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Mind Games

Wednesday, January 10, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Before television and the internet wrecked their attention spans and limited their imagination, kids who grew up reading could get their minds to wander unfettered.

It is this ability that Vijay Tendulkar captured in his play 'Bobby Ki Kahani'. It is not one of the great playwright’s better known plays, though it has sporadic productions outside Mumbai. IPTA Balmanch, the children’s wing of the Indian People’s Theatre Association, picked it for their new production.

Adapted and directed by Shivdas Ghodke, the play has the utterly cute and uninhibited Mazia play the eponymous protagonist. Her parents wanted a boy, so Bobby is dressed in male clothes (though she also has red-ribboned pigtails), as a result of which the girls won’t play with her and boys won’t admit her into their games either. Both her parents go out to work, so when Bobby gets home from school, she is alone.

So instead of moping over her loneliness, the chirpy little girl gets herself a host of imaginary friends—Akbar and Birbal, a very lively Shivaji, stars, fairies, birds, a horse, which she calls her “dimaag ki upaj”. For obvious reasons of school schedules and exams, children’s plays hardly have child actors, but this one has a small army of kids, from a municipal school. It was wonderful to see them act with such abandon, if there were any nervous jitters or stage fright, it was not visible. The sheer joy of performing on stage was communicated to the excited kids in the audience, who responded to Bobby’s antics with delight and carried out a dialogue with her.

The play perhaps needed some updating and jazzing up, but Mazia handled it with the ease of a professional. All the attention, the unexpected digressions from her scenes and changes in lines necessitated by the interaction with children in the audience, who, needless to add, enjoyed the experience.

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