Dolly Thakore's 'Life in the Theatre'.

AUDITIONS FOR NSD

NSD – the National School of Drama. For many years the very mention of NSD evoked such awe and envy. Way back in 1962 when perhaps I could have been of an age to apply, I had not even heard of it. I was tucked away in Kanpur pursuing what every woman of substance of that era aimed for – a BA degree.

School and College pumped some theatre adrenalin. But theatre remained an after- office activity.

It was not till 1979 when I was casting for GANDHI that I first walked through the hallowed portals of this theatre temple in Mandi House, Delhi. But that gave me greater insight into the passion, magic, creativity, erudition, energy, and professionalism inspired by its founder Ebrahim Alkazi.

Over the years NSD and its associates have inspired respect and acceptance. Theatre academies, theatre groups, theatre workshops have mushroomed in almost every corner of the country. NSD talent is bursting through our television screens and films.

I gained acceptance by attending/reviewing/judging their various productions.

And NSD standards are not to be trifled with. For years I have been on selection panels auditioning aspirants for drama courses run by an alumnus of NSD, Waman Kendre, for the Mumbai University Theatre Akademi of Dramatic Arts.

A step up was being invited to be on the Panel of the National School of Drama for the Western Region. And what a scintillating, exhilarating two days they were.

I was the outsider amongst a panel of six experts who had been through the NSD grind in their student days. And who were familiar with the nuances to look for and spot in every aspirant.

Among the 38 applicants from UP, MP, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharasthra, and even Kerala, I was willing to accept each one of them – there was so much dedication, devotion, talent. Language was no barrier. But we had to disappoint a few. Some were jettisoned because of their age, some for lack of the basic degree, some showed lack of preparation of the material provided to them in advance, some displayed arrogance and inability to take direction, some were inhibited in expressing themselves, and some expressed prejudices and biases in their theory paper.

Being a reviewer and a critic, my responses were not that of a teacher who would be moulding them in their three years at the NSD.

Past experience had equipped them to detect the non-committed and time-pass candidate. Or those using NSD as a stepping stone into commercial serials and cinema. There were no financial constraints… No physical criteria. . A deserving talent would be accepted come what may!

It was amazing how a timid gentle 23-year-old transformed into a powerful Edmund; or a graceful, honest Gujrati damsel had such a range of expressions; a spiritually motivated aspirant came theatrically dressed; another 23-year-old showed such sincerity in his great body language and strong voice and rhythm; another from Jalgaon mesmerized one with his eyes; another evoked such sympathy with his powerful voice; and the unanimous delight was the teacher from Kerala who performed Tuglak in Kodiyattam with brilliant abhinay reflecting the emotions of the king in his expressions.

A warm comfortable camaraderie had built up during those hours together. But being theatre-committed each one regaled their past experiences and observations from theatre, dance, art, and film. And the most enjoyable break was an imitation of an Astad Deboo performance by the most unlikely panellist that had us giggling for hours

What a worthwhile weekend that was. I now look forward to seeing this new batch on stage.