Bye-bye Prince Charming, hello Mr Jeejeebhoy

May 21, 2013, 05:16 IST | Kanika Sharma

This summer five children's plays lay siege to the city's stages with names that include Taoos Chaman Ki Myna, Kyun Kyun Ladki and Hanuman Ki Ramayan. We decided to trace how these interesting plays journeyed from contemporary storybooks by new-age publications to their on-stage avatar

Spinning tales is the hallmark of childhood. Kids love stories to be told to them and when asked in return, are always willing to cook up the same. So with several literary imprints and publishing houses fixing the radar on young readers, our ears prick up at the sound of Gillo Theatre Repertory meant for the young audience. Thrilled at this, we also found out that Gillo Gilehri (mascot of the theatre company) is gobbling up stories from equally exciting publications such as Tulika Books, Young Zubaan, Katha Books and Children’s Book Trust.

Kyun Kyun Ladki, published by Tulika Books is based on a story by Mahasweta Devi

Look India-ward
Shaili Sathyu, Artistic Director of Gillo Theatre Repertory shares, “There has been a lot of writing for children in the last ten years. There’s a glut of Western / European / American classics, which don’t excite anymore. Why should we look at tales that are morally, culturally and aesthetically alienating?” She further adds, “Prince Charming is a sexist figure. We are looking at contemporary stories from our own context and honestly, there are a million stories to be told.”

Performance still from Taoos Chaman Ki Myna

Of the five productions that will be performed tomorrow onwards till June 2, Taoos Chaman Ki Myna is one of the latest and is an Urdu story by Naiyer Masud published by Katha Books. Sakshi Jain, the Art Director at Katha Books comments, “As far as storytelling is concerned, there are many forms. The story has many undercurrents and their getting conveyed is a concern.” She reflects, “We’ve been looking at telling stories that change the world.” Anita Roy, Senior Editor for Young Zubaan Books opines, “Mister Jeejeebhoy and the Birds has a lovely sense of place and is magical. It’s interesting to translate a story in a different medium.”

Where are the plays?
Making a valid point, Roy iterates, “Lately, there have been more films for children but not many plays.” Sathyu and Roy seem to concur when they relate the sentiment that even tales from the Panchatantra are overexploited as lately, stories for young audiences have become more modern and quirkier. Stressing on the need to create theatrical content and productions for children that don’t infantilise them, Sathyu avers, “We make several efforts to understand what appeals to a child. For the last three to four years we’ve been observing children and carefully note what they find offensive. We feel that a live performance should stimulate the child to think and respond. Kyun Kyun Ladki, our 2011 production was about all these questions a child has but doesn’t get answered by adults.”  “We hope that original writing for young audiences develop in the future as we want children to see the world around them and question it,” she concludes.

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