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Bandra's slums send a green message

Fight Back Theatre, a theatre group comprising 14 kids from the slums in Bandra, will be spreading the message of forestation and the need for sustainable development, as part of their street performance at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

“We need development, one that can bring more jobs, better roads, better houses, electricity, means of transportation, education, and equal opportunities of growth for all sections of the society. But this development shouldn’t be at the cost of nature,” is the message that theatre director Zubin Driver and his team of 14 young artistes will stress on at a street performance at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. Known as the Fight Back Theatre, its members were raised in the slums of Bandra and will be staging the play, The Giving Tree, to spread the message of forestation on February 15.

Members of the Fight Back Theatre group during a street performance
Members of the Fight Back Theatre group during a street performance

Driver, who founded the group two years ago, and has been mentoring them since then, says that the play speaks of the giving nature of trees and the human greed, and how dangerous the latter can be. “It’s based on a children’s poem by the same name, and looks at the relationship between a giving tree and a boy. During the play, the tree keeps giving everything to the boy, till only the trunk is left,” he adds.

Zubin Driver
Zubin Driver

The play aims to highlight the struggles of the people of Aarey Colony to retain the forest around it. “The forest reserve around Aarey Colony offers a major buffer zone for the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. If we destroy it, we will be putting the national forest at danger, and a natural habitat, which has grown over more than four decades. The government says, it will plant trees to make up for the deforestation, but how will a man-made forest replace the natural forest, built over decades?” he asks.

Driver informs that the kids at Fight Back Theatre are not only a part of the cast, but were also actively involved in the creation of the play. “The play didn’t have a single writer or director. The entire group has written and directed the play together, improvising on it whenever needed. My role was of a mentor to help them fill the gaps and as a co-writer and co-director, and it has turned out beautifully,” he admits.

Driver speaks of the team, “It is made up of kids from the slums in Bandra (E), aged between 17 and 21. Some do part-time jobs in the day, others attend night schools, and some attend college — all come from financially weak backgrounds, but are very passionate about theatre and the subject. Despite living in Bandra in such an environment, they got involved in protecting the forest reserve; it’s time the middle and upper class and the people in Aarey joined hands to save the forest reserve,” he asserts. Despite the kids having to juggle various things, Zubin always thought that theatre would be the last priority for them.

But the kids surprisingly turned out to be more disciplined than expected. “This programme is more than just about theatre. We talk about personality development, society and politics. They hail from a background where there is a lot of drugs and gang violence. So, it keeps them safe from that also,” feels Driver.

NOTE: The play was created in association with the Save Aarey Group, an initiative by volunteers and activists to protect the forest reserve around Aarey Colony.

On: February 15, 5.30 pm
At: Kala Ghoda, Fort.
Log on to: www.kalaghodaassociation.com

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