Playwright Actor Director Ram ji Bali Ramji Bali has been appointed as the first director of the new branch.
In its six decades of history, the National School of Drama (NSD) has expanded itself outside its celebrated Delhi precincts with opening up of an extension centre in Varanasi recently. The renowned institute has roped in one of its eminent alumni, Rangamy Ramji Bali, to become the first director of the new branch.
As of now, the new centre will run a one-year certificate course and only deal with Sanskrit plays translated into Hindi. Like its parent branch, the centre will take in 26 students from all over India. The admission for the first batch is in process at the moment. The last date for submitting the forms is 20 July and the final interviews will be held between 25 and 27 July in Varanasi itself. The classes are scheduled to start from the first week of August.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Bali said that there is no better place to start the institute outside Delhi than in the land of Shiva, the originator of “Natya Shastra” or the science of dances.
Better known as Kashi, the place is considered as the land of Hindu mythology that connects Sanskrit scriptures to the rest of the country, he explained, adding that the new centre’s main objective will be to introduce this Natya Shastra written in these scriptures to the world.
“The NSD teaches everything to its students, from Western to Indian classical and contemporary. But there has always been a concern that our youths are not attached to their own culture in this modern era. Hence, NSD-Varanasi will help break this stereotype, as we will include everything—from dance to music to acting. This will be taught from an Indian classical point of view, which will be amalgamated with mythology and Natya Shastra,” said Bali.
Bali further added that the style of performance will be inspired by “Natya Shastra and mythology”, but the presentation will be in Hindi with a “touch of Sanskrit in it”.
Pointing out that there is a false impression that the youth is “rigid” when it comes to Sanskrit, he said, “It is a misconception. I have met a lot of students who have displayed their interest in Natya Shastra. This is why one of our main objectives will be to break this stereotype.”
The institute has plans to hire teachers on contractual basis, giving preference to scholars with Sanskrit background.
“People who have studied or are experts in Sanskrit will be hired for the job. This will give new opportunities to people with Sanskrit degrees,” Bali added.
The new centre aims at making its students realise the importance of Sanskrit scriptures that have mostly surfaced in Varanasi itself. “We will try to make our students understand the importance of Natya Shastra and then slowly teach the basics of Sanskrit in the span of one year,” he said.
The new NSD Director, who always wanted to encourage Natya Shastra, said he “personally wants every student, who walks out of NSD, to know something about Sanskrit”.
To provide students with an exposure to a wide array of knowledge on Indian culture, the students will be taken on a month-long trip to different corners of the country.
Explaining the involvement of NSD-Delhi, Bali said, “The plays will be staged independently by the Varanasi centre only. Though the centre will be guided by the Delhi branch, everything else will be done independently there.”
The new NSD branch will be opened at the Nagari Natak Mandali’s campus in School Kabir Chaura in the holy city. “It’s one of the oldest buildings in Varanasi. We don’t have our own campus yet, but are working on it,” said Bali.
A resident of Faridabad, Bali has penned seven plays and has directed approximately 75 plays so far. He is an alumnus of 2001 batch of the NSD, Delhi. He will be seen in the upcoming projects of noted director Tigmanshu Dhulia—“Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3” and “Yaara”.