Attention, please!

Updated: Jul 12, 2019, 00:07 IST | Shunashir Sen

Catch a play where you'll dive into the world of a boy who learns to identify his attention deficit disorder, and live with it

Attention, please!
A scene from What Planet Are You On?

It can sometimes be a troubled world we live in. People are glued to their phones. Attention spans are waning. Actual human interaction is taking a backseat to social media, which means that a genuine sense of community that existed earlier is declining. So the question then is, what sort of life are we building for our children? What sort of habits are we inculcating in them? Is it all about swiping left or right and scrolling up and down? And if it is, then are we ready to address the attendant mental health issues that such practices are likely to lead to?

Those are some of the issues that Ackvarious Productions' new play, What Planet Are You On?, explores through its feel-good plot. The story traces the journey of Homi, a child who suffers from attention deficit disorder (ADD). But, at first, he doesn't realise that he has this condition. In that sense, it's a way of life for him. Gradually, however, he learns to identify the fact that he is different from his peers, though it's not easy for him to accept. Homi initially feels as exposed as a student who's cheating in an exam and who suddenly finds the invigilator standing right behind him. But a strong support system ensures that he eventually comes to terms with his ADD and learns that, hey, it's alright to be a little askew in a world where normalcy is becoming an increasingly redundant concept anyway.

Siddharth Kumar
Siddharth Kumar

This support system includes, apart from his mother, a guitar that his late father left for him. Akarsh Khurana, the play's director, tells us, "It was meant to be handed to him on his 18th birthday. But the counsellor recommends that since music requires a certain amount of concentration, it would help if it were given to him earlier than that." Then there's an understanding teacher who constantly prods Homi's frame of mind in the right direction. But the one person who really takes the boy by the hand and strokes his wounded consciousness is Nidhi, a new girl in his school he feels attracted to.

It's this attraction that makes Homi, played by Siddharth Kumar, feel embarrassed about his condition when he's still getting to know Nidhi (Muskkaan Jaferi). So, he hides it from her. They form a geeky bond, which involves him writing songs for her, though she eventually does find out about his ADD. Homi feels scarred when she confronts him. And what Nidhi does next is an example for anyone in her shoes to follow. Khurana tells us that she'd actually come to tell him, "I found out, but it doesn't matter. I think it's really cool. Justin Timberlake has ADD. Michael Phelps has it, too. And they are all achievers. So I don't think it's an impediment in any way. I just wanted to tell you that I am aware, and that it doesn't matter."

Akarsh Khurana
Akarsh Khurana

That's the sort of understanding which ultimately helps Homi look at his own reflection and say, "It's okay. So what if I have ADD? There's nothing to be ashamed of." Khurana's play doesn't have any villains as such. It's populated only with nice people. Homi's classmates, for instance, aren't people who point a mean finger and laugh at him — as children often do — when, say, the teacher asks him a question and the boy forgets what it is. And there's an important lesson to be learnt from that. The world is increasingly becoming rife with mental health problems. There's depression. There's anxiety. And there are more serious issues like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But kindness, compassion and empathy are handy tools with which we can combat these. Those, in fact, are the sort of habits we should be inculcating in our children, since — even if life can be troubled sometimes — there is always a crack for the light to shine through.

On: July 13, 12 pm onwards
At: St Andrew's Auditorium, St Dominic Road, Bandra West.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Cost: Rs 250 onwards

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