“It will be like going to a certified doctor or someone who calls himself one. Though in this case, it’s not a question of life and death. A detailed study of the fundamentals of theatre does lead to great actors.
Think Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan and Nandita Das: they were all students of theatre,” reasons 38-year-old Jehan Sam Manekshaw, co-convener of Mumbai’s first private school for drama, The Drama School, Mumbai (DSM). Founded by Theatre Professionals, a company that Manekshaw is part of, DSM will have its first batch begin in July, the applications for which have begun.
The idea to have a drama school was a result of several workshops conducted by Theatre Professionals. “While shorter workshops have been around, the formal aspect of theatre has not yet been seen. We were already working with several professionals from the field for our workshops, and felt that in order to cultivate a really strong actor, one needs to build on the fundamentals and help connect with professionals from the industry,” he asserts.
Actor Kalki Koechlin attending a Theatre Professionals workshop
Manekshaw feels that aspirants in India have to choose from either Delhi’s National School of Drama where hundreds apply or acting schools that are more film-centric or go abroad, which is very expensive. “Also, there are a lot of people today who are just out of college and then decide to do something else with life. DSM also aims to assist theatre entrepreneurs,” says Manekshaw.
Hence, with the support of the faculty already conducting the Theatre Professionals workshops and a course stitched together by stage professionals like Padma Damodaran and Gitanjali Kulkarni, DSM was born. The biggest challenge for the school was to find a venue, as the rent of the place would hike the course fees (it is Rs 2 lakhs per year, now).
With support from Dr Bal Bhalerao, chief secretary of Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, this legendary theatre was chosen to be the school’s venue. “The Sangh was responsible for the resurgence of Marathi theatre. When we spoke to Dr Bhalerao about DSM, he thought it would be wonderful for the institution to serve as a venue for the theatre,” reveals Manekshaw.
DSM is also in talks with different trusts and foundations for scholarships. The one-year course will be divided into six months of training (including working with productions, internships and research) and six months of working with professional productions. The training period will help students work on their body, voice and will also include theory as well as learning the ropes of theatre-making. Manekshaw hopes to introduce an exhaustive three-year course in theatre in the future.