By Priyanka Mittal:
Theatre has been an integral part of the Indian entertainment scenario since times immemorial. With the advent of the British invasion, it began to be used as an instrument of protest which led to the mushrooming of various theatre schools. Today, India is one of the few countries which can boast of an array of theatre schools owing to rich cultural heritage with names such as National School of Drama, Prithvi Theatre and Whistling Woods to its credit.
Post-independence, the Government of India established the Sangeet Natak Academy (SNA) in 1953 which contributed to the birth of the institute which has been synonymous with Indian theatre since its very establishment- the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi in 1959. The renowned director, Ebrahim Alkazi became its Director in 1962 and from there on it began staging high quality theatre in Hindi for audiences across the nation. It was one of those places where training about the finer aspects of theatre was given importance over anything else and it is this quality that has made it an essential stepping stone to a young artist’s career in the field of theatre.
Over the years, NSD has nurtured talent and earned the name of being one of the foremost theatre training institutions in the world and the one of its kind in the country. Its duality in functionality can be seen from its offering of a full time college for nurturing talent within campus and also holding workshops for the talent outside. This provides the artists with the much needed platform where they can come in contact with experts who would help them further in shaping their career.
Under its first function, it is similar to any graduation college where the school provides a comprehensive on-campus three-year course of training in Dramatic Arts, with specialization available in direction, acting and stagecraft at the end of which a Diploma in Dramatic Arts is awarded to them. The training provided is highly intensive and is based on a thorough and comprehensive syllabus which covers every aspect of theatre. As part of their training, students are required to produce plays which are then performed in front of public. This serves as the extension of learning which the students are taught conventionally through the syllabus.
Besides its 3-year training programme, it has its own festival and has also explored the other finer aspects of theatre and areas of children’s theatre through organizing workshops. Bharat Rang Mahotsav, which began as a national event has now grown into an international event, hosting theatre companies from around the world. In addition to performances that are staged during the festival, the fare also includes exhibitions, interactive sessions with directors and performers for the general public, open forums and discussions. The last festival hosted 76 performances drawn from across 13 countries.
In addition to its annual festival, NSD organizes the Bal Sangam every alternate year where various traditional art forms are presented by children belonging to traditional performing families, guru-paramparas and institutions. Another platform aimed at children to showcase their creativity is through the Summer Workshops held every year for children between the ages of 8 to 18 years.
The whole idea behind conducting such a workshop is to develop the overall personality of a student through various activities like painting, games, yoga, singing, scene enacting, among others. The selection criterion involves the simple process of the child undergoing an activity-based interview and facilitates them to explore their relationship with the environment and people around through various mediums.
In order to spread their seeds in all parts of the country, a series of workshops are conducted in the north-eastern states. The workshop proceeds on the basis of a 3-step programme – arousing interest about the intricacies of theatre experience, imparting training in that area and finally guiding to prepare productions on the basis of the received training. Other weekly and monthly workshops are conducted to provide guidance on technical aspects of theatre such as set design, lighting, costumes, make-up and props.
Its prominence is further magnified by its alumni that include prestigious names of the entertainment industry such as Nasiruddin Shah, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Irrfan Khan, Manoj Bajpai and Neena Gupta who hold laurels like the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan. Although most of them have become popular movie figures now, NSD remains the common thread binding them together and strengthening the synonymy that NSD holds with the world of theatre even today.
Running beyond the golden jubilee mark, it has successfully managed to keep its sheen intact and its roots firmly rooted to fostering budding talent just as embarked upon at its establishment.
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