The School of Arts and Aesthetics is one of the few places in India that offers post-graduate degree courses in the theoretical and critical study of the cinematic, visual and performing arts. Moreover, it is the only place in India where these disciplines are offered in one integrated programme that allows students to understand the individual arts in a broader context of history, sociology, politics, semiotics, gender and cultural studies apart from being able to integrate the study of one art form with the other arts. The three streams of study offered at the school are Visual Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies and Cinema Studies.
The pedagogic approach of the SAA recognises that it no longer suffices to study a work of art as an 'object' in isolation, apart from the social forces that shape and give it meaning. The teaching here adopts a multidisciplinary approach drawing on insights from the fields of anthropology, history, media and cultural studies. Students are introduced to a range of research methods that combine archival, ethnographic, theoretical and cultural approaches.
The School focuses on taught degree programmes. The faculty encourages students - and other interested persons - to take advantage of Delhi's cultural riches by visiting exhibitions, theatre, film and music festivals. The School organises field trips to monuments and museums and to observe traditional theatre, music and dance practices across India. The School also has a busy schedule of lectures and seminars by visiting scholars and artists from across the world and occasionally hosts performances as well.
Visual Studies faculty offer courses on ancient Indian Art and Architecture, Aesthetic theories, Mughal and Rajput painting, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Popular Culture. These are taught together with courses that familiarise the students with the materials and methods of producing the visual arts and the history of the institutions that house, showcase and promote them.
At present, visiting faculty give further instruction on the architecture of the Sultanates, and in the coming year the School plans to develop further its courses on the Indian painting.
Theatre and Performance Studies comprise theatre, dance, music as well as other non-aesthetic performances like ritual, healing and forms of public spectacles. In India countless forms of theatre, semi-theatre, and classical, folk and tribal dance and ritual are still alive and immensely popular. Their nature is not based on any strict antagonism between 'classical' and 'folk'. Further, India's shastric traditions also seem to percolate across regions and through levels of high and low culture. The current faculty in this area cover courses in the field of ancient, medieval and contemporary Indian theatre, while visiting faculty instruct in the fields of the history of dance and music.
Cinema Studies is one of the most significant academic disciplines to have emerged internationally in the last few decades. This is not surprising since the birth of the cinema transformed our sense of the world, and film has evolved both as a social institution and as the most powerful art form of the 20th century. As a discipline Cinema Studies is extremely interdisciplinary and it draws on the content and methods of literature, history, sociology, political science, anthropology, and economics among others.
India has been for half a century the world's largest film producing country with an output in several different languages. Responding to local traditions of performance and representation, the Indian film industry has evolved a distinctive form and aesthetic. Today, Indian cinema is widely circulated outside the country to foreign audiences in Russia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and the Indian diasporas. Indian cinema is the screen through which many parts of the world 'see' India. The introduction of Film Studies is a major academic addition to the programmes of the School.