Youngsters’ street act

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On a quiet Sunday evening a playground in South Delhi suddenly comes alive with the sound of drumbeats. A few youngsters, taking the passers-by by surprise, have gathered in green costumes. While some spectators giggle and a few walk away, most in the audience find themselves engrossed in the street play Asar — Kya Khoya Kya Paya recounting the horrors of December 16 gangrape.
“Even if one of the audience members goes back home with the message of fighting against violence against women, I believe our work is done,” says the director and scriptwriter of the play, Rajeev Sinha. His group Toli Theatre Group, has been performing street plays on social issues at both big festivals and small lanes of the city. However, neither he nor his team of 20-25 members are full-time actors.
“We are a bunch of professionals who have full-time jobs. Though our theatre group rehearses and performs only on weekends, it’s still very tough to take out time even for that. Sometimes I get only four hours of sleep — but we are not just acting but trying to sensitise people on various social issues,” says Amit Nayak, who works as a sales officer with Jabong.com.
The group was formed by Rajeev, a media professional, and Sanjeev Malik, safety engineer, DMRC Project, as a division of Lion Society For Art and Social Welfare to provide a theatrical platform for the professionals. “Since no one has time to rehearse everyday, we decided to do it only on weekends. Another aim was not to bring the audience to us but to reach out to them. Therefore, we go to the most unlikely colonies of the city to perform,” says Rajeev.
One of their first plays, Thithuran (shiver), highlighted the plight of homeless people who spend nights out in the cold. After each performance the members would ask the audience to donate warm clothes and blankets. At night, the group would distribute these to people sleeping on roads.
“It’s heartening to see people coming forward with contributions. At one of our shows in Dwarka, people even donated flour and rice,” recalls Amit. The group is associated with old age homes where they don’t just perform but also spend quality time with old people. “We frequently have get-togethers and birthday celebrations at old age homes in the city. We even try to sensitise our audience to spend time with these old people who either have no relatives or have been abandoned by their loved ones,” says another member of the group Rishu Sinha, a PR executive.
Another play by the group, Jod — Mutthi Bhar Dard, is based on a true story of an old woman whose son made her sell all her property worth crores on the pretence of taking her abroad. He went away leaving her at the airport waiting lounge and never came back. Toli theatre also works for underprivileged children. The group is all set to perform more shows of Asar now that the sentence in the gangrape case has been announced. So, don’t be surprised the next time you see a group of young professionals performing in your street.

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