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Calling theatre lovers!

Bharat Rang Mahotsav was incepted to offer a platform to theatrical productions from across India, informs Director In-charge, NSD

As I write this, I feel more like a parent proud of his child traversing through the uncertainties of a teenager and attaining youth. The head held high, the stout gait and confident strides are unmistakably ours. Bharat Rang Mahotsav, organised by the National School of Drama every year, entered its 20th edition this year after overcoming the initial worries and caution. The festival was incepted by Professor Ramgopal Bajaj, the then director of this prestigious institution, to offer a platform to theatrical productions from across India.

Our success with BRM motivated to welcome international productions into our fold and take bigger responsibilities. We took a giant leap last year by organising 'Theatre Olympics', the largest theatre festival in the world, and took it to 16 states. In organising BRM this year, it feels to be back at the quietude of home after a soirée.

The National School of Drama incepted Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM), also known as Bharangam, at the far end of the 20th century with an aim to bring students and performers of theatre at one place and help them establish a contact with a wider audience. One of the main reasons to organise this festival was to connect theatre to the academic realm. Back then, the main objective was to incorporate theatrical performances in our academic curriculum and to bring all their kinds at one place for the convenience of students and the audience; they may not be able or willing to travel extensively to explore the rich dramatic landscape of India.

With each passing year, we are progressing to become stronger and more organised in our presence. In past festivals, we travelled to states such as Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Goa. This year, we are organising parallel festivals in Gujarat, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam where the festival will continue for a week presenting plays by national and international groups as well as folk theatre. There will be a total of 102 plays and 9 folk performances presented to our audience through 130 shows across the country. We strive to improve the festival with suggestions from students and audience alike.

BRM, since its inception, aims to become a representational festival that presents finest performances, but as varied as possible in their nature. The quintessential aspect of the festival makes it distinct from any other theatre festival in India. This year too, we have tried to accommodate as much as we can and I take this opportunity to offer my sincere apology to all those who came with their best productions but could not be a part of the festival.

The festival, which has received generous patronage of the Ministry of Culture since the beginning, has inadvertently created unsavory questions on its ownership. How can someone own theatre? It is part of our collective culture and making an effort to look at theatre detached from our social realities robs off the very essence that makes theatre distinct from any other art form. The festival is yours - be it a student of theatre, or a practitioner, or a member of the audience. One of the driving factors to organise a festival like BRM is to dispel the myth that theatre is an elitist medium and detached from the realities of the common man. The very birth of theatre is rooted in the local, often tribal traditions, which serve as the fertile soil on which we theatre practitioners copiously procreate. In addition to the cities, BRM makes a constant endeavor to take theatre to smaller cities and towns where there is a tremendous potential or where a once-flourishing theatre scenario is stagnated now and needs a little nudge. In the past 19 editions of the festival, NSD has reached Amritsar (Punjab), Kurukshetra (Haryana), Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), and Aurangabad (Maharashtra) and wish to reach newer cities in near future.

Every time there is a theatre festival in the country, the discussion on whether theatre is relevant today or why it struggles to find audience (that apparently forces such festivals to take place) become a matter of urgency.

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