‘Padayi Par Karo Chadayi’ highlights the pitfalls of society’s obsession with ‘ranks and marks’ as benchmarks of success in education. It was performed by Jaipur-based Curio for Rangaprabhath’s national children’s theatre fete at Venjaramoodu, Thiruvananthapuram.

Chintu wields her pen as if it’s a sword. By the time she vanquishes her enemies – English, mathematics, science and history – she has become too tired to rejoice in her victory and collapses as soon as she reaches home. The doctor is called in and he wants a ECG scan. When the scan finally comes through, it looks more like a mark list than a medical report! The sight of the giant ECG report with Chintu’s subject scores prominently marked on it reflects society’s paranoia-like obsession with the skewed concept of success in education.

The children’s play in Hindi, ‘Padayi Par Karo Chadayi’, presented by Rajasthan-based Curio theatre group at Rangaprabhath theatre complex in Venjaramoodu was packed with many such thought provoking moments. The performance threw light on pedantic methods through which children are still educated in the country.

The dreams of the children and the expectations of the parents are always at loggerheads. While parents want their wards to toe the line and memorise chunks of information without reflecting on any of it, the children want to break free. When the pressure mounts, though, the children come apart in utter despair and anguish. And it’s various things that tear them apart – there are private coaching teachers, parents who won’t even give them time to eat… The impending board examination also looms large in the background.

Preparing for battle

The way her parents make Chintu prepare for the examination reminds us of how a warrior prepares for battle. The background score underlines the point. She has to fare better than other children in the locality. The audience too get tense seeing her parents’ worry! Will she pass the board examination, we wonder?

But, what about Chintu’s wish to become an actor? What about the wishes of other children like her who want to be directors, sportspersons, models? Is anyone listening?

Towards the end of the play, Gagan Mishra and Priyadarshini Mishra, the brother-sister duo who scripted and directed the play, make the children realise that even to reach their dream destinations, basic knowledge of those subjects that they shunned is important. They drive home the point that society must create a pleasant ambience to help children learn. The duo’s intelligent use of background score, costumes and props help to make the narrative effective. The cut-outs of question marks that dangle from the branches of a tree, the dark creatures from Chintu’s nightmares, and the pen that looks almost like a missile, create an eerie atmosphere, which is, in fact, the outward projection of Chintu’s mind; a mind that is assailed by fear.

Lekshmi, as Chintu, performed wonderfully. The rest of the crew also dazzled with their spry movements, resonant voices and brilliant acting. The ease with which young actors transform from one character to another stresses the significance of children’s theatre.

For Gagan and Priyadarshini this is a dream journey to Kerala. “We are here for the first time. This is the fourth performance of our play. The audience here was very responsive.”

The performance was at Rangaprabhath, as part of the centre’s multilingual children’s festival to commemorate the fifth death anniversary of late theatre doyen and Rangaprabhath’s founder-president, K. Kochunarayana Pillai. The festival was organised by Rangaprabhath in association with the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi. Six plays from different parts of the country were performed.

Keywords: Venjaramoodu