The plays seek to highlight the plight of the child labourer.
KOZHIKODEThis was a rare occasion for the young members’ of the Chilanka, floating children’s theatre, a charitable trust. All those who have enacted different roles in the popular play ‘Neelakoduveli Pookkunna Gramathil’ staged by the theatre ensemble more than five years ago congregated at the Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram as part of its 100th production.
“The drama is symbolic of the pangs of lost childhood of scores of children”, says Bichus Chilanka. Bichus who along with Sunil Kumar Nagapara from Kavilumpara, in Kozhikode district started the theatre seven years ago with a view to encourage acting talent among children.
“Neelakoduveli Pookkunna Gramathil”, portrays starvation, discrimination, bias, forced employment and all that deprives scores of children of a happy childhood. Children toil endlessly to eke out a living,” says Bichus.
The drama was staged at street corners and other centres with different actors, and each of them portrayed the roles spontaneously with the result that the acting at the end was different every time. The public response was tremendous and many a time the viewers felt sentimental too. “Our reward is this response. This was part of our mission to highlight a vital issue like child labour,” says Mr. Bichus.
For instance more than 18 children have enacted ‘Unni’ the main character and in each instance the role emerged different, and unique. Each child had different ideas to convey through Unni’s role. Unni is a symbolic representation of deprived childhood. There was an instance when the boy who was to enact Unni fell sick suddenly and another had to replace him at very short notice. The new Unni enacted the role to perfection, and added a new dimension too, to the surprise of all concerned.
What was interesting was that the characters have evolved over the years, and there was a world of difference in the play that was staged first at Maruthomkara and the portrayal now. There was no special costume, settings or props.
There would be more than 100 of the actors on stage that day, says Mr. Bichus.
Children in standards I to X from all over the State are members of the Chilanka troupe that has wings in each district. The members are given identity and programme cards. Utmost priority was given for children’s safety. Children from at least three districts were included in a staging that turned out to be occasions for spontaneous acting.
The children are only given the idea and they build on the story. The staging is organised according to their convenience and without any intrusion into their study hours. Interestingly, the initiative has only helped the participants to fare better in their academic activities. The objective was total development of the personality of the child through participation in these sessions that included music and dance.
Painting camps, poetry camps, and camps to sensitise the members on environmental issues are conducted by Chilanka.
The theatre group has staged more than 56 plays since its formation that include ‘Kaliyalla Karyam’, ‘Get ready for laughter’, ‘Kariyilakalum kattum’, and others. The funds came from staging the plays at schools and other venues. Chilanka also organised a drama workshop ‘Kalimuttam’ for children during the summer vacation at Thiruvananthapuram.