Note: As the end of semester and CLAT draws closer, I wanted to show that you can pursue a plethora of things at law school & that your ‘life’ – constituting all of your interests, passions and aspirations can remain intact even after you come here. Nothing needs to change. I decided to sit with Nuhar Bansal, a fifth-year at the Gujarat National Law University, to ask her what Theatre means to her and how this definition has evolved over 5 years. What ensued was a marvelous hour-long discussion, one that I will remember and cherish. Thank you, Nuhar.
– Tejas Rao
The First Year of Law School
The memory that stands out the most has to be my Theatre Club Audition. Theatre Club had been established by my immediate seniors – it was the first year that the rest of the college was introduced to theatre as an activity. My audition was really fun. The head, Kunal Chaturvedi asked all first years to line up, asked me to enact being a lesbian coming out to her family, gave me 5 minutes to prepare, and said, “Go figure”. I wanted to make it stand out. My scene went a little bit like this. As usual, I was talking to my girlfriend on my phone, when my mother walks in, setting off panic alarms, and I decide to come out to her. After explaining everything to her, I run out of the room. Following on from this, I acted as my mother, who then is melodramatic, but calls her girlfriend and says, “Guess what, my daughter is just like me”. Kunal was rather amused, haha.
Another thing is also the way our hostels were designed on the old campus. Essentially, it was a bachelor pad type thing – very apartment like, with multiple blocks. Each room was pretty big, with a pantry, a bedroom and a washroom – really comfortable. The reason I’m detailing this is because the one thing I see in my batch, is that the structure of buildings and blocks has stayed throughout. What I mean, is that our closest friends are from those blocks we used to live in, even today. My closest friend, is my old neighbor. This definitely won’t exist with your batch, for example. It used to be really homely.
I’m also inclined to mention a fun memory here. Women’s clothing in India doesn’t come with pockets, and I hate holding things in my hand. As a result, I had a green sling bag, which always contained my keys, my phone and my money – three essentials, as I’m sure you’re now accustomed to. I never moved anywhere without it. In my first month of college, I was known as “green-bag girl”. My green bag – the most inconsequential thing, became my identity.
The Interest in Theatre
I’ve always been interested in Dramatics, which comes from my family. Both my parents are really academic, but are equally inclined toward sports and extra-curricular activities. My nanu actually ran away from home to go to Bombay and become an actor, so I think I’m carrying the genes pretty well. I was the head of the theatre club at Christ Junior College (Bangalore), so the step to theatre at college was only natural. I must admit, however, that it was not a passion – it became a passion only after coming here.
Changes at College
I’m going to talk about two things here. The infrastructure and the social culture here, and you’ll see that the changes in infrastructure has impacted the social culture greatly. Back then, with my generation and the batches above us, things were very personal. Conversations were very personal, and there was a lot less of “What’s up?” type conversations. People waited for you to answer, instead of it merely being a greeting. The bonding was very strong. This could also be because of the way we perceived ragging – everyone knew what the boundaries were. And as juniors, we knew that the bond formed through interactions would be very strong. Like, right now, I don’t know as many people, apart from Theatre juniors, or people I know through Theatre juniors, as compared to my seniors, whom I had a very good rapport with. This could also be because of the administrative instructions issued. The personal interactions aren’t there, anymore.
This extends to Theatre too. Joining the club used to be all about wanting to perform on stage, but now, it seems like a very strategic thing to do. Who’s heading the club, and whatnot – considerations that really shouldn’t matter. The outlook toward everything has changed – we overthink conversations, clubs, and a lot of other things.
I used to deny this outright at the start – because I felt I wasn’t that old, but I’m seriously telling you, there’s a generation gap between my batch and yours, and it’s now very visible. The virtual world is reflected greatly today, and the warmth seems to have left the place. My nostalgic memories are from two years ago, when I’d rather have them from this, my final year.
As I’ve said above, I’ve always been interested in Theatre – I always liked acting. The genre of the play never mattered to me, and the impact of the play was something I was very into. I’d be okay with enacting a negative role if it had a positive impact – even if it meant crossing a few boundaries and being unconventional. Initially, theatre used to be synonymous with Bakchod plays – simple post dinner entertainment. It used to be pretty impromptu. In my second year, we had people coming in who had done formal theatre training – who allowed us to revamp things. That was the first time we enacted an English play, where we told people it was a serious thing. We got equal amounts of positive and negative responses – but all of it only encouraged us to explore more genres.
I’m really grateful for the type of seniors I had – Kunal, Ravinder, Harshal sir, Ankit sir, some of whom had done theatre professionally. They made me appreciate Theatre as an Art – that’s where the transition from Actor to Director happened for me. Today, I get a bigger kick from directing a play – I love to see how everything comes together – music, lights, textiles, dialogue. I now want to do all parts of Theatre. This is also when I realized that people’s outlooks toward Theatre in a non-Arts environment like a Law School, is very different. At the end of third year, I realized that I wanted Theatre Club to make people think and not just entertain. We needed to create a space that was enabling for people, which became 0.11 (a classroom).
In addition, the rapport used to be very different. Seniors used to treat you like younger siblings, but that never affected the way we worked. Our working relationship used to be very different. I’m a very bossy person by nature, and as a second-year I yelled at a fourth-year, saying “Aisa nahi hota hai, sir”. To have that freedom was incredible.
What it does to you personally is incredible – the experience of stories, and being able to think like a different person. I’m having pangs of detachment now, and I think about what is next for the Art of Theatre at college all the time. People here really need to know what it is – their perceptions need to change.
Museum of Species in Danger (written by Rasika Aghashe after the Nirbhaya incident) is the one play that changed my life. It was the first play I directed full fledged. It’s a very strong feminist satire – Sita, for example questions Agnipariksha while Draupadi talks about the struggle of maintaining her sex timetable with five husbands. It takes you through a journey of various feminist incidents in India. It was very over-ambitious – college had never seen anything as heavy as this. It was then I realized that my audience was law-schoolites and if they weren’t ready for it, nobody would be.
That was the semester I had stopped leaving my room for meals, or for classes – I got an attendance back (which thankfully got cleared), but the toll it takes on you is real. I became a different person when I was speaking to my parents. You get under the skin of the character you are portraying. My happiness is largely derived out of seeing other people being impacted by what we’re doing. I used to see 2 people, and now I see 5 – and this incremental growth, if I have in any way contributed to it, makes me incredibly happy.
The Balancing Act
The deal with me is I can’t do something only for the sake of doing it. For example, I took Science in 12th only because I liked Math. I took a gap-year after 12th to explore things – did Arts, which changed my perspective completely, especially after doing Science. That’s exactly why, when I began liking something, I devoted myself to it.
Also, I never came here to be a full-time academic. Being in the Top 10 of my batch is never something I truly desired. I would have loved to, but it’s not something I actively wanted. Honestly, there is a time where I did not manage – I messed up my academics really badly. I’m very lucky that I have friends and genes that can pull me through. On my worst days, where I’ve done zero preparation, I got an average score. My parents never forced their expectations upon me, which I’m very grateful for. My academic performance has never been great, but it hasn’t been bad.
This also doesn’t mean that I’ve ditched other ‘law school’ activities. I’ve done 3 moots, including an international moot. I did IMLAM in my first year, followed by two national moots in my second year. I loved the learning experiences overall.
Ultimately, I think it is all your choice. This entire notion of not doing traditional law school activities has not affected me personally, and I really don’t think it should. My ambitions for Theatre are huge, and this doesn’t extend to my ambitions with Law. There are enough examples of people who are as dedicated as I am in Theatre Club with an incredible academic percentage too.
A lot of this confidence will come from the set of friends you maintain. My closest friend is a person who hadn’t been exposed to Theatre for the first 15 years of her life, and even when she did, she had heard of it mockingly. But now, when people ask her what she’s looking forward to in Chicago, where she’ll be for the next year, she listed Theatre as one of the things. She regularly reminds me that I know things she doesn’t, because of Theatre, and that gives me perspective and means a lot.
That’s why I’ve been able to enjoy my journey through Law School – the motivation helps you immensely.
I’m never going to say I should have gone to Theatre School instead, because if I didn’t come to Law School, I wouldn’t have discovered myself and my love for the art of theatre as I have and for that – I’m grateful.
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