Play with lessons befriends kids

He is often angry when friends fight over a game of cricket. The animosity, however, gives way to forgiveness soon.

By Chandreyee Ghose
  • Published 9.07.18
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A scene from Enemy Pudding by ThinkArts and Jhalapala. Picture by Arnab Mondal

Park Street: He is often angry when friends fight over a game of cricket. The animosity, however, gives way to forgiveness soon.

Tiljala resident Mohammed Huzaifa shared his emotions as he watched Enemy Pudding, a play staged at Janus Centre For Visual and Performing Arts for four days.

The Class IV student of Jyotirmoy Vidyamandir was sharing space with 50 other first-generation learners who got lessons in language and life skills through theatre.

Enemy Pudding in English and Satrudaman Payesh in Bengali - a first-time collaborative effort of ThinkArts and Jhalapala - aims at teaching students aged over six years language skills along with addressing some universal issues through fun and games.

"The plot is adapted from Derek Munson's Enemy Pie. We gave it an Indian touch to help the children relate. Friendship troubles are common in the pre-teens," said Ruchira Das, the founder of ThinkArts and associate director of the play.

The play, directed by Santanil Ganguly of theatre group Jhalapala, uses humour, art and music to tell the story of a grandmother who helps a boy accept a new friend and shares an "enemy pudding" with him. She chooses tact over preaching to foster the camaraderie.

Ganguly described the collaboration as a long and eventful journey. "It was all about trial and error. Parts of the play were shown to a select audience for their feedback till the final piece evolved," he said.

"The play teaches kids to appreciate each other and build social skills. Often children feel left out these days. It focuses on adjustment issues faced by them," Das said.

Jhalapala actors Mousree Ganguly, Rahul Nandi, Ratul Nandi and Bipul Roy said it took them nine months to select the right play and improvise on it.

"Our plays cater to the young audience. Some are performed by kids themselves. Here adults stepped into kids' shoes. It was good to see the audience react so spontaneously," said Ratul.

Giggles, cheer and impromptu responses from the audience peppered the performance. A game of football saw the audience joyfully throwing back an imaginary ball at the actors and thus bonding with them.

The play ended with the children participating in craft and language-related activities. "I had a lot of fun making new friends and watching the play. The music was great too," said Arshi Khatoon of NGO Ektara.