Every day, after school ends, R Hari Krishnan is gripped by fear. His mother, who works at a city hotel, would be home only by 9pm, and the 10-year-old would be left to attend tuitions till then. He hated it. A back-bencher, he spoke feebly, and preferred to remain invisible. Today though, Hari is a different person. He is playing the feisty poet Subramania Bharati in a play his school is organising. He has been transformed by the lines he has been rehearsing, and the poet’s proud gait that he has been emulating for the role.
“The stage has made him confident,” says his teacher S Krishnaveni, who is also the headmistress at the Corporation Primary School at Mogappair where Hari studies. 141 students from the school, whose total strength is 175, are set to bring poet Bharati’s life story to stage in the play Kavavu Meippada Vendum.
“They have been training for three months now,” says R Karthik of city-based Open House, a team of 12 that engages children in storytelling and puppetry. In terms of scale, the play is one of the biggest that Open House has worked on so far. It is being directed by Bharathi Bala, a parent of a student at the school, who is also a filmmaker. Open House puts up shadow puppetry shows for children every Sunday in the city, and also holds theatre workshops for children in Government schools; Mogappair Corporation Primary School is among them.
“We have been working with the school for five years,” Karthik explains. Since this year marks 140 years of Bharati’s birth, the team decided to put together a play that tells his story. An hour-and-a-half long, almost every student in the school gets a chance to go up on stage.
The play’s director Bala was bent on every student getting an opportunity to perform. “This experience goes a long way for the children, especially for those who come from less privileged families,” says Karthik. “Children who don’t even utter a word in class, are able to deliver lengthy dialogues; those who thought they were not good at anything, feel they too have the ability to do something… I have children who struggled with writing tell me that they can do so now, because we encouraged them to go up on stage,” says Krishnaveni.
Karthik says State Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi will be present on the big day. “This may be the first and last stage of such scale for many students,” he says adding, “It will be an experience of a lifetime for them, and we want to make sure it is.”
The play is on December 11, 4pm at Anna Centenary Library auditorium, Kotturpuram. Entry is free.