Using the arts for social change

Mallika Sarabhai  

Staff Reporter

KANNUR: "We are trying to make the youth understand the different realities of the world and our aim is social change through arts," says noted choreographer Mallika Sarabhai, who is here on a visit to campuses to popularise `Unsuni,' a musical theatre piece based on Harsh Mander's book of the same name

Addressing a meet-the-press here on Friday, Mallika Sarabhai said the Dharpana Performing Group was in the field of sensitising people to issues in society, including environmental and gender issues. She said she had learnt the basics of using arts for social change from her mother, who, in 1980, had created a piece to draw public outrage against the move to convert Silent Valley for hydro-electric project.

"My objective is to harness the urban youth for the cause of the dispossessed," she said. The `Unsuni' was giving voice to five of the country's millions of voiceless people through a series of monologues, she said. Each of them belonged to badly portrayed and marginalised communities, she said adding that these were a street child, a leper, a victim of a riot, a manual scavenger and an Adivasi whose land has been appropriated by a landlord.

"There is an India out there, as we have 180 lakh street children despite our financial growth," Ms. Sarabhai said while elaborating on the Unsuni movement. She said her visit to the Sree Narayana College here was fruitful, as 25 students had signed up as volunteers for the movement. Unsuni would spearhead a youth movement.

Asked if her efforts to mobilise the youth for social change reflected the general impression that political parties had failed the country, she said the people were also responsible for allowing the parties to fail the country. Mallika Sarabhai said that 20 years of her experience of working on social issues had convinced her that dance forms could be an effective way of social change. "The classical world of dance has very much to give to the world," she said adding that Indian culture would influence the world.

Mallika Sarabhai said she was equally sensitive to issues of social justice and gender issues. To a question, she said that she was politically inclined to the Left.

Unsuni was earlier performed at S.N. College here. The dance theatre was conceived, adapted, scripted, directed and choreographed by Mallika Sarabhai.