Clowns Sans Frontiers helps put smiles back on faces of children who face hardships
Almost a decade ago, a group of clowns from France came to Puducherry on a special mission. It was to put the smiles back on the faces of children in fishing villages who lost their families in the tsunami. Though the mission was accomplished, the annual pilgrimage continues every year along the Puducherry-Gingee-Chennai route, just to cheer up underprivileged kids in these towns. Clowns Sans Frontiers (clowns without borders), based in France arrives every year in town, with a new team of professional clowns and magicians from France and Belgium. Of late, half the team consists of Indian actors, cherry picked from a workshop held by the organisation. There’s very little spoken, but a bunch of flowers pops out of mid-air, a pair run around trying to knock down each other and a couple have a little heart-to-heart. The first show was at Alliance Francaise earlier this week as part of the Indo-French festival, but their audience usually consists of street kids, children with special needs and those from disadvantaged communities. “These children are rarely treated to such a show. You can see they are captivated by the look in their eyes,” says Adil, logistics coordinator of the team.
Though the team changes every year, being made up of professionals who volunteer their time, Doriane Moretus, artistic director has been part of the trip, right from 2006. “When we came back then, they were just beginning to rebuild their lives. We were expecting sadness, but the children had started to embrace life again. They took us around to the beach and showed us where their parents had been buried. But they didn’t complain,” Doriane recollects with emotion.
The organisation has been trying to establish an Indian team of performers, to continue the act in India on a regular basis. “Clowning in India as a stage profession is not a popular concept yet,” admits S. Vinodhini, a cine character artiste from Chennai who is with the team this year. “There has been some interest from Indian actors, but we are yet to find a full-fledged team here,” says Adil.