National School of Drama puts out religious posts on social media handles; senior artists and alumni object

‘Dissemination of religious messages, imagery and iconography of any kind by a state-run institution goes against remit of such institutions,’ says a letter sent to office of NSD chairman Paresh Rawal

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Ashlin Mathew

For days, the social media handles of the National School of Drama (NSD) have been posting only about religious festivals, and a day after the handles carried a post on Karva Chauth, several artists, academics, writers and alumni wrote a letter to its Chairman Paresh Rawal objecting to the use of the drama school’s social media handles to post about “religious images and iconography”.

“The dissemination of religious messages, imagery and iconography of any kind by a public, state-run institution goes against the remit of such institutions. We bring this to the notice of the authorities at NSD, and demand that this be stopped immediately,” read the statement.

The letter, which has more than 400 signatures, was sent to the office of NSD chairman Paresh Rawal and acting director Dinesh Khanna.

NSD’s Instagram handle usually posts shows, important announcements, statements from the director praising the Prime Minister and photos of visiting artistes and dignitaries. However, in October, the handle began posting about deities such as Ma Shaelputri, Ma Brahmcharini Ma Chandraganta, Ma Kushmanda and Ma Kathyani among others.

On October 19, there was a post on Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi. This was followed by posts on Valmiki Jayanti and Karva Chauth.

The Facebook page of the school is relatively inactive, but in September, it had posts about PM’s memento e-auction and promotional material for ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

In August it had posts on the chairman and the acting director singing the national anthem on Independence Day.

The letter stated that posts which promote religious festivals were an embarrassment to the institution and divert form its function as a reputed school for the arts.

“If you should need assistance in improving the standards of public-facing communications, we urge you to reach out to past members of the faculty and artistic communities, who would be only too happy to help the institute maintain its identity as an institution of national repute,” read the letter.

The signatories underlined that though NSD has a rich tradition of celebrating all festivals within the campus for everyone to participate equally, being a national institution, it has no affiliation to any particular religion or community.

“Why should a national institute meant for theatre education put posts for religious festivals? NSD should not be doing so. It is an educational institution. The chairman and the acting director can do what they want on their personal handles,” pointed out MK Raina, theatre actor and director, and one of the signatories of the letter.

The signatories have demanded that NSD’s public communication on social media be restricted to relevant posts about theatre, arts and education. They hoped that greater care would be taken to safeguard the high standards, stature and reputation of the institution.

The signatories include former NSD director Anuradha Kapur, academic A Mangai, alumni such as Seema Biswas, Aniruddha Khutwad, Kannan Unni, faculty members KS Rajendran and other eminent artists such as Shobana, Dr S Sunil, Maya Krishna Rao, Sadaf Raza, Sudhanva Deshpande, Santhosh Venjaramoodu, Sharath Karanth, Abhishek Majumdar and Zeeshan Khan.

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