New Delhi: They took night walks in Chandni
Chowk, made it a point to meet those living on the streets and
visited night shelters to get a feel of the metropolis` pulse,
particularly of those living on its margins.
And when they step out on stage for their first
performance of `Dawat-e-Khichdi`, they will pose a question
for those watching -- has the country`s conventional economic
development left out a large number of people in the lurch?
For these groups of students of Delhi University, theatre
is not just a medium of expression but also a medium of
internalising and debating the trends playing out around them.
Under the banner of Deen Dayal Upadhyay college`s
`Yavnika` theatre group, the students are working on their
satirical production `Dawat-e-Khichdi`, which intends to lay
bare the uncomfortable truths of urbanisation and its impact
on the displaced as well as on the existing city dwellers.
"I strongly believe in theatre of conscience. And I feel
when students come together for such productions they should
be able to look with a judgement on what the society has in
store for them," says senior theatre person Lokesh Jain, who
has scripted the play and is also directing it.
So, as part of their education, Jain took the students
around the city to introduce them to its dwellers, especially
to the marginal ones.
"We went around Chandni Chowk all night. We met people
who lived on streets and in night shelters. Talking to people
we realised how much we crib despite having all the facilities
of life and how these people were happy even when they had
nothing much to cherish," says Ankur, a second year student of
English (hons) who is part of the group.
"Acquaintance with them then led to a respect which we
find handy while playing the characters of labourers or slum
dwellers," he says.
Set in the poor quarters of the thriving capital city of
Delhi, the drama talks about the futility of all the growth
bubble for people of a certain section in the context of
Mahatma Gandhi`s talisman that any progress starts with the
benefit of the poorest man.
"What comes to mind when you talk about `khichdi`? The
dish stands for a different composition for everybody," says
Jagat, a final year student of the college.
A montage of unconnected lives in the metropolis, played
out on stage one by one but together, `Khichdi` presents a
blend of emotions and comments.
"Our play is a non-linear, non-homogeneous production and
shows the mix of everything in a city like Delhi," Jagat says.
For the mentors of Yavnika, the group is part of an
experiment that extends the educational horizons for students.
"The theatre sponsored by the University and college is
part of the overall education process of students and by
overall education we mean what kind of people they grow up
into," says Pramesh Ratnakar, who teaches history and also
mentors the group.
"If we can groom them up as responsible people who can
make right decisions when confronted by temptations through
socially conscious projects, it is a great exercise," he says.
And the play, which will first be performed at the DDU
college itself and then at JNU, and at some other centres in
the capital, will not be held in an auditorium, but under the
Experiment is part of Yavnika`s repertoire. Last year,
their unique theatrical experiment "Gul-Gulee Circus" -- of
expression without dialogue -- had made waves in the capital
and was performed several times on demand at several places.
`Gul-Gulee` too tried to return to Gandhi`s values of
non-violence and compassion as the only solution to miseries
of man while capturing the entire evolutionary process of
life, and the violence-marred history of human beings.
"When we discuss such concepts with young students, it
brings out a different idealistic energy which is not often
found in older people. We want these students to make an
impact on others too through their rendition," says Anand
Saxena, the convenor of the group.