The story of boy meets girl is never an easy one to explain to adolescents, becoming even more complex and sensitive when parents and families are not open to discussing it. That’s why ‘Ishqiya Dharavi Ishtyle’, a play being enacted by the youth of Dharavi about “love and sexuality” is getting a great deal of attention from the local community.
The play will be staged by a group of actors aged between four years and 17 years as part of the Dharavi Biennale Festival starting Sunday. Dealing with the opposition to expression of love by a boy and girl who are still in school, the play aims to initiate discussion on a subject generally seen as taboo in the sprawling slum.
The Biennale project is being organised by Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA), an NGO working to improve the health of women and children in Mumbai’s informal settlements. The play will be staged next Friday.
According to 12-year-old Alisha, playing Mohini, one of the main characters of the play, love is not often an accepted norm in Dharavi. But through this play they hope to make people understand that when young people fall in love, what’s important is for them “to tell their parents and talk to them.”
The play is a love triangle between Chandu, the local stud, Sitara the shy girl who Chandu likes and Mohini the popular girl who likes Chandu. Eventually, when Sitara’s parents get to know about Chandu, they are opposed to it. The story ends with Chandu convincing his parents and hers to accept their feelings.
Fifteen-year-old Reshma who plays Sitara, feels shy discussing the concept of the play. She studies in a school in Allahabad and goes back there to give her exams. “Play pyar ke bare mein hain,” she says (the play is about love), clearly awkward.
Rishikesh, who is 17-years-old and play’s Chandu’s character, is more forthcoming. “Through this play we are trying to show that if love happens between a boy and girl, you should let it happen,” he says, adding that he agrees with the idea. This is the first play he is acting in and is very excited about it. Salman Khan is his favourite actor.
Rishikesh’s father is a watchman and mother is a housewife.
These children have been practising every day for the last two months. This play emerged out of SNEHA’sworkshops on managing sexuality during adolescence. It was felt that it would be the best medium for the children to express their feelings on this topic while educating the community about this.
Paromita Vohra, who wrote the script for the play, says that the story was inspired by the collective experiences shared by the children who she spoke to during a workshop. “This play is a summary of different stories. I had to understand the language the children spoke, the songs they listened to, to make it spontaneous. When it comes to talking about sex, there is inner confusion about the concept which is masked by coolness,” she says.
For Latesh Poojary, working with these children has been a learning experience. “This play in some ways is an improvisation of their stories. Expression of feelings by the youth is not always accepted. Through this play, we want to send a message to the community that it is fine to fall in love or like each other but one should tell his or her parents,” he says.