Watch two new plays at Prithvi's upcoming theatre festival for children

Updated: Dec 20, 2017, 11:08 IST | Snigdha hasan | Mumbai

Two new plays at an upcoming festival of theatre and workshops for children depict the many childhoods that coexist in India

'Tis the season of lit fests, art fairs and music concerts. But it isn't just adults who have their cultural calendar blocked for the pleasant winter months. In time for the Christmas vacation is the third edition of Wintertime@Prithvi, a festival of plays and workshops for junior art connoisseurs aged six to 16 years. Apart from popular plays that venture into the animal kingdom, the world of dreams, and magic, are two premiering productions that hope to sensitise young audiences to the many not-so-privileged children they share their city with; all in a manner that's relatable and appealing.

A scene from Hanumanji  Aa Rahe Hai
A scene from Hanumanji Aa Rahe Hai

Divine intervention
How does a 12-year-old, miffed with the BMC and cops for the way they treat his home in Mumbai, tell them to course-correct? By asking Hanumanji to step in. Except that, much like his own hutment from which he gets evicted every few months, the lord's abode is "illegal", too. This forms the premise of Ansh Theatre Group's Hanumanji Aa Rahe Hai, which also weaves in subtler issues of religious differences into the plot.

Theatre workshops for children held during rehearsals of Bobby Ki Kahani
Theatre workshops for children held during rehearsals of Bobby Ki Kahani

"This [eviction] is a severe problem of our city, and yet there is so much love and compassion on the street. Whenever I write for the impressionable minds of children, I try to appeal to their subconscious. Kids are straightforward, so it has to be done without complicating matters," says Makarand Deshpande, the playwright.

Apart from the protagonist Guniya, another key character is his friend Mohammed, who at first is hesitant about the religious difference between him and Hanuman, but ultimately strikes a great rapport with the lord. "Kids these days are very perceptive, and know about religions and the ensuing differences from a rather young age. We wanted to reinforce the idea that humanity is the biggest religion," says director Amogh Phadke. "Children, after all, are better followers of stories than adults," avers Deshpande.

Gender on stage
In a society that's skewed in favour of the male child, discrimination takes on unusual forms. Vijay Tendulkar's script about a little girl deals with one such aspect where her parents bring her up like a boy because they wanted one. The script is brought to life on stage by the children's wing of the Indian People's Theatre Association, IPTA Balmanch. Called Bobby Ki Kahani, the play is about the young protagonist, who is neither accepted among boys nor girls. As a result, she beats her loneliness with an imaginary world of birds, fairies, stars and historical characters. The play has been performed by the Asian Cultural Centre for UNESCO, Japan.

While adults perform most children's plays, this one is an out-and-out kids' play with all roles played by schoolchildren. "For years, IPTA rehearsals in Mumbai have taken place at a municipal school in Santacruz. We felt this was a good way of giving back to the school by offering its children a platform for acting," shares IPTA committee member Ranjana Srivastava, adding that they were overwhelmed by the response they received when they made the casting announcement.
Veteran theatre director Shivdas Ghodke, who is helming the play, conducted several workshops for the kids to help ease them into theatre. "We played games involving role play, and action and reaction to remove their hesitation. Children, as it is, learn the script easily. We are now training them to deliver the lines in sync with their character," he says, "It all starts with building a rapport with kids, so they can enjoy the process without feeling any pressure."

From : December 24 to 31 (Hanumanji Aa Rahe Hai, December 24; Bobby Ki Kahani, December 29)
At : Prithvi Theatre and Prithvi House, Juhu.
Log on to : bookmyshow.com
Cost : Rs.250

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