BANGALORE: Last Sunday, about 75 adults and 100 children at a labour camp here had a brush with drama. They were witness to a form of theatre, Playback Theatre, brought alive by a city-based group, "Yours Truly Theatre". For the record, "Yours Truly" is one of the new members of the IPTN (International Playback Theatre Network).
A tree was decked up with brilliantly coloured saris to serve as the backdrop. The actors dressed in colourful costumes, painted faces and sporting big red noses were ready to dive in. The show began as planned with a mime performance.
For the uninitiated, in a playback theatre performance, the audience react and share stories with the actors, who in-turn enact these on stage. It can be extremely demanding for the actors, but highly satisfying for the audience.
The first question for the audience was, "What was that they liked about the place? The children had various answers such as "I like the shop which sells sweets, I love the trees, and I like the people here."
The first story was about Lalbi Begum, about how she and her husband along with their four children lived in a village in north Karnataka. The land had no rain and no irrigation facility. The village was filled with poverty, and the husband met his friend who suggested to them that they go to Bangalore and make money. They landed in Bangalore in due course.
The actors used storytelling as a technique with Kannada songs and patterns to act out the story. Lalbi was delighted to watch her story being performed back to her by the actors. The effect was personal and the bond created by playback theatre was apparent.
The second story was by "Sunny Verma" who landed from U.P., after he realised that he would no longer earn any money and with a fear that his family would soon perish. He knew that time was short and his wife was waiting for him back home. His 12 friends who accompanied him to Bangalore were already missing U.P. They wanted to get back home. But Sunny was trying to dissuade them from returning.
In the middle of the performance, the children clapped and laughed as the jokers entertained them. There was one girl aged around four, who simply got up with joy and started clapping.
Elated by the response, the people behind "Yours Truly", Ranji and Nandini, wanted to return for a show with full lights, sounds, costumes, special effects and much more. "We want to reach out to the other labour camps and bring a smile on the children's face, who are going through so much of suffering in life. Ours is a small effort," summed up Nandini.
Now, a glimpse of the labour camp: over seven years ago, a situation arose in Bangalore city that demanded immediate action by committed people with vision.
Thousands of migrants from drought-prone areas of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh flocked to the city in an attempt to make a sustainable living.
Unfortunately, handicapped by lack of education or any other skills, they were forced to work as labourers.
To tackle this problem, the Outreach Onsite programme was launched in 1993 for the children of migrant construction workers.
Day Care centres were established at the construction sites, with trained teachers to provide primary education for the children.
The children were given breakfast and lunch.
Health workers and doctors paid regular visits to the centres.