When children are given a stage, they make sure to put their best foot forward. This was recently seen at the Bal Utsav organized by the Hindi Academy, when hundreds of students, in the age group of 8-16 years, from various government schools presented plays on hard-hitting social issues and enthralled the audience with their acting and performance skills. The festival was a welcome attempt to enrich the young minds, and make them understand various contemporary social problems.
Inaugurated by Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, Delhi government the six-day event was hosted at Pyarelal Bhawan Sabhagar. The students were trained in theater performance free of cost by Hindi Academy. It turned out to be a great opportunity for many underprivileged children, who can’t manage to pay the fees to participate in theatre workshops to explore their hidden talent.
The stories portrayed by children on stage were handpicked by the Academy and allotted to the directors to train and prepare students to perform them. It was a challenge for many directors and their team as they had to creatively push children to come out of their comfort zone and work together as a team to bring a story to the audience in a sensitive way, justifying the sentiments of the author related to the story. Dr. Jitram Bhatt, Secretary of the Hindi Academy, who also moderated the six-day event, said, “Through these plays, the versatility of children develops. Simultaneously, cultural consciousness ignites and it expands positivity in students. We are trying to promote our culture and literature. The literature can only be promoted if the young mind is nurtured and made aware of our culture from the beginning itself.”
The six-day festival showcased plays like “Panch Biradri” written by Lakhan Lal Pal, a story on a battle, directed by Ashish Sharma ‘Ladai’ written by Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena and directed by Javed Abraham. ‘Ladai’ portrays the grave situation of corruption in India. Sharing his experience of working with children Javed says, “Adults are easy to direct as compared to children, but I will prefer working with children any day, as they are so enthusiastic and open to new ideas.” “These workshops help children to polish and hone their inner talent, as they can’t afford to visit expensive acting classes,” Jawed added.
Other plays that were performed included “Mithaiwala” written by Bhagwati Prasad Vajpayee, “Sapno Ki Unchai” written by Ramakant and directed by Arvind Singh, “Raja Ke Kapde Desh Badal-Badal Kar Vikas Kia” written by Manoj Kumar Pandey and directed by Priyanka Sharma, “Rang-Abir” written by Bhagwan Das and directed by Nilesh Deepak. “Faisla” performed on the last day was written by Maitri Pushpa and directed by Sandeep Rawat. On the reason behind the story, Pushpa Maitri shares, “I’ve grown up seeing women being suppressed in my village. When one lady from my village was elected as chief of the village, but her decisions were made by her husband, I was astounded to see the ground reality of women empowerment.” Sandeep Rawat, director of ‘Faisla’ asked the children in his team to collect data and statistics on how many women have been elected as MLA in recent elections. The children were surprised to find out that only 70 members were female out of 400 elected MLA. “Collecting the data helped them understand the situation faced by women,” Sandeep added. Talking about the experience of training children Sandeep said, “It’s always a pleasure to work with young minds, they are very versatile and perform by putting their heart out for their performance.”
One of the plays also touched upon the issue of domestic violence. The play depicted how one vote can make a huge difference and how Basumati was pushed to reach her freedom from an abusive relationship. Two lead actors of the play, Ishan and Sneha, shared, “We thought that domestic violence is history now. But when Sandeep sir gave us assignments to research about the condition of women at the grass-root level in the country, we realized what it is like to live in rural areas as a woman in our country.”
While the performers were ecstatic, the audience was equally enthralled. Rahul, a 22-year-old boy was overwhelmed by watching the children perform. “I have been coming here from the first day, but I did not anticipate that the children will be so perfect at portraying the emotions and the sensitivity of the story,” he shared. Asha, a 43-year-old lady, whose child was also performing in the play was overwhelmed by her child’s performance. “I did not know that my boy could understand topics like this and then perform it in such away. I am grateful to the organizers for giving him this chance and training him,” she shared. The six-day festival concluded with an award ceremony followed by melodious Rajasthani Lok sangeet.
(All photographs clicked by Shrikant Kukreti)