Casteism to paedophilia: Here’s how college theatre has evolved over the years | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Casteism to paedophilia: Here’s how college theatre has evolved over the years

Dramatics society of Delhi University’s colleges are highlighting the raging issues of the day — freedom of expression, paedophilia, unconventional love, casteism and more. Here’s how the theatre scene has evolved over the years.

art and culture Updated: Feb 27, 2017 18:39 IST
Henna Rakheja
Venkateswara College

A scene from the play Learning to Drive by Verbum of Sri Venkateswara College.

In a play, when a 35-year-old character looks back at her teen years, flashes of being molested by her uncle comes to her mind. The play, Learning to Drive deals with the issue of paedophilia. “We are also showing the uncle’s side of the story. Not that we are painting a brighter picture of paedophilia but we are trying not to be clichéd,” says Akshaj Saini, a member of Verbum, English dramatics society of DU’s Venkateswara College.

He explains, “We wanted to show this girl, who has gone through a lot and yet doesn’t hold it against the man.” From politics to relationships and social issues such as casteism — collegiate theatre, today, is far more nuanced and vocal about the raging issues, in both form and content. And some of these plays will be staged at Atelier’s ACT Festival and Old World Collegiate Theatre Festival over this weekend.

“In the last three years, college students associated with theatre have become much more socially responsible and critically receptive,” says Varna Balakrishnan, member of Lady Shri Ram College for Women’s (LSR) dram soc. Their play, Mathilukal, is based on the novel by Malayalam writer, VM Basheer, which deals with the relationship between a female and a male prisoner.

A lot of plays are being conceptualised to highlight freedom of expression. For instance, Situation Under Control, by students of Guru Tegh Bahadur Institute of Technology, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, addresses the “new fear among Indian citizens, to address their fundamental rights such as the right to speech.” The play takes inspiration from the rising cases of people being harassed for updating their opinion about the country or governing body, on their social media account.

There are also plays such as EvamIndrajit (by Shunya, dram soc of Ramjas College) that addresses the existential crisis of our everyday monotonous life. And In the Name of the Bully (by The Players from Kirori Mal College), runs through the narrative of a dysfunctional family, where each generation wants to break from the norms of the former but instead ends up doing the same things.

Unlike yesteryears, these days plays are well-researched and professors can be credited for this renewed approach. The professors are to be credited for the consciousness among students. “In 2007, for the first season of ACT, there were just 15 teams. In 2017, 84 teams applied and 72 turned up,” says Kuljeet Singh, professor, Department of English, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa (SGTB) College, DU, and creative director of Atelier Theatre.

“When we started in 2002, students largely picked up known and safe plays. The subjects they choose today, from brutality to incest, and the maturity with which they handle them makes you think about their increased level of competence,” says Vidyun Singh, director programmes, Habitat World, which organises Old World Collegiate Theatre Festival.

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