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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri’s Alma Mater, NSD’s Theatre Olympics

Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri’s Alma Mater, NSD’s Theatre Olympics

India’s National School of Drama (NSD) has produced many a luminary in the field of film and television, both in front of and behind the camera. An autonomous institution under Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, it is located in New Delhi. The first batch of students came in 1961. Since then, between 10 and 33 students pass out every year.

NSD is now holding its 8th Theatre Olympics in Mumbai, and in 16 other centres across India. This edition of the global theatre festival will have over 25000 artistes, performing 450 shows, 600 ambience performances, and 250 youth shows, selected from among 1,000 Indian entries and over 100 international. The capital of Maharashtra, Mumbai, is one of the co-hosts of the festival. Mumbai will play host to 28 performances, from 24th March to 7th April 2018, presenting a diverse range of theatre forms from all over the world. An international seminar on dwindling popularity of theatre is scheduled in the city, titled ‘Who Shrunk My Theatre?’ The Mumbai chapter of the 8th Theatre Olympics is organised by the National School of Drama (NSD) in collaboration with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Maharashtra. Earnest efforts are being made to hold the grand finale at the Gateway of India.         

Prominent NSD alumni include B.V. Karanth, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Shivpuri, Sudha Shivpuri, Sai Paranjpye, Harpal Tiwana, Ramgopal Bajaj, Kamlakar Sontakke, Amal Allana, Uttara Baokar, M.K. Raina, Nadira Zaheer Babbar, Manohar Singh, Surekha Sikri, Jayadev Hattangadi, Rohini Hattangadi, Raj Babbar, Pankaj Kapur, K.K. Raina, Anita Kanwar, Anupam Kher, Gyan Shivpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Alok Nath, Ratna Pathak, Deepa Sahi, S. Ghodke, Waman Kendre, Ashok Banthia, Himani Shivpuri, Bani Sharad Joshi, Madhusree Dutta, Sushmita Mukheree, Seema Biswas, Saleem Arif, Atul Tiwari, Shrivallabh Vyas, Yusuf Khurram, Renuka Israni, Satish Kaushik, Piyush Mishra, Meeta Vashist, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Ashish Vidyarthi, Zakir Hussain, Swanand Kirkire, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Kumud Mishra, Gopal Dutt, Om Puri and Irrfan Khan. The names are culled from students that passed out till the year 2000. I may have missed out a few, but really, there are too many. And the new millennium alumni? Well some of them are on their way to stardom, but we have to stop somewhere.

Performances include specially invited plays from renowned theatre maestros, as well as local productions. Here’s a sample list: “Mohe Piya” by NSD’s Director and alumnus, Waman Kendre, “Sonata” (Sohag Sen), “Rashmakirathi” (Ravishankar Khare), “Phera” (Soumitra Chatterjee) and eight international productions, including “Shri 420” (Saba Zaidi and Atul Tiwari, Australia), “Almost Alive” (Sabine Molenaar, Belgium) and “Xuan Zang’s Pilgrimage” (Wang Ziangyun, China). Mumbai will also host an international seminar on dwindling popularity of theatre that may be attended by renowned playwrights such as Tom Stoppard (80 year old Czech-British playwright), and popular Indian actors, M. K. Raina, Arundhati Nag, and Dev Shankar Halder.

“Art has been the earliest form of communication and nothing gives an artist more delight than performing in front of an audience that appreciates art, no matter from which part of the world they come. In a way, theatre is a great equaliser and unites people of multiple cultures and traditions under one umbrella. We are extremely proud to bring the world’s largest theatre festival to India. During this 51-day long nationwide celebration of the 8th Theatre Olympics, we attempt to bridge the borders across countries through the call of theatre, and engage in creating a global village,” says Dr. Arjun Deo Charan, Acting Chairman of National School of Drama Society.

“For the past 3 years we had the dream to bring Theatre Olympics to India. The dream that we had seen has come true. Since we began to envision and achieve this feat, Dr. Mahesh Sharma and the Ministry of Culture have extended wholehearted support to the idea and have played an instrumental role in making it a reality. Throughout centuries we have seen playwright like Shakespeare and Bertolt Brecht becoming a part of Indian theatre, while despite having our own extraordinary playwrights and theatrical figures, we are still to make similar impact. This is a huge leap towards that direction of putting Indian theatre on the world map. We should be proud of our theatre legacy that is more than 2500 years old,” says Prof. Waman Kendre, Director, National School of Drama.

It presents some of the greatest theatre practitioners from around the world and is a platform for theatrical exchange for students and masters, where a dialogue, despite ideological, culture and language differences, is encouraged. So far, the Theatre Olympics has been held seven, times in the following countries: Japan (1999), Russia (2001), Turkey (2006), South Korea (2010), China (2014), Poland (2016). The theme of this edition is “Flag of Friendship”, and in 2018, India will be flying this flag.

An eminent theatre personality, with a graduation in Arts and a one-year proficiency certification course in Dramatics from Dr. Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad, NSD alumnus Prof. Waman Kendre, prior to joining NSD, served as Professor and Director, Academy of Theatre Arts, University of Mumbai (2003 – 2013). His teaching experience spans almost thirty years, and he has conducted more than two hundred and fifty workshops on varying aspects of theatre, in India and abroad (America, Mauritius). He has done practice-oriented research on the Folk and Ritualistic Theatre of Kerala, and had been a Research Associate with the Theatre Development Centre, NCPA, Mumbai, for nine and a half years.

His productions Zulwa(2005), Madhyam Vyayog (2004), Jaaneman (NSD Rep. 2002), Tempt Me Not (NCPA, 1992), Nati Goti (1990), Gadhe Ki Barat (SRC, 1988), Ladi Nazariya (NSD, 1994), Saiyyan Bhaye Kotwal and Rajdarshan (with IPTA, Mumbai – 1985 & ’86) are still considered to be landmarks. His play ‘Char Divas Premache’ celebrated its 1000th show on 1st May 2009. Navid Inamdar, now 43, holds a Masters Degree in Theatre Arts, with a Gold medal and distinction, from Babasaheb Marathwada University, Aurangabad. He also holds a Masters degree in Hindi . A former Technical Superintendent in Academy of Theatre Arts, Mumbai University (2006-2009), he has also been the Chief Manager of P.L. Deshpande Maharashtra Kala Academy, of the Government of Maharashtra (2009-2011).

Navid Inamdar has designed sets for many plays including Vedpashya, Mohandas, Gazab Teri Ada, Ashi Pakhare Yeti, Aurangzeb ki Aakhri Raat, Good Doctor, Baby and Wada Chirebandi among others. He has designed lighting for the plays Baki Itihas, Insha-Allah and Ma-As-Saabrin. Inamdar has also written some one-act plays, including Prashn Chinh, Khurchiwad Zindabad, Zadap and Green Valley. As a director, he has helmed many plays, including Arvind More's Ulzan, Safdar Hashmi's Raja ka Baja, R. Chava's Tolak and Manohar Katdare's Ghetala Shingavar. among others. He has acted in over 30 plays, including Zulwa, Madhyam Vyavog, Gandhi Jayanti, Bhagwatajjukam and Ekach Pyala, to name a few.

Ashok Banthia is someone I met in 1987, when he was playing the Senior Nawab of Pataudi (Saif Ali Khan’s grand-father) for a television series. He was born in Udaipur, to a traditional business family. In 1982, he earned a diploma in theatre/dramatics from Panjab University, Chandigarh, followed by the National School of Drama, New Delhi, and a course in direction at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), in Sydney. Just after he finished his course at NIDA, he received an offer to work with Kennedy Miller's serial Bodyline, where he played the role of Indian cricketer Nawab of Pataudi Sr. He also did a role in Peter Morhan's English film, The Peacock Spring, the French film Indian Orchid, and many other Hindi films. Theatre roles include Ramayan, Chanakya, Mohenjo-daro, Chanakyashashtra and The Last Train. Ashok is married to Mala Dey, another prominent theatre-person, who has earned accolades as a costume designer.

Ashvin Gidwani redefined the theatre business in India. After producing theatre for close to two decades and being the brainchild behind runaway successes like Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, Double Deal, History of India, Battle of Da Sexes, The Scent of A Man, Two To Tango Three To Jive, Blame It On Yashraj and Bottoms Up, AGP World is a force to reckon with, in the field of theatre, and live, customised experiences. He has created a 360 degree customized business solutions for brands like HSBC, Tata Capital, Blackberry, Hyatt, Godrej, Standard Chartered, Emirates Airlines, A tout France, Motilal Oswal integrate their objectives through the medium of performing arts. Exactly 20 years after being constituted, Ashvin Gidwani Productions rebranded itself as AGP World, to create a legacy that can be taken ahead into the new millennium With theatrical plays across comedy, drama, musicals, children's theatre, inspiration and thrillers, Ashvin Gidwani has explored almost every genre, in his arsenal.

Navid Inamdar, Arvind Gidwani, Waman Kendre and Ashok Banthia

A Press Conference was held on 16 March in Mumbai, co-ordinated by a local PR agency called Gloocal. It was well-attended. Among those present were Prof. Waman Kendre himself, Navid Inamdar, Ashok Banthia and the Public Relations Officer of the NSD, Anoop Barua. There, it was announced that admission to the performances is free, and is secured against passes or online reservations. Once all pass-holders are admitted, theatres will be open to the public, which can then sit on any seat, except those reserved for VIPs and Media. Seats are not reserved, some rows are. Nehru Centre and Ravindra Natya Mandir are the chosen venues, both located in central Mumbai, and a few kilometres from each other. Contact details are below:

Theatre Olympics url:

The 8th Theatre Olympic Festival cell email id:

NSD’s Mumbai office: Tanuj Sharma +919643887904

NSD’s PRO Anoop Barua: +9198103329401,

NSD url:

National School of Drama

Bahawalpur House

1, Bhagwandas Road

New Delhi – 110 001


Landlines: 011-23389402



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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