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College students take to the stage

Did you know that there are eight to 10 youth theatre festivals conducted in Mumbai every year?” asks Deepa Gehlot, head programming, Theatre and Films, National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). “Very few people in the city take the effort to attend a college festival to catch a play there, which is a pity because some of the plays and performances are excellent.”


A still from the play A Maruti, The Maruti, which features students from Dahanukar College

Since aficionados aren’t likely to go to a college to catch a play, Gehlot decided to bring the plays to them. Starting January 15, NCPA will host Zest! once every month, which will feature winners from various theatre competitions hosted by colleges and individual groups such as THESPO.

This month, patrons can catch Jummebaz and A Maruti and The Maruti, both winners of the inter-collegiate drama competition held by Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). February will see a Nagpur-based youth theatre group perform, while students from Flame, a media college in Pune, will perform in March.

“I have heard so much about the NCPA, but haven’t been there yet. I’m honoured that the first time I go will be to perform there,” says 18 year-old Shreyas Raje, who plays the lead role in Hindi play Jummebaz. The actor, who has been dabbling in Marathi theatre for the past six years, attends Joshi Bedekar College in Thane. His role in Jummebaz is of a father who loses his job in the 1980s, when the mills are shut down.

Twenty two year-old Parag Oza, co-director of A Maruti The Maruti, is most excited about crowds paying to watch the play they worked so hard on. “As students, we could never afford to catch a play there,” laughs Oza. The play is about the common misconception that a great body equals great personality. “Maruti is a complete loser until he meets Bajrangbali, the ‘real’ Maruti, who helps him work on his insecurities.” Director Ganesh Pandit, who mentored the thespians from Dahanukar College, worked with them for 16 hours every day, while former students helped with music and lights.

Zest! will provide young cast and crew members a great opportunity to showcase their work to well-informed crowds. But Gehlot believes that audiences stand to gain too. “These talented young people have a host of interesting new ideas and will bring freshness to the theatre scene,” she concludes.

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