to being a cultural hub and a performing arts space, it also started screening films in 1925. So far, it has screened thousands of dramatic and musical plays within its premise.
After its restoration in 2016, the Royal Opera House also received an Award of Merit in the 2017 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
But how is it different from the NMACC?
Infrastructure: While the NMACC offers four dedicated spaces for performing arts, the Royal Opera House has a single grand theatre with twenty-six rows.
Facilities: Unlike the NMACC, the Royal Opera House does not have a dedicated space for visual arts like the Art House. Besides, it only has a seating capacity of 575 over 3 levels: the Royal Stall, Dress Circle, and Grand Balcony.
Technology: NMACC is more technologically advanced than the Royal Opera House. The Royal Opera House uses sound systems from Soundcraft, Crown, JBL, dbx Harman, and AKG.
NCPA: The National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai is India’s first cultural institution. Established in 1969, it was the first multi-venue, multi-genre cultural centre in South Asia. Just like the NMACC, the NCPA also aims to preserve and promote India’s rich artistic heritage in the fields of music, dance, theatre, film, literature, and photography.
In addition, the NCPA has hosted more than 700 events each year, including drama, contemporary dance performances, orchestral concerts, opera, jazz, and chamber music. The NCPA also has an art gallery.
What differentiates it from NMACC?
Facilities: in addition to being a performing arts space, the NCPA is also a cultural institution, unlike the NMACC.
Infrastructure: The NCPA has five different theatres, while the NMACC has only four. However, the NMACC has a better seating capacity than the NCPA.
Technology: Although similar in most aspects, the NMACC is technologically more advanced than the NCPA.