Let’s Playback!

We all stood in a narrow lane, surrounded by a bunch of naughty but beautiful and
innocent kids; smiling, laughing, giggling, and playing in that narrow lane. I kept
watching their innocence with keenness. I approached them to say ‘hello’, and the
well-behaved kids reciprocated to me with warmth and respect. We had a ‘cool’
handshake and we learned each other’s names.
Amidst the coolest thing that happened to me ever, my eyes got locked on a
three-year-old boy who stood next to me. He had a bowl in his hand and he kept hitting it against the door of his house. Clad in a clean yellow shirt, blue pants, and a pair of black and white shoes, he kept his head down. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I didn’t want to leave him alone in a condition that kept me bothering. His body language and his constant action of hitting the bowl clinched my heart. I mustered up my courage; saying ‘hello’ I extended my hand towards him. A beautiful smile blossomed on a depressed face that had eyes so deserted. When I asked, came the answer in his adorable voice; ‘Yash’ was his name. I asked further if he was not feeling well, or if he was hungry. He couldn’t say anything. I enquired him about his mother, and he said that she was at work. She would leave home by nine in the morning and return by ten at night. I couldn’t find anyone from his family but could see one middle-aged man sitting outside his house, having heaps of tobacco loaded in his mouth. He said, “ The boy’s legs are weak .” I couldn’t stand what I heard. I couldn’t do anything at that moment besides cheering him up and making him smile. Also, while the little boy was talking to me, I noticed his teeth were all chipped and painted brown. I feared if the three-year-old
was under the influence of chewing tobacco! With time running out, I had no other way besides just to leave him helplessly with a guilt in my heart, and march towards our destination with my team, for the playback .
Through the narrow lanes, rather strips, we landed on a landmark where we could
gather people and perform the much-awaited ‘Playback’. This time with the
collaboration of ‘Trash Band’. Before this, our community team has been performing ‘Street Plays’ in this area. Now, this was something new to our spectators as this performance called for their participation as well. Playback is a style of theatre act, wherein audience has to narrate an unforgettable incident that occurred in their past, either recently or far before. Playback acts as a therapy, it could be regarded as a healing agent. It may sound simple, but in actual, it’s not easy to make people initiate and speak about an experience that, probably, could never be erased from their life. It takes courage to come forward, speak up and share the most personal feeling that you could never forget. And, we had these people residing in that basti who were already burdened with their common inhibitions and reservations. ‘Suno, suno’ being the concept of this playback performance, our playback actors and the trash band percussionists with their energies on high motion kept calling and inviting people to share their experiences. After a lot of endeavour, approach, and assurance we could receive amazing participation from five lovely people. Amongst these, we had two school-going teenage girls. They shared their stories and watched our actors re-creating the picture from their past, right in front of them. Each time when our actors ended the act, I loved the way they would see right into the eyes of the story narrator. Trash band was a hit on every story, when the percussionists played situational and the background music with a bang. It was not merely about the sharing of personal stories or incidents, but this playback was also about sharing their talent by participating in the trash band. We found a rockstar in form of a small boy who played the trash instrument like a thorough drummer.
There were other kids also, all excited on playing the trash with our trash
band members. Giggles, laughter, smiles, we could hear and see all around us. As the playback and trash band performances went on, I could feel the thrill springing up in the atmosphere and hugging the people of the basti. With a promise to return soon, and next time with a ‘Trash band workshop’, we wrapped up for the day. While returning, we spotted a 70-year-old man, sitting and frying rice and
sago pappadams outside his house. He had no one to help him in his work. He said that he would daily sell these pappadams to sustain his livelihood. Although he had a son and daughter-in-law in his family, he wasn’t dependent on them. “ If I would not earn for myself, my family would not give me even a rupee for my medicine ,” were the old man’s words. On one hand, we have great Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan working at the age of 75, with more energy and enthusiasm. He is a living legend for us, for he inspires us. While on the other hand, we had this old man who could not even sit properly, but still managed to get his work done all by himself; not just to feed himself (despite having
a family), but also to keep his ‘self respect’ alive until his last breath. He was a living
example of fighting against all odds , who came across as a strong light to this dark and selfish world. The 70-year-old determined man inspired me, above all he inspired all of us, certainly.



Swatantra Theatre, Pune


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