Sign up for a tryst with Nordic gods at a new centre for philosophy and performing arts in Bandra

Updated: Jun 13, 2018, 11:06 IST | Snigdha Hasan | Mumbai

Sign up for a tryst with Nordic gods, or take a fictional route to existentialism at a new centre for philosophy and performing arts in Bandra

A session by Tanuja Chandra (second from left) in progress at the centre
A session by Tanuja Chandra (second from left) in progress at the centre

Philosophy as a discipline can seem daunting to many, but what if Jean Paul Sartre or Albert Camus were made more accessible through a study of their fictional works? Or, what if a course in theatre and writing was shaped with the joint experience of a researcher, sociologist, playwright, director, screenplay writer and an expert in theatrical adaptations?

Thor God of the Vikings by Marten Eskil Winge
Thor God of the Vikings by Marten Eskil Winge

"The art discourse in the city is missing a multidisciplinary approach," says theatre writer-director Dr Omkar Bhatkar, adding that students can gain more well-rounded knowledge of a subject when professionals from a spectrum of specialisations come together to share their expertise. This and the need to have an affordable academic hub for art in suburban Mumbai were the guiding principles behind the newly opened St Andrew's Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts, an initiative Dr Bhatkar has been working on for a year, with the support of Fr Magi Murzello, rector of St Andrew's Institution, and Dr Marie Fernandes, principal, St Andrew's College, Bandra.

While three courses — Nordic & Mesopotamian Mythology, Theatre and Writing, and Existentialism and Beyond — will start this month, a course each in Western philosophy, and theatre and writing have already been conducted at the centre. The first course will be helmed by writer and mythologist Utkarsh Patel, who also teaches comparative mythology at the University of Mumbai. "Our access to mythology is usually through Indian, Greek and Greco-Roman texts. We wanted to move beyond that," shares Dr Bhatkar. He will conduct the course in philosophy with Dr Kanchana Mahadevan, Ramu Ramanathan and Dr Biraj Mehta.

Mahesh Dattani conducts a session
Mahesh Dattani conducts a session

"These are very exciting times for the arts, and a centre to put that in focus was much needed. I am glad that it has shaped up in a more or less autonomous fashion. Also, if there is a course on theatre, it is important that it involves practitioners in the field to bridge the gap between academia and the art world," says theatre director and playwright Mahesh Dattani, who is one of the faculty members for the theatre and writing course, along with Puja Sarup, Sheena Khalid, Ashutosh Potdar, Vipul Mahagaonkar, Aditya Kripalani and Ramanathan.

Omkar Bhatkar
Omkar Bhatkar

Film director and writer Tanuja Chandra, who has taken a class in screenplay writing at the centre with scriptwriter Gazal Dhaliwal says, "I consider these discussions as instructive for me as they may be for people attending as students. I get to know what people are thinking and how they're thinking. In the creative arts, there is never really a final destination to reach, it's a long road of constant learning and improvement." She adds, "Initiatives such as these introduce people to the workings of the film and theatre industries, and give them an idea of the world they've decided to work in. And, on occasion, they might start partnerships between the professionals who have come to lecture and those that have come as students."

Open to all, the courses will be conducted on Saturdays and Sundays, with each class extending to three to four hours. Once the first run of courses concludes in July, workshops, talks, seminars and play readings will be held at the centre, informs Dr Bhatkar. What the founders were clear about was that it was going to be a non-profit making initiative, with fees just enough to sustain the centre. If someone shows interest in a course but doesn't register himself for it, they investigate the reason, and try to subsidise the fee if finance is a concern. "Art is an expensive endeavour, which requires both cultural and financial capital. We didn't want the centre to be restricted by either," Dr Bhatkar sums up.

FROM: June 16
AT: St Andrew's College, Main Building, Bandra West.
cALL: 9970144724
COST: Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500

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