School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU: Gateway to the world of art

  • Aanchal Bedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 09, 2015 16:24 IST

For more than 50 years, India has been producing the largest number of multilingual films in the world. The distinctive form and aesthetics developed in the Indian film industry have attracted the attention of people across the world. And this attracted people like Ritika Popli to cinema studies.

“After finishing my graduation in journalism and mass communication from Delhi University, I decided to pursue my passion for theatre and realised there was one place to enroll in, namely the School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA), Jawaharlal Nehru University. It is probably the only school in the country that offers a comprehensive interdisciplinary course in the fields of art history, film studies and theatre and performance studies. The course enables one to understand the theoretical propositions of all these discourses, besides looking at them through the lens of practice,” says Popli. She is currently doing an MA in arts and aesthetics.


“SAA is one of the few places in India that offers ­postgraduate degree courses in ­theoretical and critical study of the ­cinematic, visual and performing arts,” says Ira Bhaskar, professor, cinema studies and dean, SAA.

It is also the only institute where these disciplines are offered as part of an integrated programme that allows students to understand the individual arts in relation to one another as well as in a broader context of history, sociology, politics, semiotics, gender and cultural studies.

The three streams of study offered at the school are visual studies, theatre and performance studies and cinema studies.

“The interdisciplinary approach sets the school apart. I am in my last semester of the two-year integrated master’s programme, which combines all the three streams of visual studies, cinema studies and theatre and performance studies,” says Kamayani Sharma, a master’s student.


The school currently offers MA, MPhil and PhD programmes. The MA in arts and aesthetics is a cross-disciplinary programme combining a study of the visual and performing arts and cinema studies.

At the MPhil and PhD level, one can specialise in any one of following streams: visual studies, theatre and performance studies and cinema studies. The visual studies department offers courses on ancient Indian art and architecture, aesthetic theories, Mughal and Rajput painting, modern and contemporary art and popular culture.

Theatre and performance studies include theatre, dance, music as well as other non-aesthetic performances like rituals, healing and forms of public performances. As a discipline, cinema studies is extremely inter-disciplinary and draws on the content and methods of literature, history, sociology, political science, anthropology, and economics among others.


Admission to the MA programme is through an entrance examination. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree under 10+2+3 pattern of education with at least 50% marks are eligible to appear for the exam. Entrance examinations are held every May. Candidates seeking admission to the MA programmes are expected to have broad understanding of the history, practice and theory of film, visual culture and the performing arts. Admission to MPhil is through a separate entrance examination for each stream followed by a viva voce. Only those candidates will be eligible to apply who have a master’s degree in any discipline with at least 50% marks.

A PhD programme requires a high degree of specialised knowledge, familiarity with the literature on the subject and training to undertake original research.

The school also offers several optional courses in subjects that complement those taught as part of the regular curricula.

Events and activities

Students are encouraged to visit exhibitions, watch theatre, attend film and music festivals. The school organises field trips to monuments and museums.

As a part of the school’s commitment to sensitise students to different cultures across the country, students are taken on study tours to different sites of historical importance and folk festivals.

Till date, students have visited places such as Lahore and Harappa in Pakistan, the cities of Mathura, Jaipur and Agra, the Ramlila at Ramnagar and the theatre workshop of Shri Lokendra Arambham in Imphal, Manipur. The school has its own gallery where exhibitions on contemporary and historical art are held. These are curated by the students and faculty themselves. The School’s auditorium hosts several lectures, film festivals and performances.

JNU is full of great places to hang out in. The iconic Ganga Dhaba and the lawn between the hostels, Koyna and Mahi Mandvi, are a ­favourite among students

The department is quite new as compared to the other schools in JNU. The ­faculty is also open to constructive criticism and change

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