An audience made up mainly of children and their parents could not hold back their laughter and applause on Sunday, as the Swangvale theatre group enacted a play using limericks and jingles and languages as varied as Hindi, English, Marathi, Haryanvi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and even gibberish.
The performance, titled Kahani Le Lo, was the troupe’s rendition of tales from the Panchatantra, the ancient Indian collection of fables and was organised as part of the Zindagi theatre section of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
Every generation of children in India is still raised on the Panchatantra tales in some form, which involve talking animals and a moral at the end of every story. So when Swangvale enacted a handful of these tales on Sunday morning, the children enjoyed themselves and took home a lesson or two.
“I loved how the actors played the animals and sang too. I have Panchatantra books at home but I have not read them. I want to go back home and read them all now,” said Nidhi Padav, 9.
“The play has turned out to be such a fun way of introducing children to such an important part of our storytelling history and heritage,” said her mother Divya, a homemaker from Sion.
“The story - The Lion That Sprang to Life - is so important a lesson for all of us, even in our daily lives,” added 12-year-old Krishnav Acharya from Vile Parle, who was also accompanied by his mother. “So often we do not fully weigh the consequences of our actions and when things go wrong, only then do we realise the gravity of our miscalculated actions.”
In that story, four friends use their powers to bring a lion back from the dead, in order to test their powers. In the end, the lion eats the four who restored it to life, prompting the performer to remind the children of the “importance of thinking before acting”.
“The children need to be told stories in this easy-to-understand manner,” said Dhanendra Kawde, 36, director of Kahani Le Lo. “We first performed this production almost a decade ago, but a few months ago we revisited out script and our way of presenting it, and revised it to make it more appealing to children and even adults. While choosing the stories, we have tried to pick those with lessons that children of all ages will understand and appreciate.”