Bangalore chapter of National School of Drama finds the going tough

“Aangikam Bhuvanam Yasya, Vachikam Sarva Vangmayam

Aharyam Chandra-Taradi Tvam Namaha, Sattvikam Shivam”

The auditorium in Gurunanak Bhavan, Vasanth Nagar, Bangalore, resonates with the melody of this shloka chanted by the 20-odd students of the National School of Drama (NSD), Bangalore chapter. “You whose limbs are the Universe, You the Originator of all speech, You whose adornments are the moon and stars, You are the Truth,” Raghunandan, an eminent theatre personality, explains the meaning to anxious ears attending a six-month intensive theatre programme there.

In response to the increasing need for theatre schools outside of Delhi and in the southern region, NSD, Bangalore Chapter, a training centre, was established in 2009. In 2012, the foundation for its exclusive campus in Kalagrama was laid. This was to be NSD’s first training centre outside Delhi and was lauded as a momentous step in imparting theatre education. But one year later, financial impediments and resource crunch have halted all progress.

Chidambara Rao Jambe, Camp Director, rues, “The State Government has earmarked a site for our campus. But even after more than a year, the Centre has not released funds for construction. Whatever little the chapter is doing is through mobilising NSD’s internal resources.”

The chapter conducts short-term theatre courses at Gurunanak Bhavan, for the time being. “We have been very proactive despite the resource crunch. But if the trend continues, our enthusiasm will fizzle out soon,” he adds, dejectedly. Currently, the chapter offers short-time theatre workshops and courses from time to time. “Long-term courses haven’t been started. We have conducted short-term workshops, as a testing ground, to understand the prerequisites of starting a full-fledged course like the three-year PG Diploma course offered by NSD, Delhi,” explains Mr. Jambe.

In need of direction

“NSD, Bangalore chapter, needs a director, to give it the shape of an institution. Camp directors like me will not be around always. Regular and technical courses should soon be started. There must be extension and support programmes in place to help those who complete courses with us,” says Mr. Jambe. But without the Centre releasing funds, all this seems a faraway dream. “The chapter requires a sprawling campus of its own, to begin with. It must have classrooms, studios, auditorium, open air theatre, library, audio-visual room, etc.,” says Mr. Jambe. Currently, all activities and classes are held in the auditorium or in and around the Gurunanak Bhavan campus. “Working in the auditorium alone can be very unhygienic,” he warns.

Theatre in education

In three years, the Bangalore chapter has organised three Theatre-in-Education (TIE) workshops and other courses in acting and design techniques. Currently, a repertory type of workshop, for a duration of six months, is under way. Mr. Jambe says it focuses on bridging the gap between teachers and theatre. “We utilise different aspects of theatre and performance for bettering primary education. A teacher’s use of unnecessary gestures, body postures, etc., can confuse children,” he says, stressing on the need for an inter-disciplinary approach. He adds, “We choose a chapter from the syllabus and work on how it can be taught by means of theatre.” Puppets, which develop motor skills in children, is one medium that is widely used. To ensure effectiveness of TIE, child psychology is also taught to the participants. Lakshmi, a workshop participant, said “We made a gigantic anaconda with newspapers and explained its anatomy to children.”

Asked about the fact that TIE has only catered to government schools so far, Mr. Jambe says, “Being a governmental institution, we must develop our government schools. Also, private schools have enough resources to afford such training.”

These workshops are open to teachers, theatre professionals and enthusiasts. “When there is no institutional mechanism to train teachers in proper use of body, voice and mind, NSD steps in,” he adds.

The other three-month courses includes classes on light, sound and costume designing, make-up, kalari, chhau, puppetry, kolata, and literature appreciation. Trainers and resource personnel from all over the country guide and coach the participants. “These courses create a network and help build contacts all over the country, which participants can exploit for their sustenance after completion of the course,” says Prasanna D., Asst. Camp Director. The group tours the country with the final production, towards the end of these courses.

“Uttara Ramacharite” and “Cherry Orchard” are some of its previous productions.