Theatre academy turns acting into child?s play - Veterans Baharul Islam and Bhagirathi launch region?s first drama school for children in Guwahati

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By Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 6.11.05
Child artistes in a Seagull Academy play

Guwahati, Nov. 6: This gurukul guarantees fun rather than fame, but the Northeast?s first theatre academy for children is the place to be in for any aspiring child actor.

The brainchild of Baharul Islam, one of Assam?s reputed theatre directors, and his national award-winning actor wife Bhagirathi, Seagull Children?s Theatre Academy was launched in Guwahati a fortnight ago. The academy, which operates only on Sundays, already has 42 artistes aged between six and 12 on its rolls.

Bhagirathi, who heads the academy, said the idea of setting up one germinated during a short workshop for children last summer. ?The workshop was an experimental project that paved the way for a new beginning in the world of Assamese theatre. We discovered some young talents and thought of a full-fledged academy.?

Encouragement came from the parents and guardians who had sent their wards to the workshop. ?They pestered us for something of a permanent nature so that children would take to the stage with more seriousness,? Bhagirathi said.

Ankita Choudhury, whose eight-year-old son Chinmoy has enrolled for a course in the academy, said she was impressed by the curriculum. ?The methods of teaching are innovative. Children are guided into the world of theatre in ways that enable them to learn all aspects of the art even while having fun. Moreover, the sessions do not hamper their studies because these are held only on Sundays.?

In the introductory classes today, the child artistes were divided into groups of six each and asked to discuss different stories. ?They were then asked to enact the stories as plays in front of their parents and guardians to do away with stage fright,? Bhagirathi said. ?The children?s innocence added a dash of freshness to our acting classes.?

Bhagirathi, who hails from Karnataka, said she hoped to get her students to formally stage their first play by February. ?We are in the process of selecting the story of our debut play. Once that is done, we will get down to rehearsals.?

The actor and her husband formed Seagull Theatre Academy in 1990, their first joint venture, and have since been doing pioneering work in experimental theatre.

Last summer, a select group of 65 children had their first brush with method acting.

At the end of their training stint, the children staged a play, Pinjara Vidyalaya, which was widely appreciated.

Islam, a recipient of the Manohar Singh Award instituted by the National School of Drama for pathbreaking work in theatre, said: ?We never try to impose the basic grammar of theatre on children. Everything is learnt with a sense of fun. At times, children themselves become teachers, which makes them responsible for their own work.?

Seagull troupes have performed at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav, organised by National School of Drama in New Delhi, Prithvi Festival in Mumbai and Sangeet Natak Akademi festivals in Guwahati, Delhi and Hyderabad.