Since the time man decided that it might be fun to pretend to be other people, and put on a show in front of large groups of other people; one of the chief questions that have plagued people’s minds has been ‘can acting be taught?’. Do you teach by example – by literally performing their scene for them – or does shouting instructions like a nervous director work better?
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. Acting requires shedding of inhibitions, stripping of all defensive walls society inevitably gets us to construct around our selves, and laying ourselves out bare in order to be able to accept the complexities of thousands of different people.
Learning the basics of acting, or even theatre in general, requires unstructured environments where creativity can run wild. Some of the best places in India to hone your creative side and artistic vision are :
National School of Drama, Delhi
With regards to badassery, it can’t get much better than the government of India granting the National School of Drama the status of deemed university in 2005, and them asking for the status to be revoked in 2010 because it could undermine the flexibility that a creative field like theatre requires. You could almost hear the students going ‘hell yeah!’, even six years down the line. 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 alumni with names like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Irrfan Khan, Manohar Singh, Prasanna, Robin Das, Roysten Abel, 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.
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 work with 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.
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 into the 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, and where aspiring theatre directors can learn most of what there is to know about really putting on a show
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 their activites of 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? One more than nineteen. The alumni of this institute go ahead to join Ninasam’s rural theatre repertory troupe ‘Tirugata’, who travel and stage plays for the rural audience.
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 in Theatre Technology to M. Phil & Ph.D in Theatre Arts. So rest assured you would be getting a full, thorough training here, regardless of whatever program you choose. Fun fact – the number of seats allowed per class never goes beyond 20, even in an institution like this.
So, circling back to my initial question, can acting be taught? Maybe not fully, 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, how to conceptualize a vague idea resting in the corner of your mind. You can be taught how to think like an artiste. Next step’s yours.