Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Aha! all the way!

It's that time of the year again... a chance to 'enthrall, entertain and educate the kids and say AHA! In Arundhathi's Nag's own words, one of Rangashankara's most "precious" theatre festivals "Aha! International theatre for children is in it's eighth year and going strong!! With troupes from all over the world, including Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom Korea and Afganisthan performed at Rangashankara this week...with shows ranging from puppet theatre to shadow plays, from symbolic and surreal to delightful gibberish …..children between ages of four and above were in for an artistic treat!

This year's takeaway  were seven AHA! characters that embrace diversity and seek to break stereotypes in society – from Raju who loves the colour pink to Pammy who loves to fix bulbs …from mini-master chef Nandu to the cricketer Lilli! The interested children got to choose one of these characters and act out /demonstrate their characteristics in their own manner and style.

While this year’s year highlight were age specifications prescribing both minimum and maximum age for the shows, as it had been increasingly felt that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to children's theatre, my only complaint is that there isn't any performance catering to very young kids.. as it only seems unfair that my younger one had to wait for two whole years to be unable to experience Aha!:-(

For the last six years…..we’ve been regular at Rangashankara’s Aha! festival and we come back each year begging for more and more…! I’m sure early exposure of theatre to children has a positive impact on their impressionable minds. In fact, I’m amazed at the how my son seemed to remember some of the performances that were staged over 3 to 4 years ago! All thanks to Rangashankara’s Aha! festival.

While my daughter may be too young to enjoy interesting performances  at Rangashankara this year, she is not too young for the interesting stories revolving around pretend and play acting …………. And there could not have been a better choice to suit the occasion than “Ari” a Tulika publication by Vaishali Shroff and illustrated by Kavitha Singh Kale. Centered around a shy and sensitive boy named Ari whose soft voice is often drowned out by the common din in the classroom. When the class teacher announces selections for the class play, Ari’s hands go up but not high enough for the teacher to notice. While Ari follows the selected children onto the auditorium to watch the rehearsals of the play ‘Lion and the Mouse”, he cant help feeling that he could be a much better job of playing the Lion than his classmate. Though a little disappointed but Ari does not lose hope and finds tremendous satisfaction in mono-acting the characters of lion and the mouse in front of a mirror at home…..only to find someone squeaking in to play the role of a mouse – who else – his mother who joins in the play-acting of the famous fable of “Lion and the Mouse” …. And after the performance, the actors finally take the much deserved bow! A beautiful rendition of a tale of childhood yearning fulfilled by a creative parent to make happy growing-up memories and that’s the Aha! spirit…isnt’ it?