| The Sanlaap team rehearses a scene from Judhishthirer Jua O Aamra to be staged next week. Picture by Pabitra Das
The drone of backstage chatter, blaring music, strong arclights and an oppressive August afternoon… Perspiring under heavy costumes, a bunch of teens tries to catch the instructions hollered out by the director and bring forth the right emotions. The concentration and the camaraderie on stage are striking.
Judhishthirer Jua O Aamra — the first stage production by Sanlaap — is a thought-provoking play scripted during discussions with the actors, comprising youths from red-light areas and mainstream schools and colleges.
The production is part of the Intersect project, initiated by the NGO on Anti-Child Labour Day in April 2002, with the aim to integrate children of sex-workers and victims of trafficking into the mainstream.
Sanlaap approached quite a few educational institutions of the city for the project and roped in some enthusiastic participants from Presidency College, Heritage Institute of Technology, Netaji Nagar Day School, Haldia Institute of Technology, Apeejay School and Jogamaya Devi College, apart from Sanlaap Youth Forum.
The results will show at GD Birla Sabhagar on August 27.
Every weekend since April, the bubbly group of 26 has been assembling under a south Calcutta roof to brush up the lines. “On the first day, we settled down for a chat. We went through some exercises and games and that’s how the ice melted between complete strangers,” says Susmita Das, a student of Netaji Nagar Day School.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to get all the kids on stage at the same time. Yet, despite these minor hitches, the experience of teaching them and learning alongside is great. And some of them really have the spark to make it big in this line,” says production director Tamal Ray Chowdhury, who also gives credit to his team for contributing to the script.
With snatches from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, folklore and contemporary works of fiction, the plot hinges on breaking and transcending language barriers.
“Initiating the team into the kind of erudition needed for the purpose was challenging, but not a hurdle. For instance, a student of a premier institution did not know what Hamlet was, while another had never heard of The Selfish Giant. In fact, very few could actually name the five Pandavas,” observes Ray Chowdhury. But the actors never failed him when it came to bonding, he quickly added.
“There has not been any problem amongst us. We all share a very good sense of humour and that has helped immensely,” says Balmiki Ghosh of Heritage Institute of Technology.