Decades ago, when Nilanjan P. Choudhury was still a boy of 13, he read George Orwell’s Animal Farm , his first insight into political literature. “But, at that time, I did not know that the novel was based on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath. I loved the novel as a work of literature. It left a strong influence on me that has stayed over these long years,” he reminisces.
Decades later, author and theatre person Nilanjan is bringing to stage a work of literature, which in his experience does not cease to be relevant to the current socio-political scenario.
“What elevates the polemics of Animal Farm to a timeless literary classic is its insightful exploration of the human condition with its deep understanding of human frailties. When we started adapting Animal Farm for the stage, we were both surprised and charmed by its relevance to contemporary Indian and global realities. We hope that the audience will be equally engaged by our forthcoming performance,” says Nilanjan
Engaging in this performance is an adventure into a world of characters with diverse abilities, in an attempt to inculcate inclusiveness in theatre. “A certain uniformity and staleness has crept into urban theatre spaces in India comprising middle class, culturally exposed and urbane ‘people like us’. But art should be for everyone. Diversity and inclusivity are crucial parameters to prevent urban theatre from barricading itself into an ivory tower. This was the primary motivation for Centre for Film and Drama (CFD) to collaborate with Snehadhara, an NGO that works with differently-abled children and adults by using arts based methodologies,” says Nilanjan.
So, while a typical day at rehearsal is blood, sweat, tears, laughter and broken bones, the greatest revelation for Nilanjan has been the responses of differently-abled children to the production.
“A girl who has difficulty tolerating loud noises is merrily taking part in the many boisterous fight scenes, an autistic boy who goes ballistic with the slightest change of plans is adjusting to myriad changes, a child with Down’s Syndrome who is severely visually challenged is dancing and singing with everyone else. This has only been possible because of the intensely collaborative process between the CFD team and the very skilled and motivated staff of Snehadhara Foundation,” says Nilanjan.
Through the challenges of staging a production of this calibre, ‘five children from Snehadhara and three young kids from conventional schools who are supporting, helping and feeding off each other, during this long and demanding journey of rehearsals in an uplifting spirit of friendship, loyalty and fun’, have left Nilanjan with lessons from this endeavour to create equal spaces in theatre.
“I have learnt not to make assumptions about people who may seem different from yourself. They are full of surprises,” smiles Nilanjan.
Animal Farm (Stage Adaptation by Sir Peter Hall), a CFD production directed by Nilanjan, will be staged at Rangashankara on October 21 at 7.30 p.m. and two shows on October 22 at 3.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. and at ADA Rangamandira November 6, 7.30 p.m. Tickets on www.bookmyshow.com. Tele-booking: 9986863615