The National School of Drama (NSD) is the only training institution of its kind in India. The 10th Bal Sangam Festival was held on its premises on 3-7 November this year, with a kaleidoscope of brilliant performing arts-related activities dedicated to children.
The Theatre In Education Company (TIE Co) showcased 18 groups from all over India and Bangladesh, who performed traditional dance and music. In an attempt to bring to the fore the magic of folk theatre, the festival also had five groups of children who performed folk theatre. The highlight of this year’s performance were Baul Children from West Bengal, Yakshagana from Karnataka, Thangta from Manipur, Ankiya Nat from Assam, Nautanki form Uttar Pradesh, Chhau from West Bengal, folk dances from Punjab, Kalari from Kerala and dances from Mizoram.
Making a mark with a marquee performance at the festival was Chakravyuha, a special theatre performance presentation from Yakshagana Kendra from Udupi, Karnataka. Chakravyuha is focussed on the epic Mahabharata, on how the Kauravas plan a Chakravyuha when Arjuna is on a distant battlefield, to capture the four other Pandavas and drop them at Kaurvas’ feet. Yakshagana Kendra was established in 1971 as a training centre for professional training in Yakshagana dance and music to young learners in the traditional Gurukul system.
In this ancient art form of coastal Karnataka, thousands of people belonging to different castes and religions depend on this art for their livelihood. It is a combination of dance, lyrics, spontaneous dialogues, brilliant costumes, playing of specific musical instruments and playback singers. It is based on the great Indian epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhaagvata and the Puranas.
Among the other traditional groups that graced the NSD campus with their performance were: Ranga Matir Pather Baul from Birbhum, West Bengal. Bauls are a religious and cultural group of India, best known for their songs and poems to God who dwells within. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya from Karaikal, Puducherry that provides quality education to talented children. Navrang Lok Kala Academi from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, Vaidhai Dance of Bundelkhand with songs of felicitations, sung on festive occasions like child-birth, marriage and festivals. Badhai Group Dance of Bundelkhand is a folk dance performed on all auspicious occasions of Bundelkhand. Since it is practised by everyone in every village and town, it is also considered a social dance. For the duration of the festival, the NSD campus turned into a veritable carnival, with numerous acts to attract children.
Adding to the festivities were clowns, dhol players, jugaad band performers, acrobats, behrupiyas, magicians, kacchi-ghodi performers, kathputli exponents, and different workshops like origami, puppet and mask making and quilling and pottery converged on the campus of National School of Drama and interacted with young minds to bring to the fore the creative and cultural vibrancy of the country. NSD believes that this heritage is both a legacy and a process that needs to be taken forward. Bal Sangam is essentially a cultural mela with an educational objective.
The festival is an ensemble of various traditional performing art forms presented by children, with the objective of encouraging them to continue traditional performances so as to preserve our cultural heritage in this rapidly changing world.