Cut for Arts

Three years ago there were only two countries in our region without an academy for the promotion of performing arts, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In 2005 the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) happily put an end to this misery in our neck of the woods at least.

To put it simply, NAPA represents an effort to take the unpolished raw coal of our society and through hard work, lots and lots of man-hours and three whole years turns out glittering jewels of performing arts for us to enjoy as a nation. Yes, that is how long it takes to excel in a specific field of performing arts of which there are namely three, Music, Theatre/Drama & Dance. The amount of hard work and dedication required for each of these subjects is quite immense as witnessed by the fact that out of 50 enrollees for each discipline, the last graduating batch saw 9 students get over the finishing line per area.

Housed in the magnificent Hindu Gymkhana, the faculty for this academy is a quartet of immense power and experience, the chairman being Zia Mohyeddin and the board comprising luminaries like Rahat Kazmi, Arshad Mahmud and Talat Hussain, all grand masters in their own areas of excellence and proven stalwarts of our theatre, film and television fraternity.

NAPA spends around 1.5 million rupees per student during the three year course it offers. With such a vast ground to cover for each student, this organization basically survives on donations and grants that it receives from its patrons. However its largest patron which is the government, has recently displayed sluggishness in their support and basically reduced their grant size to one third of what it was some time ago. NAPA which was getting Rs37 million in funding from the federal government to promote arts and culture will now get Rs17 million. This, of course, means an enormous reduction in revenue input and thus NAPA is struggling badly.

We might sit and think from an outsider’s point of view that 1.5 million charged on each student over three years represents a high sum of money and perhaps like the rest of us NAPA should also tighten its belt in these worsening economic times. However, we need to cast a glance at some of the comparable schools in the west in terms of faculty experience and teaching imparted, to learn that they are charging the same amount for just one year of teaching. For example the London School of Performing Arts where a single annum’s fee is around 12,000 GBP and that’s just tuition. This is not the only difference because NAPA, unlike the other academies worldwide, does not just provide its graduates with the proper tools to glitter with onstage but also an opportunity to do so practically. It basically employs its graduates the year around in the NAPA Repertory Theatre Company, which stages plays on its premises and is groundbreaking in this regard for the students.

So do we let an effort like this just dwindle away? To me, our art is as much a part of our culture as our language and forms the basic perception of us worldwide. We as a society need to realize that we have limited options for safe and fun family entertainment in this urban jungle of ours. NAPA and its theatre company are a tempting and enlightening option, we need to come together to support it and our rich art and music through it. If not for us then for our future generations, who will forever thank us for giving them the stars of tomorrow and not just broken dreams from re runs of art extinguished through lack of support. As Arshad Mahmud put it aptly, “No society can have economic development without social development, and we are working over our capacity to bring about social development.”

So for those who matter, for those who can make it happen do something, your nation’s creativity awaits your response.

Published on 6th July 2008 in “The News”


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