The National School of Drama is one of the foremost theatre training institutions in the world and the only one of its kind in India. It was set up by the Sangeet Natak Akademi as one of its constituent units in 1959. In 1975, it became an independent entity and was registered as an autonomous organization under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, fully financed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Training in the School is highly intensive and is based on a thorough, comprehensive, carefully planned syllabus which covers every aspect of theatre and in which theory is related to practice. As a part of their training, students are required to produce plays which are then performed before the public. The syllabus takes into account the methods of great theatre personalities who have shaped contemporary theatre in all its variety. The systematic study and practical performing experience of Sanskrit drama, modern Indian drama, traditional Indian theatre forms, Asian drama and western dramatic protocols give the students a solid grounding and a wide perspective in the art of theatre.
Besides its 3-year training programme, the School has also explored new vistas in the areas of children’s theatre and decentralization of theatre training through workshops under the Extension Programme.
The School has two performing wings – the Repertory Company and Theatre-in-Education Company.
The Repertory Company was started in 1964 with four artistes – Shri Ramamurthy, Ms. Meena Williams, Ms. Sudha Shivpuri and Shri Om Shivpuri – with the objective of providing a platform where graduates of the School could perform plays professionally. Over the years it has presented works of various playwrights and directors who have been associated with it and has evolved into one of NSD’s major institutions, working on contemporary and modern plays as well as introducing experimental work on a regular basis. In addition to doing productions, it organizes its own Festival, where past and new productions are introduced and staged each summer. NSD’s Repertory Company also tours and performs extensively in India and abroad.
The second performing wing the ‘Theatre-In-Education Company’ (Sanskar Rang Toli) was established in October 16, 1989, and is one of the most important theatre education resource centres in the country. It consists of a group of actor-teachers working with and performing for children. The major focus of the TIE Company is to perform creative, curriculum-based and participatory plays in schools, specially designed and prepared for children of different age groups. The major thrust of the plays is to create an atmosphere that encourages children to raise questions, take decisions and make choices with an awareness of themselves within the larger social context. The TIE Company has done more than 800 performances of 26 plays in Delhi and other parts of the country. More than 5.5 lakh children, apart from college students, teachers, parents and theatre lovers, have witnessed these plays.
In addition to these two wings, the School also has an active Extension Programme, a publication section and a literary forum named Shruti. The Extension Programme, under which NSD faculty and alumni conduct workshops in various parts of the country, was launched in 1978 and since then has conducted workshops and programmes for adults and children across the country, and in Nepal, Sikkim, Laddakh and Bhutan as well. The ‘Traditional Theatre Project’ initiated in 1980, has facilitated creative interaction between traditional and contemporary theatre artists on a regular basis. Along with an introduction to theatre, these workshops also seek to develop personality and expand the emotional horizons of the participants.
The Publication Unit of the National School of Drama is responsible for publishing text books on theatre, arranging for the translation of important books on theatre from English into Hindi and bringing out other important books on theatre. The unit’s first major publication titled Rang Yatra which chronicled 25 years history of the NSD Repertory Company from 1964 onwards, came out in 1990. Besides its regular publications, until 2010 the unit has brought out 82 publications on drama and related subjects.
The origins of the school can be traced back to a seminar in 1954, where the idea of a Central institution for theatre was mooted, subsequently a draft scheme was prepared in 1955, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which had Jawaharlal Nehru as its president, started drawing plans for the institution. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Delhi, Bharatiya Natya Sangh (BNS) with assistance from UNESCO, independently established the 'Asian Theatre Institute' (ATI) on January 20, 1958, and in July 1958, ATI was taken over by theSangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), India's National Academy of Music, dance and drama of Government of India.
In the following year, the government merged it with the newly founded school, and thus NSD was established in April 1959 under the auspices of Sangeet Natak Akademi. Initially the school was situated at Nizamuddin West, and was called 'National School of Drama and Asian Theatre Institute, whose first batch passed out in 1961. During his tenure as the director of the institution, Ebrahim Alkazi (1962–1977), not just overhauled the syllabus, but also had the students dig and build platforms for a theatre in the backyard of a rentedKailash Colony house, where NSD had moved. Later when it moved to it present location, he also designed two theatre for NSD, including a 200-seat studio theatre, and the open-air Meghdoot theatre, under a banyan tree.
In 1975 it became autonomous organization, under the erstwhile Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture, Department of Culture, with the name 'National School of Drama' and relocated in May 1975, to its present premises at Bahawalpur House, the residence of Bahawalpur a former princely state, now in Pakistan, also known as Mandi House. In 1999, the School organized its first National Theatre Festival, 'Bharat Rang Mahotsav', generally held during the second week of January each year.
In 2008, the institution celebrated its golden jubilee at its annual theatre festival, Bharat Rang Mahotsav, with a gathering of its alumni from all over the country, the festival's satellite edition in Mumbai showcased plays of NSD graduates, including Ratan Thiyam's Prologue, Bansi Kaul (Aranyadhipati Tantiya), Neelam Mansingh Chowdhury (The Suit), Sanjay Upadhyay (Harsingar), Baharul Islam (Akash), Mohan Maharishi (Dear Bapu) and M K Raina (Stay Yet Awhile). Waman Kendre was appointed as Director the school in 2013. He will serve a five-year term. He has done post-graduate with research in folk theatre of Kerala from NSD. He belongs to the nomadic Vanjara tribal community ofMarathwada and was one of the leading lights of the Dalit theatre movement in Maharashtra in the late 1970s.
Deemed university status -
On 16 March 2005, the Government of India granted the NSD the status of deemed university. However, in 2010 the NSD Society asked for the deemed university status to be revoked since it could undermine the professional training, autonomy and flexibility required in the creative fields such as theatre. Thus, in October 2011 the status was revoked on request of NSD.
Repertory Company -
The professional performing wing of NSD, the 'National School of Drama' Repertory Company was set up in 1964, with an aim to promote professional theatre in India. It first head was Om Shivpuri, followed by Manohar Singh, Ram Gopal Bajaj (Acting Chief), J.N. Kaushal (Acting Chief), Anuradha Kapur (Acting Chief), and Suresh Sharma,Sagar Kamble, Atul Singhai (Animation chief).
Today, the Repertory Company, has staged over 120 plays based on the works of about 70 playwrights and featuring around 50 directors in several countries, and various cities across the nation, and has its own festival every year, called Annual Repertory Company Summer Festival, in which it perform new and past plays. In 2004, the repertory celebrated its 40th anniversary with a theatre festival in New Delhi.
Sanskaar Rang Toli -
In 1989 NSD established the 'Theatre-in-Education Company' (T.I.E), called 'Sanskaar Rang Toli', today it has become India's premier educational resource centres, and coaches children aged 8 to 16 years. The company regularly performs plays for school and adults audiences alike, and has its own yearly theatre festivals, 'Jashn-e-Bachpan' and Bal Sangam.
Regional Centres -
In a bid to decentralize its activities, NSD opened Regional Resource Centres (RRC) across India, the first of which was opened at Bangalore in 1994.
Bharat Rang Mahotsav -
Bharat Rang Mahotsav, or the 'National Theatre Festival', established in 1999, is the annual theatre festival of National School of Drama (NSD), held in New Delhi, today it is acknowledged as the largest theatre festival of Asia, dedicated solely to theatre.
NSD has had ten directors since its establishment in 1959 -
Satu Sen (1959–61)
Ebrahim Alkazi (1962–77)
B. V. Karanth (1977–82)
B. M. Shah (1982–84)
Mohan Maharishi (1984–86)
Ratan Thiyam (1987–88)
Kirti Jain (1988–95)
Ram Gopal Bajaj (1995-Sept.2001)
Devendra Raj Ankur (2001-3 July 2007)
Anuradha Kapur (July 2007- July 2013)
Waman Kendre (August 2013 onwards)
Performing spaces -
The schools has three auditoria within the campus:
Apart from that it has a studio theatre and minor performances spaces used on special occasions, like the Bharat Rangmahotsav.
Bihar became the first state in India to have separate web page for every city and village in the state on its website www.brandbihar.com (Now www.brandbharat.com)
See the record in Limca Book of Records 2012 on Page No. 217