Bioscope: An insight to the state of dramatics in Jamia Millia Islamia

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

-Shakespeare, ‘As You like It’.

Who can ever forget these lines said by the renowned bard? Drama is real life without the boring bits. The theatre strives to tell the truth about life and social situations without making the audience flinch. To some it might just be an emotional exercise; a hobby to some and to some it means their whole world.

Former Vice Chancellor Prof Mohammad Mujeeb founded the Jamia Drama Society and promoted an interest in theatre amongst students. The successful staging of the play ‘Agra Bazaar’ written by Habib Tanwir marked the onset to the culture of performing arts in JMI. With a lot of setbacks, theatre in JMI witnessed a revival in 2002, when the Drama Club team got 1st position in the North zone festival held in Allahabad. Drama and theatre in JMI have evolved a great deal since then.

 In the past years, Jamia Millia Islamia has been winning many prestigious awards and trophies in dramatics. The culture of drama has largely thrived and new dramatic societies have been established. With the advent of the season of cultural fests, Aapka Times decided to explore these dramatic societies and their exponents.

  1. Team Expressions, Department of English

Established in 2014, team Expressions began its journey by winning a Nukkad Natak competition organized under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, 2014. As told by its founders, it was then an all-girls team of just fifteen members who shared the same interest in dramatics. “We felt that we all wanted to experience literature by performing it.”, as put by the team members.

In 2014, Expressions bagged the second prize in Talimi Mela. The appreciation they received from all over the university encouraged them to form several departmental productions, out of which ‘The Gift of Magi’ stands out as one of the best received. It was also performed in the 2016 Talimi Mela.

The team has represented JMI at eminent platforms like the National School of Drama in the Bhratiya Rang Mahotsava, presenting street plays and Band performances for two years, consecutively. In 2017 it got a major breakthrough after winning two awards at St. Stephens in the Shakespearean Drama Competition, organized by the Shakespeare Society of India. ‘The Judgment Day’, their production was awarded the ‘Best Original Concept’ and ‘The Best Comic character’ that was won by its actor and director Madiha Musarrat.

When being asked about their specialty, the team does not take long to think and reply that they compose their own songs and like to use live music for their plays.

  1. Department of Economics

Founded by Aman Singh, a senior student, the team of Economics has participated in the street play competitions held in JMI, including the Talimi Mela.

The members say that their choice of theme and topics is completely focused on social evils and conflicts. Reem, a member describes her experience for Talimi Mela 2016 in her own words – “It was very taxing. Very laborious and extremely tiring. But in the end, it was all worth it. Not because of the result, but because of the sheer satisfaction of being able to do that play. We spent hours getting beaten up, thrown about, hit with belts, crawling on the ground in direct sunlight but all of were very committed to the task of somehow and anyhow getting its play on its feet.”

The team went on to repeat the same play on Communal Violence in a competition in Amity University, Noida.

  1. Team Azad, Faculty of Law

In 2015 the team represented their faculty for the first time in a small event. “We decided to choose the theme of poverty that leads to evils like bonded labour and prostitution. It was about participation but we were acclaimed a lot for the choice of our theme. The best thing about our team is that we are quick to improvise and have a great tuning amongst ourselves. If any of us errs, others are quick to catch.” Saqid, a member of the team tells us.

In Talimi Mela 2015, their next street play ‘Bharat Maa ka Beta’ was performed that earned them a special place in the hearts of the viewers because of its sharp satire, pinching humor and careful handling of sensitive issues like ‘Beef Ban’ and ‘Mob Lynching.’ Communal harmony was the message the team aimed to convey and was successful at many levels to do so.

The team gained official recognition from their faculty after they stood second at a street play competition organized by Delhi Police in 2016. They took the risk of doing the play on a highly debated issue-the Khaap Panchayat. The team reveals that they have been actively working on the Delhi State Legal Services Authority. They have gone for Legal Literacy Camps where they worked on social issues in governmental schools of Zakir Nagar and Batla house. They have also performed in Pragati Maidan at the World Book Fair.

  1. IASE Drama club, Faculty of Education

The team of Faculty of Education has performed street plays at the Foundation Day, Jamia Millia Islamia in the last two years consecutively. The team comprises of about ten odd members. It is reputed for their choice of themes and exceptional performances. ‘Baat ka Batangadh’ and ‘Bittu ki Pathshaala’ are two of their street plays. One of their plays at Department of Social Work won them Second Prize.

The culture of performing arts is getting propagated in full swing throughout the university. Dramatic societies have been formed in various departments that have participated in local and national events, and have got a lot of appreciation for their efforts.

In a conversation with Adnan Bismillah, the director of Josh, the official drama society of Jamia we come to know how drama has touched the lives of students in JMI and from various other universities. “Theatre gives us the opportunity to understand life, our situations and if nothing then at least helps us understand and identify ourselves. People should do theatre and drama with the goal of not just mass entertainment but also to create a difference in the mindset of the society. There are very few theatre groups who function to struggle in opposition to the set norms and express themselves; because that has never been easy. We try to choose themes that unveil social ills. That is how drama contributes in changing the state of affairs of the country.

We are glad about the development of drama in JMI. And we want it to reach as many people as possible. For people who want any kind of help related to dramatics, the Drama Club remains at your disposal.”

Josh won the first prize at the “32nd North Zone Inter University Youth Festival 2016-17” for its production ‘Badzaat Titli’.  Some of its other popular productions are ‘Gandhiji ne Kaha tha’, ‘Andher Nagri, Chaupat Raja’, ‘Hawalat’ and ‘Kafan’. The team has also represented JMI at National School of Drama in a street play related to the duplicity of media in our country.

Prof Danish Iqbal, who coordinated the first inter university competition named ‘Josh Vihangham’, 2013 explains how Drama helps to channelize the creative energy in individuals. “PG Diploma in Acting came under limelight when our student Rohan Verma stood first in a celebrated drama competition in IITB. Our course complements activities related to drama and theatre. To celebrate theatre on an even better scale, we need to perform more often and in more spaces. The notion that theatre can happen only in auditoriums and that plays performed in streets should be called street play has to be shattered.

It feels good to see so many dramatic societies growing in Jamia. I think the administration, the HODs should come forward and help the students to run these groups smoothly. Experts should train the groups in workshops. And if any department faces problem in getting help from experts, we are always ready to provide them with one.”

He adds that inter-university competitions like Miraas and Talimi mela enable students to enter a healthy competition with each other and encourage the production of good dramatic works. It’s an inspirational competition for them, which should be encouraged by everyone.

The Sahitya Kala Parishad has been inviting MCRC, JMI to perform for it since the last two years. In 2016 students of PG Diploma in Acting performed a Sanskrit culture play called ‘Madhyam Vyayog’ and in the next year they staged the epic ‘Rustom and Sohrab’, a larger than life play based on Farsi theatre.

Kriti Kundu is a student of Literature in Jamia Millia Islamia. She loves to read; magic realism and mystery are her favorite genres. She likes to spend her time watching art films and discussing about them. She doesn’t believe in idolization but finds Frieda Kahlo’s life as her biggest motivation. “Whenever I feel disheartened or low, I just have a look at her paintings. She makes me want to live my life to the fullest, in spite of anything that comes in my way. She inspires me to give my best, every time.”
She is currently working as an editor and script writer with Team Expressions, a dramatic society. She loves to eat and try different cuisines and calls Biriyani her ‘weakness’. She wishes to improve her social skills and says that she is terrible in interacting with people, in general!