Moonis Ahmad

“Aao aao natak dekho, Jamia ka natak dekho,” echo theatre enthusiasts in Jamia Millia Islamia campus these days. Once more, the university is seeing the revival of theatre after many years. Energetic thumping, shouting and adrenaline loaded gusto amongst theatre wallahs of the University has set the platform for speech and expression.

From theatre veteran Habib Tanvir to groups like Jan Natya Manch, big names have performed on the University soil in the past. However, their influence soon withered away over time.

Things are now changing for theatre in Jamia.

Talking about the revival of theatre, Professor Ghazanfar Zaidi of fine arts department, says: “The University has witnessed its passivity (in theatre performance), but the last six years has seen a dramatic change in the psyche and dynamics of administration towards it.”

Though theatre is a part of the curriculum for social work, fine arts and mass communication disciplines, its culture was subdued till few years back.

In the last half a decade several theatre groups have mushroomed within the University. Apart from Jamia Drama Club which is the drama society of the university, there are others like IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association), Sangwari, Awam and Pratibha Unnayan Natya Manch.

Adnan Bismillah who runs the theatre group, Pratibha Unnayan Natya Manch, says; “The present trend was started by Jamia Drama Club way back in 2002, when it stood third in the north zone festival in Allahabad. Since then there was no looking back.”

Most of these groups are primarily influenced by Marxist thought. The plays of IPTA, Sangwari, and Awam are mostly political satires, anti-communal and anti-capitalist in nature.

The University has just come up with an art gallery and has also provided an open space specifically meant for street theatre performances.

A new endeavor in this regard has been the revival of Talimi Mela (a cultural festival initiative) by the present vice chancellor Professor Mushirul Hasan three years back. The festival aims at promoting cultural activities, wherein theatre performances are a core part.

K.S Kusuma, a lecturer of traditional entertainment at AJK Mass Communication Research Centre says that theatre culture is finally permeating amongst students. He is also the head of the street theatre club of the University. Mr.Kusuma says that “ organizing a street theatre festival is also in the pipeline”
The question is whether the garnered momentum in this direction will be able to sustain itself. Freedom of speech and expression under the garb of theatre lovers is finally knocking the doors.
So, are you game for some nukkad natak?