Is there a space for imagination left in fantasy? When superheroes complete all tasks to graphic completeness in front of your eyes, when the worlds of dreams are brought to you in minutest of details on the screen, it is indeed a dare to compel the audience to imagine with bare essentials as sets and dialogues as building blocks of a fantastic world.

The actors of The Bubblegum Boy in costume. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
The actors of The Bubblegum Boy in costume. PICS/PRADEEP DHIVAR

But director Om Katare, who is in the final stages of rehearsal of his new play The Bubblegum Boy, insists that this nudge to imagination is something that children appreciate too.

In fact he has a method to figure out if a play is working. He calls children to watch a rehearsal, bribing them with chocolates. On the basis of their reactions, he decides if a scene is working or not.

Om Katare
Om Katare

Katare, who has been directing children’s plays for over 15 years, says that the idea for the play came to him when he came across Neera Maini Srivastav’s novel, The Adventures of the Bubblegum Boy.

His group Yatri, which has been around for 37 years, has earlier staged children’s plays like Nakchachi, Ladoo Gopal, Mammy Please, Magic If! which have been performed several times over the years. After the initial struggle, as The Bubblegum Boy shaped up with costumes and imageries, he was convinced that this was the kind of play that children will enjoy.

A few chairs put together represent a car in the play
A few chairs put together represent a car in the play

“There is plenty to this play. With dialogues and costumes we build an entire candyland, which has its own language, rivers of chocolate and people of candies. People speak in candy land language which is an amusing mix of typically Mumbai words. There are songs sung in that language too,” he explains.

As the rehearsal begins, an entire family is seen traveling in a car; the car being a few assembled chairs for the characters. And then they enter a mall, which is indicated by two guards who become the gate. It is in this mall that the main character bites into a bubblegum to be transported to the said candyland where he meets with the creatures of that world and the king of the land who often breaks into song and dance numbers. The plot veers from funny to intense and then a bit moral.

“Children like drama and action. They don’t like long preachy sermons. They are also not afraid of ghosts anymore. So, if you have a message, it is important to convey it smartly. In this play we have tried to point out how simple values like honesty are now difficult to find and children who are still honest are the only hope,” he says. Ambitious and interesting, the play seems the kind to definitely check out.