Manjul Bhardwaj with Nicobari Children---A report
1200 Tsunami affected children participated in the Theatre workshops conducted by Manjul Bhardwaj
in Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Manjul Bhardwaj has conducted "Gudgudee" a series of interactive , participative theatre workshops cum performances for Tsunami affected children in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In 12 workshops1200 children from 9 villages & 3 schools of South Andaman,Little Andaman & Car Nicobar Islands participated in interactive , participative theatre workshops cum performances. The workshops held from 30 Oct to 17 Nov 2006.
Manjul Bhardwaj is known for his innovative theatre methods.He uses theatre as a medium of change based on his philosophy "Theatre of Relevance" since last two decades.
The objective of "Gudgudee" was to help the children to ventilate their feelings post the tsunami, and also make them aware of child rights. "Gudgudee" was organised by Vijay Shetty of DWEEP PRAYAS ( an NGO) supported by UNICEF .
Manjul Bhardwaj, the man lives, breathes and believes in only two Cs in his life, 'Change' and 'Children' says Vijay Shetty ,who conceptualized "Gudgudee".
Manjul's method is truly participatory, and makes his participants look inwards and then helps them get the skills and strengths from within themselves which they need to apply in their work. Some of my colleagues who underwent this training acknowledged that they had undergone complete transformations due to this process of looking inwards and then building up.
Slowly and steadily the children trickled in and Manjul ignited them with his cries of 'Pillello' to which the 37 children assembled there responded with 'Ho'. Listening to the hullabaloo, the parents, and other community members who had gathered around but had been reticent to enter the community hall came in and started to proudly watch their village children perform. As Manjul started playing various song and dance routines the children aped him and while enjoying this thoroughly, they slowly opened up. It was for me quite a eye opening experience, in the sense that we 'so called educated and concerned citizens' mouth only homilies on child welfare and child rights, but the children in Tushnabad were aware that they have the right to exist, right to shelter, right to good nutritious food, right to speak, right to be heard, right to parental and community care, right to entertainment. What the community elders realised that evening was that merely telling the children about the rights was not good enough but they as a community had to ensure the systems to provide this for their children.
When asked how they got over their fears most of the children there answered by saying 'by thinking of the future and dreaming of achieving our dreams and working hard at reaching them'.
Harbinder Bay, for Manjul was unique because this was the first time he (though he has travelled the length and breadth of the world) was interacting with Nicobari Tribals in a Nicobari settlement. For me this was unique in the sense that I witnessed the demystification of the myth, that due to a lack of comprehending Hindi (which is the language used as medium of instruction at the schools here and is compulsory for even the tribals) the tribal Children do not understand what is said to them and are slow at reciprocating to communications, and thus are less intelligent than mainlanders. For me it was not just this discovery that was a learning experience but what was spell binding was the simplicity with which the children reacted and the honesty with which they shared their nightmares with Manjul. When Manjul asked them what we the adults could do to help them reduce their fears, 'just be our friends and play with us' was an almost unanimous answer.
Padauk Tekri only enforced the fact that language or lingual skills are never a barrier when working with children. Vinod Kumar a 13 year old deaf and mute, was within a matter of a few seconds, swaying, dancing and aping Manjul and the 76 children assembled in the community children's park. I couldn't but help get choked with emotions at this sight. Its something that I will never ever forget in my life.
Even though I'm sure the fatigue of being in limbo, while the flight was doing its back and forth, and the boredom of waiting while the chopper was being repaired, might have gotten to Manjul, he is relentless and as soon as he met Huxley, the DWEEP PRAYAS Area Coordinator of Car Nicobar, he wanted to know which village he was being taken to, and they set off for Kinyuka. I was lucky enough to get a ticket on the chopper flying the next day to car Nicobar. 'Sir, Gudgudee is working like Magic' Huxley gushed when he met me at the airport and start to brief me about what happened the earlier day at Kinyuka. He further went on to tell me that not only the 48 children of Kinyuka village, but their parents and about 32 community members too had insisted that Manjul not leave and go back the next day and conduct more games song & Dance routines. 'They loved talking to him, Sir, they've had so many NGO types visiting them Sir, including us, but no one has ever listened to them like he does' a very delighted Huxley informed me. I knew that Manjul had one more convert to his concept of Theatre of Relevance.
The children were so tickled that their peals of joyous laughter pierced through the skies. For me this was Goose Flesh Material, now, I've had hair raising or bone chilling experiences, but they've all, earlier, had to do with experiences which had some element of fright, or the unknown, or even once when I was learning something. But to sense this kind of reaction in connection with sheer delight, is an experience few people would have and I count myself lucky.
Manjul Bhardwaj had indeed done more theatre work than all those theatre luminaries (that I personally knew) put together.
(prepared by Vijay Shetty )
" Vishwa - The World”
Was performed 24 times for 41 days in all over Germany
The Experimental Theatre Foundation was invited by Buro Fur Kultur Und-Medien Projekte to Germany to perform play “Vishwa - The World” for 41 days from 10th of September to 20th of October 2006. The event is called Kinder Kultur Karawane.7 groups participated in Kinder Kultur Karawane from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, India, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and South Africa. The Experimental Theatre Foundation represented India. UNICEF, UNESCO, and German ministry for Development Cooperation and several German NGOs and regional foundations sponsored the event.
The play" Vishwa - The World” was performed 24 times in 13 cities of Germany i.e. Hamburg, Ahrensburg, Berlin, Dessau, Penzberg, Biberach, Dobeln, Wiesbaden, Marburg, Chemnitz, Aschaffenburg, Freiburg & Radolfzell. The performances were held in big theatre halls for general audience & in school auditoriums for 10th –13th std. Students.
The play" Vishwa – The World” is written & directed by Manjul Bhardwaj. The play unfolds & explores the dreams, desires & aspirations of the destitute & deserted young people. Who fights against all odds of life and comes out as Survivors.
They question their dreams and wonder – Will any one of them be able to actualize their dream. The dream of being – KABIR, ABRAHIM LINCOLN, SAVITRIBAI PHULE, JYOTIBA PHULE, MAHATAMA GANDHI, ALBERT EINSTEIN, WANGARI MAATHAI & AUNG SANG SYUKI?
There was an interface with the writer, director and actors. The audience asked question about India, its life, actor’s life, about ETF work and philosophy. The performances were well covered in Media and some newspapers has published the news & photo on front page with catchy head lines i.e. “ Indian theatre group performed the play about dreams of young people” or “ We are the survivors”
Manjul Bharadwaj also conducted 4 theatre workshops on his philosophy “Theatre of Relevance” with theatre professionals and young pupil in Germany. This tour was a significant contribution and recognition of Indian theatre and its trends in Europe and other parts of the world and specially the new philosophy “ Theatre of Relevance”.
During the 41 day tour the group stayed with families in small towns, youth hostels & luxury hotels. The best part was staying with host families. This really gave opportunity to the group to know about German kitchen, their life and customs. Also the German people got an opportunity to interact more with the group. It was truly a cultural exchange.