Theatre artistes across the country held a silent and non-violent protest against the award ceremony organised by the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi on 26 March. B V Karanth Smriti Puraskar and Manohar Singh Smriti Puraskar are given to artists who have made outstanding contribution to the field of theatre. The awards instituted in 2004 were discontinued in 2010. 19 recipients were given Rs 1 lakh each retrospectively for the years the awards were not announced.
The protest headed by Rakesh Singh, an alumnus of NSD, highlights institutional irregularities. Speaking to the Indian Cultural Forum, Singh said, “This is my silent protest and it is non-violent. This is my first demand. I have been associated with NSD for 20 years now and I have found the standard deteriorate over the years. This is one of the prime institutes of India. The award was meant for people who have made considerable contribution to the field of theatre for 10 or 20 years. The institute has become a lobby for 10 people.”
In solidarity with the protest, prominent theatre actor and director M K Raina said to the Indian Cultural Forum, “The awards were discontinued in 2010 for the simple reason that they were being awarded to the NSD faculty itself and there were members within the faculty that raised objection to this. 10 years of awards have been decided on by one jury, and it is not clear what criteria they were following for this. There has been no information about this. These awards are ignoring the good work theatre artists have done across the country and are only being given out to the people who are closest to the institute.”
Among other concerns raised by the people who opposed the award ceremony is the discontinuation of the NSD’s acclaimed journal, Theatre India and the teaching positions lying vacant at the institute. Raina pointed out that the academic priorities have taken a backseat and the institute is only focusing its attention on organising various programmes while important posts remain vacant. The last director of the institute was Waman Kendre, and Suresh Sharma is presently acting as the Director In-Charge.
“NSD is getting additional money from different places for doing various things like tribal festival, North-East festival which is not within the mandate of the National School of Drama, but the lure of money is too great. Academics are not a priority for them now,” said Raina.