Process on to archive the journey of significant theatre groups in the Capital

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New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) An ambitious project to bring alive the memories and underline the contribution of some of Delhi’s significant theatre groups, including the Delhi Art Theatre, is underway and glimpses of the process were seen at a two-day event at Sahitya Akademi here.

An effort by Natarang Pratishthan, a city-based archive and resource centre for Indian theatre, the archiving process is being aided by the Raza Foundation, also a city-based body set up by the late modern art painter S.H. Raza, who passed away last year.

Kickstarting the process was ‘Rang Smaran’, a two-day event that began at the Sahitya Akademi on Tuesday with members of the Delhi Art Theatre sharing anecdotes and talking about their involvement in the formation of the iconic theatre group.

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“The idea is to record an oral history for posterity and undertake a documentation of the old theatre groups of Delhi. Post-independence was really an exciting period with many emerging theatre groups but unfortunately there is no physical record of it. Our aim is to capture those moments and memories for the younger generation,” said theatre director, Kirti Jain.

Kirti is the daughter of the late poet and theatre person, Nemichand Jain, who founded ‘Natrang’, the oldest surviving theatre journal in the country. Previous editions of the journal, along with brochures, posters, books and media clippings from Jain’s personal collection have now been digitally archived.

“Archiving is a mammoth exercise and while over 75 per cent of material like books, magazines and press clippings have been sourced from Nemichand’s personal collection, we are also contacting different people to contribute. It is a big relief to have the assistance of the Raza Foundation in creating this valuable record,” Kirti said.

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Interestingly, after arriving in the capital from Lahore, Sheila Bhatia, a mathematics school teacher, started Delhi Art Theatre in 1951 and subsequently produced plays in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindustani.

A short video clip that featured Bhatia narrating the origin of the theatre group and recounting various anecdotes relating to it was also screened during the event.

At the Sahitya Akademi, a small exhibition of photos, brochures and playlists, giving a glimpse of the journey theatre groups in Delhi have taken, is also on show.



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