Students from Mumbai have gained exposure in different aspects of theatre by performing in festivals in other cities.

It was only last week that Khyati Gada, a third-year English Literature student and her drama group from Kishinchand Chellaram (KC) College performed for Let’s Act, a dramatics competition held in more than 70 colleges in Mumbai. Let’s Act is organised by Helen O’Grady International (HOGI), aimed at promoting the culture of theatre among college students. The competition concluded on January 5 where the five best plays were selected to perform at Sophia Bhabha Hall.

“We have been actively performing plays at various college festivals in Mumbai, but through Let’s Act we have come to understand our limitations better,” said Khyati, whose group won the best costume award in this competition.

Like Khyati, students from many other colleges across Mumbai have been actively involved in theatre festivals in the city. Dramatics club and theatre groups in colleges do not limit themselves to performing at college level. In fact, various dramatics competitions that are held in the city have given them a platform to perform in front of a wider audience.

Beyond the city

It was only in the first half of the academic session 2012-2013 when Ayesha Susan Thomas, secretary of Sophia College English Dramatics Association (SCEDA), held auditions for the play Thirty Days in September. Since then, there has been no looking back. “We were the only undergraduate college to win a special commendation at Admit One, a national competition held by National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru. We have also been invited for competitions organised by Christ University, among others.”

SCEDA actively participates in national dramatics competitions. On January 13, the group performed Thirty Days in September at IIT Madras.

“Managing academics and theatre is one of the challenges we face as college students. Taking time out for practice is taxing but we manage it,” says Pritha Banerjee, a first-year BA student.

“Limiting dramatics to college festivals does not help us in reaching out to wider audiences. Often, the events are shaped to entertain the crowd. Last year, the head of our drama team was very active and we got to perform Silence the Court is in Session at YB Chavan auditorium,” says Garima Raghuvanshy, final-year Literature student.

A major part of theatre is about those who act behind the scenes and are involved with production. Thespo 14, which serves as a platform for individuals under 25, saw a lot of students who were also involved in behind-the-scenes work. Margaret Jeyaraj, a film-making student at FX School, handled marketing and the creative aspects of Thespo 14. The USP of Thespo is that it is a multilingual platform where participants come from Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai to perform plays in different languages. Out of 97 plays, only five plays were selected this year, which were then improvised by theatre moguls.

“Working behind the scenes has helped me know a lot about theatre production and my managerial abilities.” says Margaret.

Interestingly, the best three plays at Thespo have also been given spots at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.