Students of Vidhya Niketan Schools put up a rollicking interpretation of the good old stories.
“Dhoom pichak dhoom! Pichak dhoom. Dhoom pichak dhoom!” chant 22 children, stomping across the stage. “Mythologies!” screams one. The others recite : “Point-ya-no-point? Point-ya-no-point?” In the next one hour the theatre club of Vidhya Niketan Schools explored answers to that question through Myths — Point ya no Point?, an ensemble play written and produced under the guidance of Yog Japee, founder of Theatre Y in Chennai.
“We wanted a theatre professional for the children and Theatre Y’s program stretches over months, working towards one play each year for our annual day. It helps give children a holistic education experience,” says Vidhya Niketan Schools’ correspondent, Rajini Krishnamurthy.
“We begin small, with reading aloud and writing short pieces. Slowly, children loosen up and ideate because unlike their regular classes, noise is encouraged here. Soon they voice their perspectives, some of them absolutely fascinating, and these evolve into the play,” says Yog.
Myths is narrated by ‘The Wandering Storytellers’ out to prove to an audience disinterested in Indian mythology that the age-old tales have contemporary relevance. It was enacted in 10 freeze frames by children from Class VI to XII, who doubled up as actors and narrators, using no background music and just white dupattas for props. It modernised the Ramayan and Mahabharat to draw life lessons from them without moralising.
Myths opens with a tired mother and a hungry father, both blind but supported by their dutiful son, Shravan, all together singing We are Family. Shravan dies however, shot by King Dasharath’s misaimed arrow, for which the King is cursed. The curse manifests itself years later when Dasharath’s wife, Kaikeyi demands her son Bharat’s coronation and Ram’s banishment to the forests. “Words, like arrows, once released can never be reclaimed,” conclude the narrators.
In the forests, Ram captures a deer that catches Sita’s fancy by sashaying along to Salman Khan’s Dhinka Chika. The deer, when found to be a demon, is deemed “Full fraud only” and in the meantime, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana. A ‘what-if’ scenario ensues.
This time around, Sita doesn’t crave the deer, instead respects Nature’s freedom saying, “You are so dear deer, so bye-bye dear deer.” Ram hangs around and all is well. “Kids keep these stories alive for themselves by adding pop culture elements,” says Yog.
Myths also enacted modern-day situations that could have been better if only people had remembered the values in their grandmother’s stories.
The stage opens to a street “anywhere in India” bang in the middle of which lies a massive boulder, awaiting “to trip my 10th victim”. Sure enough, at midnight, an accident occurs and no one around, from the chaiwalla to three doctors (“no appointment, no treatment”), could be bothered to help. The scene flashes back to the battlefield where Ram and Ravana, both flanked by cheerleaders, greet other: “Yo machi! How are you da?" During the battle, Ram’s brother Lakshmana is grievously injured but a physician from the enemy camp cures him proving “It’s a glory to die doing one’s duty”.
Myths was a flawless performance, seamlessly sequenced and peppered with enough wit to keep a packed Amphitheatre glued from start to finish and laughing their way to stomach stitches.
“Over the months, the play has changed so much during rehearsals that it really isn’t mine anymore. It’s the children’s to improvise upon and their acting abilities have matured well enough to do that confidently,” says Yog.
Myths is Theatre Y’s third production with Vidhya Niketan Schools. The play was also staged in Delhi last month. For a production by amateur child actors, it met and surpassed the standards of much adult theatre.