The 60th National Film Awards last week brought to light that the National School of Drama (NSD) is still the most proactive trainer in the industry, giving graduates an edge before and behind the camera in tinsel town and on stage.
Five graduates the country's premier drama school made the grade on the honour roll of the 60th National Film Awards last week. While filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia got the award for the best movie "Paan Singh Tomar", Irrfan Khan won the best actor prize, while Annu Kapoor and Dolly Ahluwalia got the the best supporting actors and actress award, respectively, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Industry watchers say the roster casts the spotlight on NSD, known for its intensive production-oriented training and focus on traditional theatre with international and regional exchanges. It prepares a graduate to think beyond the book, to innovate and experiment across traditions and contemporary practices on stage and in design.
Set up in 1975 under the Ministry of Culture, NSD offers a three-year course in theatre that covers body language, martial arts, Sanskritic and western traditions of acting and traditional theatre. It has two outreach wings - the theatre in school programme and the repertory company that takes theatre to children and to the regions. The school, centralised for more than three decades is expanding in five metropolitan centres in the country with extended campuses.
"What we have done is to ensure that a student is comfortable and alert to as many acting proposals and directorial proposals as possible. We have no given gharana of NSD; one has to develop all kinds of skills and understandings. In India, we have so many traditions and languages... There are options to choose from," Anuradha Kapur, director of NSD, told IANS.
Kapur said: "The training crosses between stylisation and natural acting but the school makes sure that it connects to students with different kinds of acting."
A survey of the "final choices" made by NSD students reveal that while a majority migrate to Mumbai's moviedom and television, many are moving to the hinterland in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, the turbulent northeast, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and remote pockets of Gujarat and Maharashtra to build smaller theatre movements sourced from the local folk traditions, Kapur said.
"Earlier we used to perform Sanskrit plays in Hindi. We would read classics like 'Mrichchakatikam (The Little Clay Cart)', translate them into Hindi and enact them. Now students are trained in traditional Sanskritic dramatic forms like Kudiyattam of Kerala and are often sent to the states to learn about the native performance genres," said NSD graduate and former NSD repertory company artist Parag Sharma.
Sharma said he appeared in at least 100 stage productions of "Ghasiram Kotwal", a play written by Vijay Tendulkar in 1972. The confidence still holds Sharma on stage.
Senior NSD repertory artist Sukumar Tudu said: "A holistic training in acting and stage production can sustain an actor in the long run. Tigmanshu (Dhulia), Irrfan (Khan), Dolly (Ahluwalia), Nawaz (Nawazuddin)... they were all trained in traditional and western theatre methods at the school. They were different from the chocolate box heroes that are in demand today. The NSD training gives them substance and ease to fit into any character on the stage."
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