Street theatre or nukkad natak has been the voice for the voiceless down the ages, compelling passers-by to stop and spare a thought about social issues. From raising awareness on topics ranging from girls’ education and family planning to health practices, youngsters talk about their college theatre society on National Street Theatre Day. April 12, playwright Safdar Hashmi’s birth anniversary is observed as National Street Theatre Day.
Xaverian Theatrical Society — St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata
The Xaverian Theatrical Society was formed in 1931, with Nukkad Society coming up in 1991. The group has participated in several fests like Umang of The Bhawanipur Education Society College and Xavrang of St. Xavier’s University. Some well-known plays include Trivia to Firefighters and Say no to Substance Abuse, performed at Indira Maidan, Dum Dum and St. Xavier’s College ground, Park Street, respectively.
Now with campuses opening up, the theatre club has resumed rehearsals and has its eyes set on the second phase of Theaxav 2022, an inter-college theatre festival of St. Xavier’s College.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with the National Service Scheme (NSS) of St. Xavier’s College for a radio play on contemporary issues. In radio plays, we work on the script and record the audio in our homes. Students who look into the sound design help us improve the audio quality. During the pandemic, we made a radio play A Tribute to Apu, dedicated to the late actor Soumitra Chatterjee. These plays are released on YouTube. We also intend to teach some vocal exercises through virtual platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom. We look forward to an offline meeting so that the juniors can get meet the society’s former members and learn from them,” said Souparna Sarkhel, a third-year Mass Communication and Videography student, who is the secretary of the Xaverian Theatrical Society.
Goonj, The Revolution Begins — Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Bhubaneswar
Formed in 2016, KIIT’s nukkad group has more than 50 members. It has participated in competitions at Sri Sri University, Odisha; International Institute of Information Technology, Bhubaneswar; National Institute of Technology, Jamshedpur. In 2020, the group performed at Manthan, a street play festival organised by Verve, a street play society of Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies.
Hum Dekhenge, a play recorded by Goonj that revolves around artistic freedom and freedom of speech and expression, was shared on the Bombay Theatre Company’s Instagram page. It bagged the runner-up position at two online theatre competitions, Audacity by Indian Institute Of Management (IIM), Udaipur, and Curtain Call by Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, Pune.
“Nukkad demands direct interaction with the audience, but the pandemic compelled us to use digital means to share our work with the audience. What emerged is the frequent use of virtual theatre to create and share audio stories. Our audio story, Maternity, throws light on India’s socio-cultural roots embedded in misogyny, while Bol ke lab azad hai tere, is an adaptation of Saadat Hasan Manto’s Artist Log. They were released on the YouTube channel, The Undergrads,” said Praloy Patra, a 2021 graduate, who is a mentor of Goonj.
Rangpeeth — NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata
NSHM Knowledge Campus’s nukkad group, Rangpeeth, has been involved in scores of productions since its inception in 2010. Some of the notable events it has performed at are IIM Calcutta’s Carpe Diem, IIT Kharagpur’s Spring Fest and Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra. In late 2020, the group produced an audio-video rendition of its production Perception, which was published on the official Facebook page.
The group’s latest production, Manto Lapata Hain, is a play on two stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, Toba Tek Singh, which deal with the Partition and Khol Do, which deals with the condition of women. It has staged the play at Spring Fest 2022 and Theatre Festival 2022 by The Bhawanipur Education Society College, bagging the second place.
Street theatres in the open condition the performers to be open-minded, expressive and adaptive. This, in turn, helps diversify their skill sets and shape themselves during the pandemic.
“We have been trying to organise online workshops during the pandemic to help us stay in touch with theatre. We need to be physically fit so that it does not become difficult for us to get back to the stage,” said Aayushi Sinha, a third-year Media Science student, who is one of the core committee members of Rangpeeth.
Aarohan — The Bhawanipur Education Society College
Aarohan was formed in 2015. Over the years, they have performed in annual fests like the International Management Institute Calcutta’s Confero, Asutosh College’s Spardha, NSHM Knowledge Campus’s Login Astitwa, IIM Calcutta’s Carpe Diem, IIT Kharagpur’s Spring Fest; and The Bhawanipur Education Society College’s Umang.
The group’s play Salakhein, on the imprisonment system of India and the correctional facilities, qualified for the IIT Kharagpur Spring Fest’s preliminary round. Another play that aims to educate Indian society on financial illiteracy,
Aisa Kaisa Paisa? fetched the group a prize.
“We’ve had online sessions on script-building with theatre artiste Palash Chaturvedi. The Zoom session saw participants enacting letters written by well-known personalities from around the world. We’ve also been bracing ourselves for upcoming inter-college competitions. We’ve been discussing our scripts and rehearsing on Google Meet,” said Prerna Mukherjee, a third-year Economics student and member of Aarohan.
Jadavpur University Drama Club, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
The Jadavpur University Drama Club (JUDC) was formed in 2012. More than 100 active members belong to the nukkad and stage play community of which 20 are in the core managing team.
The group has performed at college fests like IIT Kharagpur’s Spring Fest, St. Xavier’s College’s Xavotsav, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, and Christ University, Bangalore. In March 2022, their latest street play, Oporichito, a satire, loosely adapted from Rabindranath’s play Phalguni, was performed at The Bhawanipur Education Society College Theatre Festival. Shrayon Chanda, a first-year History postgraduate student of Jadavpur University, won the Best Performer Award. Oporichito was also performed at the Presidency University Theatre Festival in March 2020, before the pandemic.
“We had our auditions for a play in early 2021 but the pandemic created a major hurdle. However, we organised Bhaab in February 2021, an online format of our traditional competition for freshers, Natya Bhabna. Students submitted their monologues and scripts. It was a roaring success. We also performed at Dramatico, an online theatre festival organised by Universal College Lahore, Pakistan held on December 18 and 19, 2020.
A lot of scripts are under development. These will be based on the ongoing pandemic and economic situation. We are also working on plays based on novels written by Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Apart from these, we used Google Meet and Zoom and social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to stay connected. We’re looking forward to doing more online events,” said Arpo Chakrovorty, a third-year Philosophy student and a core committee member of JUDC, Jadavpur University.