It's the leap of faith

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 8.01.09

The epic saga of a lion cub overcoming odds and a scheming uncle to take his place in the world has remained a favourite children’s movie since it was released. On December 15, National Gems Higher Secondary School performed the Disney musical adaptation of The Lion King, titled Circle of Life, in association with TTIS, at Kala Mandir.

With renowned jazz guitarist Carlton Kitto leading the live orchestra, it was a memorable show by more than 200 students, from classes V to XII. “I was initially sceptical of the children being able to pull it off and considered bringing in outside actors,” admitted director Aniket Deb Roy.

Be it the exuberant young Simba disobeying his father, King Mufasa, or the shy young lioness Nala with her dainty moves, the students were confident in their roles. Class XII student Debatma Mandal who played Scar, the wicked uncle and aspiring leader of the jungle, mastered the cruel laugh and disdain befitting his role. “I loved bringing his sarcasm alive onstage. Scar is ruthless, yet puts on a friendly act so easily,” said Debatma.

The set was stylised but simple to facilitate the movement of the actors in between scene changes, said set designer Gitanjali Alagh Jolly. So, the elephant graveyard was created by placing a pair of tusks strategically. Oversized masks and costumes richly laden with beads completed the look. The hyenas with their grey costumes, fuzzy hair, sticks in hand and grotesque masks looked the avenging type who destroy Scar in the end.

Deftly backing the actors was the chorus, as they imitated the jungle call, heralded Mufasa and the grass dancers onstage. They even imitated the hyena songs and ushered in the changing moods through their tonal alterations.

The individual singers were equally gifted. Arran Calvert playing young Simba did an enthusiastic rendition of I just can’t wait to be king. “Simba’s energy is infectious,” said the Class VIII student. The audience was left wanting for more. Class IX student Maria Angela Francis of Loreto House felt that the play complemented the original well.

Doel Bose,
Third year, English
St Xavier’s College

Helping hand for special kids

Ruth Coppard speaks at the workshop. Picture by Aranya Sen

In an effort to include children with learning disabilities in mainstream schools, Manovikas Kendra organised a workshop on January 6. Its aim was to help teachers deal better with students who suffer from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities and other behavioural problems.

The seminar, titled “Difficult to Handle Aspects of Mentally Handicapped and Learning Disabilities,” was attended by several teachers and therapists.

Ruth Coppard, a chartered psychologist with the British National Health Service (NHS), speaking on challenging behaviours in children with learning disabilities (defined as those of children with an IQ of less than 70) reminded the audience “how important these kids are to their parents”.

“If the percentage of children with learning disabilities is the same in India as in the UK, then there are more than 22 million affected,” she said.

The rules for managing ‘challenging behaviour’ are simple, she explained. “It is important to be consistent. One should not promise or threaten anything that can’t be done. Be sensible with your positive and negative rewards system. Don’t say there will be no Father Christmas this time when they know you’ve bought presents already,” she said. Communication is the basic problem with these children, she added.

Coppard has been working with special children for the NHS since 1998.

Malini Banerjee

Sound of divine music

A participant at the musical meet. Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray

For six-year-old Adrija Mukherjee, singing More Love before a packed house was more important than winning. The event was “Sound of Music”, a singing meet organised by NGO Alpha Universal at Central Methodist Church on December 28.

Its aim was to promote talent in kids who do not get much exposure. Twenty-three solo participants and 14 groups from churches and schools, colleges and other institutions across the state participated in the event. The choice of songs was restricted to carols or hymns.

Percussionist Bickram Ghosh, the chief guest, said: “In this jet age, few like to sing hymns. These contests help us hold on to our roots.” To spice up the ambience, he also performed sans any instrument.

The judges included Abraham Mazumdar, the founder-director of Kolkata Music Academy, and Sourav Chowdhury, the founder of music school Argha. They selected Esther Sinha and Chandrasekhar Halder for the Judges’ Choice Award in the solo category. Prarthana Ghosh came first in the same category, followed by Somnath Saha and Ashis Saha. In the group category, the Judges Choice Award went to Central Methodist Church (Hindi) and Budge Budge St Abraham Church. Calcutta Girls’ High School were the winners with their song, Down from his glory. DYWCNI and Central Methodist Church (Bengali) were the first and second runners-up, respectively. The winners received books and trophies.

“We hope to include the whole of eastern India next year,” said Debasish Biswas, the programme convener.

Chandreyee Bhaumik
St Xavier’s College