Friday, 14 November 2014

A Child's Play

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        The last few days I have driven half across the city looking for a boy who stopped smiling; waiting to buy a song so it could be sent to a village or to watch man take flight to distant planets from the caves. Usually all that driving makes me nuts going round and round in circles. If you have been in Lutyen's Delhi with a faulty in built GPS in me, you will know what I am talking about. But this once I did not mind being behind the wheels. 

     For that matter, winters makes the city of Delhi come alive with a kaleidoscope of events  happening simultaneously. And for the greedy like me who want to soak in every bit of it, it is cruel to have to choose from! This year, I was determined to let the child in me peep out for sixty to ninety minutes. For that's how long the plays lasted at NSD's Jashnebachpan. The National Children's Theatre Festival organised by the TIE ( Theatre In Education),  also known as Sanskaar Rang Toli, segment of NSD, put together around twenty six plays from theatre groups across the country. Walking in through the colourfully done up gate filled us with the thrill of anticipation. And once inside the building we were flanked with photo exhibits of the participating directors with glimpses of the plays being presented.


      The first play we managed to catch was the non verbal  "Bharari"  by Natyashala Charity Trust  from  Mumbai directed by Bharat More and Anvay Ashtivkar. As expected the audience comprised of children of all ages,  many in  uniforms from different schools coming from as far as Doon School, and children from NGOs with shining expectant faces chaperoned by the patient sirs and madams and then of course there were grown up children like us. Under a fragment of the winter evening sky edged with the stray canopies of the surrounding trees, the play began on the Open Lawns of NSD. Through miming technique, catchy rhyming sutradhars, the non verbal Bharari traced the beginning and evolution of life stage by stage, leading to applauses from the audience. Humour and colourful laser images of butterflies and planets, the lyrical narrative delighted the audience. Bharari ended with man taking flight from the earth in search of more challenging frontiers! This fine balance of history of evolution and flight of fantasy delighted us enough to make us give a standing ovation. Only we did not applaud. Instead we raised our arms and shook our hands in the air. Of the 26 performers 18 were hearing impaired.


    The next time we went rushing through the traffic was to figure out the lost smile of a boy. This time we had to walk through a passage skirting the Open Lawns to Abhimanch at NSD where the play  Jaimini Pathak's "The Boy Who Stopped Smiling"  was to be staged. A chanced glimpse at the ceiling revealed a continuous stretch of montage of the many plays staged at NSD. It felt hallowed to be walking under the frozen moments of creativity. While we waited for the entry, colourful suspended butterflies, smiling snails and bright caterpillars kept us company.  Squashed between the myriad expectations of his parents, the boy, a chess prodigy who dreams of beating Vishy Anand, stops smiling while groping with the changed equations in his environment. A play that addressed the vagaries of growing up as well as the tight rope walk of parenting.


    Lost in the urban chaos is our connect with nature and the joy of finding pleasures in the simple things of life. The old woman in the village sends her old man to the city to buy a song for her so she can sing it near the well where all the other women of the village sing as they continue with their daily chores. A simple play with some great sets and a profound theme. " Geete Gaathe Milan Mala" by Seagull and directed by Bhagirathi came all the way from Guwahati to prod the audience with a simple message that left most of us thinking. Folk songs from across the communities of the state were beaded in to bring this out.

    There were some great plays from Manipur, Kerala, UP and other places which we couldn't make it to. The festival held up a mirror for all of us, to realise our follies and foibles and also to emphasise how theatre can be utilised to impart education and help put on the thinking cap. The lessons taken came in much later. It was the sheer pleasure of watching a play with the children that mattered the most. In retrospect I realise we were laughing along with the children shedding our grown up garb somewhere along the way.



  1. Nice info. Thanks for the article. Keep sharing :-)

  2. Nice coverage of the events. I wondered how one can buy a song. The enactment of it must be wonderful.

  3. THAT must have been one great retreat - not only into childhood - but away from the madness that is Delhi :)

  4. Thanks Paresh, for stopping by.

  5. Absolutely Suresh! Delhi is good in the winters with a range of programmes lined up!


Your words keep me going :)