Since the time man has decided that it might be fun to pretend to be other people, in an extended series of imagined scenarios, and put on a show in front of large groups of other people; one of the chief questions that has plagued people’s minds is ‘can acting be taught?’
Acting enthusiasts from all over the world flit from institute to institute and teacher to teacher, hoping to find the right one, best suited for their particular needs. Of course, given the delicate and unstructured nature of the subject at hand, a fair amount of attention needs to be paid to the teacher or institution one signs up for. Here are some of the best places in India to hone your creative side and learn the ropes of stagecraft:
1. National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi
NSD was set up by the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1959, and became an independent school in 1975. Their three-year, full-time Diploma Course in Dramatic Arts, which accommodates 20 students, attracts thousands of applications from all over the country. Intense interviews give way, if fortunate enough, to three intense years of rigorous and holistic training which covers
every base of the world of theatre. NSD boasts of an illustrious alumnus with names like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Irrfan Khan, Manohar Singh, Prasanna, Robin Das, Seema Biswas, Nadira Babbar and Ranjit Kapoor. The school’s annual theatre festival called ‘Bharat Rang Mahotsav’ is widely acknowledged as Asia’s largest theatre festival.
2. Bhartendu Natya Akademi, Lucknow
Established in 1975 by Raj Bisaria, who was deemed ‘the father of modern theatre in North India’ by the Press Trust of India, Bhartendu Natya Akademi works as an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Culture. The institute provides a two-year, full time diploma course in theatre training, and accommodates only 20 students per year for the course. For anyone who might be wondering why institutes prefer to keep their numbers small, you’ve probably never had to handle more than a handful of creative people in one go. The institute prides itself on churning out committed artistes who can contribute to just about any field of performing arts. In Lucknow, the Academy offers two years of conservatory training which comes with various performance opportunities, a third year of advanced performance training or an internship at the academy/repertory company, and summer programs.
3. Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, Delhi
Part of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (founded by Sumitra Charat Ram, in 1952), and run by the Indian National Theatre Trust. The Centre runs a certified two-year, full time acting course, during which the basics of yoga, acting, stage and body movement, and production design is taught. The Centre also runs regular Weekend Theatre Workshops for interested people to dip their toes in murky waters, that is the creative world and for experienced actors to stay on their toes. Additionally, the Centre also runs a one of a kind Director’s Training Program, which runs over the course of fifteen days.
4. Ninasam, Karnataka
Ninasam is a cultural organization located in the quaint village of Heggodu of the Shivamogga district of Karnataka. Ninasam works best like a co-operative society, as the founder the renowned dramatist and Magsaysay award winner KV Subbanna, maintains that theatre is a communitarian activity. In addition to putting up shows regularly and maintaining an independent publishing house, Ninasam started a theatre institute in 1980. The institute offers 10-month-long diploma courses. Guess how many students are allowed per class? 20. The alumni of this institute continue to join Ninasam’s rural theatre repertory troupe Tirugata, who travel and stage plays for the rural audience. They are, by and large, a self-sustaining group, with 20% of their total revenue coming as a grant from the government.
5. School of Drama and Fine Arts, Thrissur
Established in 1977 as a Department of the University of Calicut, the School of Drama and Fine Arts is the only institution in Kerala which provides a formal education and training in drama and theatre. Courses offered range from a PG Diploma in Acting to a PG Diploma to M. Phil and Ph.D in Theatre Arts. The troupe from the School of Drama has traveled all over the world with their productions, and regularly has Exchange Programs with institutions from different performing arts schools. The number of seats per class doesn’t go beyond 20.
6. Drama School Mumbai (DSM), Mumbai
Founded in 2013, DSM is creating a whole new generation of theatre-makers. It offers a post graduate course in acting and theatre-making. This is a one year full time course that requires intensive practical work. The course aims to teach and further strengthen the fundamentals of theatre, and equips students to create their own work. The class size for this program is limited to 18 students. DSM also offers 3 kinds of workshops- foundation skills in acting, a weekend acting program and advanced workshops. Apart from this, the students and faculty of DSM conduct short workshops, lectures and presentations to spread awareness about theatre.
7. Adishakti, Pondicherry
Adishakti, a performance company founded in 1981 by Veenapani Chawla, works towards the research and reinvention of traditional forms of theatre. It offers a 10 day intensive residency program. With a rigorous routine, the short course imparts a new performance methodology that uses fundamental principles of other traditional art forms such as Kalaripayattu and Koodiyattam. The program focuses on a performers breath, emotion, rhythm, body centre and voice.
So, circling back to the initial question, can acting be taught? Maybe not entirely, but stage work can be taught. Loosening up your body and mind, and freeing yourself of all your inhibitions can be taught. You can be taught how to work in a group, to conceptualize and develop a vague idea resting in the corner of your mind. You can be taught how to think like an artiste. The next step is yours.