Named after its Founder & Chairperson Mrs. Nita Ambani – Bharatanatyam dancer, educationist, philanthropist, businesswoman, and a patron of the arts – Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre is a first-of-its-kind, multidisciplinary destination in Mumbai’s central district of Bandra Kurla Complex.
The venue officially opened on March 31, 2023, with a three-day-long gala that unveiled the best of Indian heritage in the presence of the biggest Indian and global names including the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, as well as Nick Jonas, Zendaya and Gigi Hadid. Along with partners TVSdesign, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, BAi, Lighting Design Alliance, AECOM, ETC, Rose Brand, SERAPID, Wenger, WET, and many more, Theatre Projects supported the design of this vast new space as theatrical consultant with Michael Nishball, TP Principal, on hand as Project Manager.
As part of the Jio World Centre, located in the heart of India’s financial capital, the Cultural Centre adds to its list of existing precincts, with multiple world-class venues, including: The Grand Theatre, a 2,000-seat multipurpose theatre for the biggest Indian and international theatricals; The Studio Theatre, an intimate 250-seat space for cutting-edge performances; The Cube, a 125-seat space for emerging artists and unique art forms; and a four-storey
dedicated visual arts space in the Art House.
“TVSdesign was the architect and lead design firm of the project and has brought a multi-use complex to Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex with outstanding results,” said Nishball. “We all have valued this chance to acknowledge our partners in India, celebrate the achievement, and inform others who may be developing centres for culture and business.”
The standout facility is The Grand Theatre, with a design that borrows elements from Indian culture with an international appeal. It uses the lotus – India’s national flower that represents spirituality, knowledge and illumination – in the architectural composition to beautifully reference India’s vibrant heritage.
Designed by Steve Clem and Nick Wolfcale of TVS Design, in collaboration with Brian Hall of Theatre Projects Consultants, The Grand Theatre is the most technologically advanced performing arts space of its kind in India. Three levels and 18 boxes fill out the hall, including an integrated Dolby Atmos Surround Sound and a Virtual Acoustic System along with a distinctive lighting system designed as an homage to India’s heritage.
The most eye-catching feature of The Grand Theatre is its bespoke ceiling, with 17 large lotus petals custom built by Austrian company Waagner Biro. They feature a perforated arabesque pattern that is studded with no fewer than 8,400 Swarovski crystals, which themselves reflect light. The solid crystals also contain individually programmable RGBW+WW LED lighting fixtures, exclusively made by Eleva Escénica, which allows the canvas to appear in a whole new way. This pixel-mapping element, programmable by Madrix software and hardware, transforms the theatre’s centrepiece into a jawdropping theatrical-performance element.
LEDSCONTROL lent its expertise as lighting programmer, creative content creator, and technical control consultant for The Grand Theatre, using a custom server with Madrix 5 pro controller, 12 Madrix Luna 8 network notes and Madrix SMPTE for timecode synchronisation.
Mumbai-based distributor Integrated Entertainment Solutions (IES) provided solutions for the venue’s professional lighting needs, supplying over 100 Robe fixtures to The Grand Theatre’s inventory of more than 700 luminaires. Speaking about its involvement with the Cultural Centre, Rasesh Parekh, Founder and Proprietor of IES, explained: “We have been associated with the Centre from the very early stages, and this project is a labour of love that has taken nearly a decade from conceptualisation to realisation, thanks to the Ambani family’s endeavour to ensure that India has a world-class facility.”
A total of 44 Robe T2 Profiles are installed – the largest installation of this fixture anywhere in the world – alongside 38 Robe T2 Fresnel and 10 Robe Robin MMX. More than 80 Robert Juliat fixtures also feature, including four long throw Aramis follow spots, while an array of ETC Ellipsoidal Source 4 fixtures are also fitted inside the room. The Grand Theatre’s stage lighting system is controlled by an ETC EosTI desk, with 12,000 channels using DMX over Ethernet for DMX distribution.
The ETC Paradigm System, together with the ETC Echo relay panels, is used to switch between architectural and work lights, and allows for the control of house lights, blue lights, work lights and rehearsal lights. This can be controlled via the lighting desk or the Paradigm system,
with its touch screens located in the lighting booth or at stage manager’s desk.
Harlequin Floors supplied over 500 sq m of Black Cascade and over 300 sq m of Liberty sprung flooring and accessories for The Grand Theatre. Harlequin Liberty is a modular panel-based sprung-floor system that features dual-density shock-dampening elastomer pads, giving uniform and consistent shock-dampening across the floor. The panels join together quickly and simply using Harlequin’s proprietary ‘one turn of the key’ latch and lock mechanism, while Harlequin Cascade is a heavy-duty vinyl dance floor, with mineral fibre reinforcement for stability
Meanwhile, the 69 Titan hoist-powered fly bars by JR Clancy act as a high-performing hoist for flying scenic elements, production lighting and audio being designed for high capacities, travels, and speeds.
As well as the JR Clancy stage automation desk, the theatre is also equipped with an integrated chain motor control system featuring 42 Stagemaker chain motors that allow for rigging over the stage and much of the auditorium. One important aspect of the Theatre’s AV concept was a quality projection system for use during cinema events or if a production called for projected content, and so a Christie CP4230 digital projector was selected due to its ability to provide 3D images with ease of operation and maintenance, as well as display premium 4K content or 2D/3D feature films with high frame rates.
A multi-display software to compose and manage all different media elements such as videos, still images, graphics and camera live feeds to be played back on multiple displays is facilitated by a Dataton WATCHMAX media server and a Blackmagic ATEM 2 ME switcher. A large Leyard LED screen consisting of 240 CarbonLight CLI 2.6 panels is equipped with a fast and reliable magnetic catch assembly, which ensures quick installation. The Grand Theatre’s PA is a d&b audiotechnik system with a L-C-R line-array, supplemented with stage front fills and
The left and right arrays are made up of 14 Vi8 loudspeakers and 5 Vi subwoofers, with the centre array featuring 10 Yi Tops. A total of 20 E4 loudspeakers are distributed across the front and orchestra fills, with six E6 loudspeakers set up as delay fills.
Powered by 30d amplifiers, the system is networked through Dante-enabled DS10 audio network bridges. Stage monitors are a mix of M4 and M6 models, while the venue also features a virtual acoustic system made up of 22 E8 loudspeakers and eight Audio-Technica microphones – four each of the ES933C and P12219 models.
A further 65 portable d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers are incorporated, which when set up and aligned with the more than 120 speakers that are purposefully mounted across the walls and ceiling of the venue, form a Dolby Atmos-certified audio system.
The main PA system can also use additional d&b audiotechnik SL-SUBs at stage level to provide the extended low-frequency needed to enhance the listening experience and can also be used to complement the Dolby Atmos system.
Two Yamaha Rivage PM10 consoles are set up as the FOH and monitor desks, while a portable Yamaha CL5 can be utilised in their place for smaller events if required.
The venue features a portable Shure PSM 1000 inear monitoring system, which included 12 P10T dual transmitters and 24 P10R wireless receivers and SE535 earphones. The venue’s wireless communications is handled by a Clear-Com FreeSpeak II Eclipse system, with FreeSpeak II wireless belt-packs allowing technicians to roam freely around the site while talking and listening to all, or selected members of the team. The wired communications at the Cultural Centre is powered by a Clear-Com HelixNet Digital Network Party line intercom system.
Another statement space within the Cultural Centre is the technologically-advanced yet intimate 250-seater Studio Theatre, which features a telescopic seating system that allows quick and easy transformation depending on the needs of the event and allows for artistic flexibility and a Dolby Atmos integrated surround sound system.
The Studio Theatre also features a tension wire grid – the first-of-its-kind in India – which makes lighting and rigging during production much easier, helping save valuable time during production. Fully integrated video recording and production capabilities help complete the space.
An ETC lighting system is installed, with a range of Lustre Series 2 fixtures sitting alongside six Robe MMX Blade, 12 Martin Lighting Encore CLD and two Robert Juliat short throw follow spot, all controlled by an ETC Gio console.
The FOH audio system consists of two d&b audiotechnik Vi10P loudspearkers and a Yamaha TF1 console. A Shure Axient Digital Wireless Microphone system is supplied while the room’s Hearing Assistance System consists of a Bosch INT-TX08 transmitter and four LLB 4511/00 Integrus Radiators.
Also within the Centre is the 125-seat Cube – an incubator of new talent and ideas that encourages and promotes emerging Indian artists. With flexible stage and seating arrangement, The Cube can be transformed to host a variety of performances, making it the go-to space fo discovering innovative and emerging talent. A similar lighting and audio inventory as The Studio Theatre is installed in The Cube, with the same Hearing Assistance System. Both The Cube and Studio Theatre are equipped with Christie Digital projectors, with a CP4220 in The Studio Theatre and a 12K1 DLP in The Cube.
Adding to the cutting-edge technology within the space is a fully integrated video recording and production setup and 5G connectivity, making filming and streaming live performances simpler. The Cultural Centre also boasts a huge assortment of microphones across all its venues from a range of manufacturers including Shure, Sennheiser, DPA, Audix, AKG, Neumann, AEA, and Earthworks. There is also a large inventory of Konig & Meyer mic and music stands.
The Centre’s dedicated four-storey space for visual art is the Art House. Envisioned as the epicentre of Indian and global art and designed as per global museum standards, it weaves the beauty of art into everyday narratives with a shifting array of artworks and exhibits by Indian and global artists. The Cultural Centre’s facade – which serves as the backdrop to the iconic Fountain of Joy and as the window to the world for Art House visitors – welcomes visitors with a larger-than-life cuff bracelet design, a nod to India’s rich heritage. While the Fountain brings revellers together, the distinctive architecture of the Art House sparks curiosity for deeper exploration. The space also lends itself well to tech programmes, workshops and educational events.
Serving as the Founder & Chairperson’s representative for the past nine years, TheatreDNA Principal and Co-Founder Benton Delinger has shepherded the project from design and construction and has overseen all start-up operations for this cultural landmark. “Never before has there been a theatre building in India that could support international West End and Broadway tours,” explained Delinger. “This project has provided a wonderful place for these tours to finally come to India and perform in. It is also a wonderful place to showcase the immense cultural expression that is within India. India has many rich traditions in music, dance and spoken word. The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre has been built to accommodate all the different types of performances, and with the different size theatres and the attention to the needs of artists and patrons this venue will truly become a destination for all emerging and exciting talent.”
When asked about some of the challenges he faced during his time building the Centre, Delinger explained: “The hardest part of this project is that something of this scale was being built for the first time in the country. Therefore, there was lack of local knowledge on how to build a high specification performing arts venue,” continued Delinger. “I spent a lot of time making sure that things were built properly, and when required showing the contractors how things should be done – especially techniques that they may not have seen before. I think that being on-site full-time with the full resources of the Reliance Projects team allowed us to solve these problems when they came up, and at the same time created a new knowledge base within India for future projects.” Praising the Centre’s Bosch Assisted Listening system, Delinger described how the team resolved coverage problems within The Grand Theatre due to its grand size and geometry by increasing the number of emitters in the space and rearranging their positions.
The venue’s completion marks the achievement of a “life-long dream” for Mrs. Nita Ambani who hope that the Cultural Centre helps “bind the community through the common thread of the arts” and “bring the best of India to the world and bring the best of the world to India.” Aiming to make art “accessible to everyone”, Founder & Chairperson Mrs. Nita Ambani said: “For the past few years, my daughter Isha and I along with our team have immersed ourselves in this dream project. The NMACC is envisioned as a platform to spotlight Indian arts and culture at its best, both for the audience and the artists. A truly inclusive centre for performers and visitors, for dreamers and creators, for one and all.”