Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Girl Who Caged Freedom

In January 2013 we worked on a new production titled 'Mister Jeejeebhoy and the Birds'. The play opened at the Children's Literature Festival at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai.
Through the 2 weeks of process that led to the final performance, we had a young visitor from Muktangan. Meenu Thomas, a teacher-educator came in as an observer. She has a Bachelors in Elementary Education from Delhi University and a Masters in Elementary Education from TISS, Mumbai. She is currently working as a teacher and also writing stories for children.
We asked her to send in a reflection of her short stint with us. Here is the story she sent...

The Girl Who Caged Freedom
Once there was Meenu. No, she was not a bird :p. She was a girl in her twenties. She did some interesting work from 9 to 4:30 and then returned back to her hostel. The hostel looked like an ugly, dark dungeon without electricity and without people around. So, Meenu got really bored. She wanted to see something new, learn something new but didn’t know where to go, what to do.
On one such similar boring day when she was deleting old messages that flooded her gmail inbox, she came across a mail from Gillo Gilheri. Her eyes shined, she had got an idea that would put an end to her misery. She wrote a sweet mail to Gillo’s main Gilheri “Shaili”. Meenu wasn’t expecting much but was overjoyed to receive a warm response from Shaili.
And so started Meenu’s journey, almost every other day from Dadar to Kandivali. She would take a local to Kandivali and then an auto to Charkop to reach Akshara School. This is where Gillo rehearsed for their new play “Jeejeebhoy and the Birds”.
Now, Meenu was here for some serious learning. So, she got her little cage along with her. She would put all that she observed and learnt here in her little cage. After all, this was the first time she would get to see how a professional play would be directed and made. She had anticipated seeing a director who would tell his actors what to do and the actors would do as directed. 

Aahhh! But if this had happened, then Meenu really wouldn’t have learnt anything new. It would have been the same as she had imagined it to be.

So, MAGIC happened. She saw and learnt something she had never imagined could happen.
The director didn’t direct. The actors didn’t follow.
Instead, director Shaili let everyone FREE. “How can Shaili do that?” wondered Meenu . “Isn’t it risky to do so when you have a performance at stake?  “Yikes” wondered Meenu. But as she experienced being free, she was in awe of Shaili. Why? For the simple fact that she made it so simple for the actors. She handed over the forbidden director’s cap to her actors. Then she gave the story to them and asked them to make it come alive.
Meenu loved the way Shaili would platter many different ideas simultaneously and let the actors experience them and cook up a recipe for themselves. In this way, everybody learnt so much through self discovery.
“It’s so easy to dictate and teach but it’s so tough a task to facilitate. You are an awesome facilitator” smiled Meenu. 
Meenu had fun being in the camaraderie of the wonderful artists of Gillo. It’s a secret but she found out that each one of them had superpowers. The superpowers worked for the best when all of them got together to create magic.
“The magic is simple. I’ve sneaked their recipe” winked Meenu
“Just take a huge pot. Put 3 table spoons of Sharvari’s musicality, 4 teas spoons of Shahid’s simplicity, 2 cups of Vignesh’s inquisitiveness, 5 drops of Manoj’s thoughtfulness, 1 small katori of Ishita’s sincerity and 1 layer of Sahil’s focus. Stir it with Nishna’s readiness and garnish it with Prasad’s imagination.
That’s all and the magic is created on stage. And the magic is so magical that we see geometrical birds all around, colourful branches sprouting, a bus appearing and disappearing in mid air, furniture boxing, a boy flying and the biggest magic of all, we see little children having so much talk about, think about, draw about and write about.
Hmmmm…so what happened to the girl Meenu and her cage?
 Well her cage didn’t have anything captured in it for the first time ever. Her cage simply lay open for she had caged freedom.


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