It is said that out of all the different cultural socities in DU, the theatre groups work the hardest, and are also the most popular. Students take on different themes for their plays, and use catchy Bollywood numbers and funny instances from day-to-day life to make these plays interesting and relatable for the masses. Due to their popularity, many government organizations have started involving DU students to promote various campaigns. Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment asked the street play societies of Daulat Ram College and Miranda House, called Memesis and Anukriti respectively, to promote their Accessible India campaign. Education Tree had also collaborated with the Delhi Police to perform an anti-ragging play on the first day of college.
We work for a cause, not money: DU theatre circuit
"We were contacted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to do a street play on Accessible India. The campaign was started to ensure that basic amenities such as transportation, communication services and washrooms in all government buildings are accessible to the differently-abled. The reason why people are roping in DU students is because the theatre circuit is very serious about its work. We target the youth and are able to reach out to the masses through our plays," says Pooja Rajput, a member of Anukriti, the Hindi dramatics society at Miranda House.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment asked students of Miranda House to do a street play on their Accessible India campaign
Ankur, the dramatics society at SGTB Khalsa College, won the Nukkad Natak competition organized by the Delhi Police last year. The society was then asked to perform on women empowerment and sanitation at Arts Faculty and at Majnu-ka-tilla. "The reason DU students are being roped in to promote campaigns is because of our manpower. We talk about social issues actively, and try to depict various problems through our plays. We work for the cause, not for money."
Smriti Singhal, co-founder of Education Tree, says, "Students can bring about change and have a way of uniquely communicating the messages behind these campaigns. The audience can relate to them too."
Students of Hindu College teamed up with the Rajasthan Skill and Livelihoods Development Corporation and performed plays in nine districts of Rajasthan
Script should be simple and relatable
Members of these societies tell us that when they perform for the public, they keep the scripts simple and direct. Sometimes, these theatre groups are also made to perform in other states. For example, members of Ibtida, the dramatics society of Hindu College, were asked to perform street plays in nine districts of Rajasthan by the Hari Om Shakti Charitable Trust, an organisation that works with the Rajasthan Skill and Livelihoods Development Corporation. "When we perform a play in Delhi, we know exactly the kind of responses and reactions to expect. That is why we incorporate some catchy Hindi songs so that people can relate to the play. When we performed in Rajasthan, we had to simplify our script a lot. We couldn't be indirect about anything," says Ankrish Khanna, president of Ibtida.
Agreeing with Ankrish, Pooja says, "When we were discussing the script, we kept deviating from the topic and were focusing on the trauma that the differently-abled face. Then we realized that our focus is not the differently-abled, but how to make things accessible to them. We had to keep their preferences in mind since it wasn't our college's production."
BJP Mahila Morcha promoted their Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign by asking students of JDMC to do a play on the topic
Vedita Bhatia, a member of Anubhuti, the dramatics society of Janki Devi Memorial College, says, "We were asked to promote the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign by the BJP Mahila Morcha. When we perform at colleges, we have the liberty to crack jokes and include dialogues that the crowd will like, but while performing at the BJP headquarters, we had to be careful about our language. Before performing, we had to show them our play first to make sure that we stuck to the theme."
Bollywood songs help in spreading the message
If you've ever watched a street play, you would've noticed that these nukkad nataks often use catchy Bollywood numbers to attract audiences. "People in our country worship Bollywood, so if you want their attention, you need to do something that they're aware of. When we add a twist to popular songs, people enjoy it and we're also able to make them understand serious matters better," says Pooja.