A pioneer in therapeutic theatre

Guru Syed Sallauddin Pasha instils confidence in differently-abled artistes by training them in acting and dancing, says Madhur Tankha...

Brushing up the acting skills of others as well as teaching them classical dance steps is no mean task. But Bangalore-born director-cum-choreographer Guru Syed Sallauddin Pasha does just that and much more. He trains differently-abled artistes in these two widely contrasting mediums.

A pioneer in therapeutic theatre, Pasha instils confidence and brings hope to the lives of these special people. In fact, theatre for him is an all-encompassing vehicle to unleash his creative vision and expresses life in the richness of all its myths and rituals.

"Theatre is the only medium that creates mass awareness. By making differently-abled artistes perform traditional dance forms and enact a wide variety of roles, I give them an opportunity to become professional performers. Through theatre, these artistes also gain confidence and prove that they are second to none. Most importantly, I manage to create awareness in society. In my dance-theatre company Ability Unlimited based in the Capital, there are differently-abled artistes aged between seven and 27 years. The youngest boy Zuber has no limbs, but he is still such a gifted artiste. My life is dedicated to them," says Pasha, who along with Frontline Special School will be staging a dance-theatre production "Ramayana On Wheels" at Kamani Auditorium here on April 30.

Responsible for the evolution of differently-abled people's dance-theatre productions, both traditional and contemporary, Pasha has to his credit 90 mega therapeutic theatre productions across the globe. This has been made possible by his innovative direction and choreography.

"These artistes are trained in `natya shiksha' theatre techniques not by normal people but by my differently-abled-students. Even lightening and costume designing is done by them. Now, this is something even beyond the imagination of Bollywood," says Pasha who is not only a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and dance therapist but has also acted in several South Indian films.

By conducting vocational training camps in slums and undertaking theatre workshops with non-government organisations, Pasha manages to discover differently-abled persons who have the potential in them to do something creative but need a platform to express themselves.

Being a multi-faceted person, he finds it easy to communicate and motivate mentally and physically challenged artistes to perform complex plays and go into the skin of the character.

"I want these special children to integrate into the national mainstream. They should be allowed to study along with other normal kids in private schools. Special children do not need mercy, but only an opportunity to prove themselves. Why can't we have disabled-friendly buses, toilets, public places, cinema and malls for them? In the West, you cannot get a public place project cleared until it not disabled-friendly. But here some of my students have to undergo such hardships to board a bus for coming to my place.

They have to literally crawl. Moreover, in the West there are so many social security schemes for special children," says Pasha.

Pasha's dance-theatre productions include "Women of India: From 6000 BC to 2,000 AD" performed with 100 hearing impaired children and adults, "Ramayana On Wheels" with 200 differently-abled children and adults, "Durga" and "Martial Arts On Wheels" based on Manipur's Thang-Ta.

He has directed Europe's biggest therapeutic theatre project "Ramayana" with 108 Finnish special children and adults which was performed at International Theatre Festival. Also, he has conducted therapeutic workshops for tsunami victims.