What started as mere stray thoughts over hot cuppas of tea between the members of “Spandan”, a NGO, headed by Ashish Shelar and those of theatre group ” Amhi Natya Premi” , finally took concrete shape in the form of a grand function at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Mumbai this weekend. The big idea was to somehow give the backstage artists of Marathi theatre their place of pride in the industry by acknowledging their efforts and contributions.

Doing the honors for this unique first of its kind awards was none other than Madhur Bhandarkar who came well in time to watch the rib tickling, slap stick comedy which was part of the entertainment for the evening. Asha Kale, veteran Marathi actress , also made it a point to attend this special evening to boost the morale of the winners. Sitaram Kumbhar, backstage carpenter who eventually graduated to set designer with 41 years of experience was among the first recipients of the award. He almost always made it up and to sheer perfection, well make up artist Krishna Borkar was indeed filled with pride as he received the award at the hands of Madhur Bhandarkar amidst the thunderous applause of the packed audience at Ravindra Natya Mandir.

“Who says we have given life to this stage? This stage has given life to us”, roared Suhas Bhalekar, veteran theatre actor and Director as he received his award.  Suhas Bhalekar was gratitude exemplified as he fondly recollected his hey days as a struggler in Marathi theatre. Naresh Patil, veteran Marathi poet had the audience in a trance as he captured the spirit and magic of monsoon in his poetry. Traditional Maharashtrian music filled the air as folk dancers took centre stage. Stand up Comedian and laughter Champion, Uday Daia and Madhusudan Kumar also made their presence felt on this occasion to support the cause.

And if you thought theatre does not inspire Indian bureaucracy, well you are completely wrong. Manisha Meskar, Additional Commissioner, BMC, was accompanied by her husband Mr. Meskar – secretary, Medical Education, Government of Maharashtra. Anil Digikar, Additional Commissioner, BMC, also attended this spectacular event. And well, did you call these winners the backroom boys? Kindly excuse us, but we strongly feel that they are the real heroes and so does the vast majority of the industry.