Theatre professional Trishla Patel is an avid science fiction reader. So,when she conceptualised her first childrens play,Zinga Zinga Roses,it turned out to be about the adventures of a boy living in a planet called Sesor. To draw a wide audience to the fascinating world of sci-fi,she worked on its production value. Here,the projection of animated content serve as sets a first in Mumbai while three musicians on stage ensure live music is up to the mark.
All these efforts,hopes Patel,will help pull a crowd of young and adult viewers. That seems possible. With the content and production receiving a mature treatment,childrens plays have blurred the age-group specifications of their viewers. Recently,this feat was achieved by Boy with a Suitcase,made by Bangalore-based Ranga Shankara in collaboration with Schnawwl Theater Mannheim of Germany. This fun story of a boy who leaves his war-torn country for London raised some serious questions on displacement.
Last year,Naseeruddin Shahs Motley produced two plays for Summertime at Prithvi,now rechristened as Arts at Play,that were not conventional childrens plays. His By George,which combines two small plays by George Bernard Shaw,and Arms and the Man,also by the Irish playwright,are back this summer,a season dedicated to childrens plays in Mumbai. Shahs logic behind putting up these shows for young audience: to expose them to Shaws prose without deciding whats good for them.
This year,as part of Arts at Play an initiative under Sanjna Kapoors new project Junoon several such plays will be staged at Prithvi Theatre,Mumbai. The list includes Rangbaaz Groups The Jungle Book,Manav Kauls Laal Pencil,Makrand Deshpandes The Timeboy,Working Titles Kachra Tales and Akvarious Productions A Special Bond 1 and A Special Bond 2.
According to Shivani Tanksale and Sumeet Vyas of Rangbaaz,festivals of childrens plays have widened the scope for better work. While adapting the story of The Jungle Book,we wanted to make it entertaining for all, says Tanksale. Apart from using puppets and masks,they have introduced fun elements such as Kaa doing belly dance and vultures having a session of sher-o-shayari in this trilingual play.
Shaili Sathyu of Gillo,a group dedicated to childrens theatre,says plays for young audience were staged in the past too. But they have gained more theatrical value now, she adds. Gillos plays Suar Chala Space Ko and Kyun Kyun Ladki were designed keeping that in mind. In the former,she has used shadow puppetry. This summer,Gillo is presenting Hanuman Hi Ramayan in nautanki style.
Using traditional methods of storytelling to appeal to a larger audience is something Delhi-based Ashish Ghosh has been doing through Theatre for Young Audience. In March,his play Chutti,which is a collage of Indian folk tales,travelled to Sri Lanka. In Delhi,theatre personalities Sukesh Arora,Imran Khan and VK Sharma too are doing professional work in this field.
Mumbai-based Akarsh Khurana of Akvarious,which has done six plays for children,including Peter Pan and Shenshah of Azeemo,believes that new audience is being generated for these works. School are playing a significant role in ensuring sold-out shows. Theatre is being taken more seriously. This has upped the quality,including those for children, says Khurana.