Coinciding with the Commonwealth Games, the first fortnight of October will also translate to a celebration of childhood. Jashne bachpan, the theatre festival for children usually held once in two years by the National School of Drama, will break norm to be part of the cultural events around the Commonwealth Games.
Jashne bachpan, in its second successive year, will bring to the Capital 28 plays from across the country apart from three international productions. A highlight from abroad is the play from Germany “Stick Man” presented in English especially for the Indian audience. Other international productions are from Nepal and Bangladesh.
“The festival hopes to be not just a showing of plays, but an interactive, participatory dialogue between adults performing for children, children trained to perform and adults and children performing together,” said Anuradha Kapur, chairperson, NSD, at a press conference earlier this week.
A highlight of the festival this time will be the performance space itself. With auditoriums at Mandi House unavailable, the organisers were cajoled to experiment with spaces within the NSD. The plays will be staged at Sammukh, Abhimanch and T.I.E. space. Though it will clamp down on the number of spectators able to watch the plays, it will allow theatre to be a more intimate experience, hope the organisers.
“Within the campus we will have movable, interactive puppets which the children can play with. It has been designed by Manish Kansara who has these design objects made like puppets,” said Kapur.
The festival will begin with a tribute to Rekha Jain, a veteran of children's theatre who passed away recently. “Rang Umang – A Tribute” will be performed by her group Umang.
Jashne Bachpan holds the promise to be acknowledgement of all kinds of theatre. From puppet shows to plays in Gibberish to an indictment of the “lifeless education system” the productions cover the performance spectrum.
“This year, we got around 117-118 entries. Ten years ago when the festival began, entries were difficult to find; more significance is given to children's theatre now,” said Kirti Jain, faculty member, NSD.
On the basis of selection, she said, “Apart from the best plays, we also looked into new groups (doing children's theatre), representation from different languages and region and also different types of theatre — musical, improvised, scripted, adults performing for children. It is an overview of the state of children's theatre everywhere.”
Productions from India include one from Kashmir and range from the historical (“Khoob Ladi Mardani” on Jhansi Rani Laxmibai) to Arabian Nights (“Ali Baba and 40 thieves” in Nepali), fairytales (“Adal Badal” based on “The Changeling”) to societal issues (“Ek Baat Ankahi” on learning disability) and even reality shows (“Indian Idol”).