DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
Punjabi Academy’s children’s plays addressed contemporary issues with honesty and intelligence.
The festival of children’s plays organised by Punjabi Academy, Delhi at Shri Ram Centre recently was aimed at popularising Punjabi language among children living in Delhi and inculcating in them a love for theatre. The five plays featured were conceived in the course of one-and-a-half months theatre workshop held in various parts of the city.
In terms of themes, the plays dealt with situations in urban areas that are not conducive to the healthy development of the child. Most of the plays depicted stark reality with a little touch of fantasy. The highlight of the festival was that the children in the auditorium and the performers on the stage established a lively report.
On the opening evening two plays were featured. “Ajeeb Kudi” was remarkable for its contemporary relevance as well as for its theatrical qualities that offered moments of suspense, anxiety and fear. From the opening sequence to the last one, it captivated the audience. The central theme of the play was the indiscipline in schools caused by bullies who are terrors to their fellow students.
In the play, we meet two bullies with their followers who have little interest in their studies. They frequently clash with one another to establish their muscle power. What intensifies their confrontation is the arrival of a simple, shabbily dressed but intelligent girl — Kudi. One group headed by a girl is determined to torment the newly admitted female student. The other group finds an opportunity to fight it out with the rival group by supporting the new girl. Unafraid, the new girl faces the bully with confidence, intelligence and respect and never gets provoked by the threats of the bully.
The play was directed by Madan Dogra, who is a senior actor in the repertory of Sahitya Kala Parishad. His production was pithy and was able to invest strong motives in the dramatic action of the performer. The most noteworthy in his direction was that he has been able to bring out the best acting talent out of his child cast. The denouement showed a change in the heart of the antagonist, conveying a message; love begets love. The strange girl — Ajeeb Kudi turned out to be a wonderful human being.
Veena Sidhu Taneja’s production of “Saanjh Daa Sufana” recounted the plight of a poor family, struggling to eke out an existence. Because of their privations, the children are not doing well in their examinations. In moments of agony, the children fantasise about a world free from anxiety and hardships. Out of this fantasy world they realise that lamenting on one’s poverty will not bring any good. It is only hard work and optimism that can transform human destiny. Veena’s production was neat with visual appeal provided by beautiful and simple dance movements.
On the concluding day three plays were featured. Directed by Mukti Verma, “Aab Rishitayaan Dee” indicted contemporary society devoid of ethical values. Human relationships have lost warmth. It also had another strand that dealt with parents’ apathy towards the moral development of children who feel alienated. Some of the sequences in the play like students falling unconscious in the school and calling a doctor to attend on them tended to be facile. The tone of the production appeared to be too preachy to be effective.
Neera Sehgal’s production of “Khatarnak Ghar”, which was written by Satendra Sharad, opened with a far-fetched sequence and then shifted to a world in which domestic appliances appeared in an animated form before children, telling them about taking necessary precautions while using them to avoid accidents. The humanisation of the articles of domestic use was interesting and the message was conveyed effectively.
The concluding piece of the festival was “Pollution Daa Solution” which was directed by Madhu Kakkar. Structurally, the play had an amorphous character. Some of the sequences were vague and disjointed. The motive of the characters was unclear. However, the climactic scene with children performers holding a pot with a green sapling as the solution to pollution was the redeeming aspect of the production.