Budhan Theatre was founded on 31st August 1998 in commemoration of the day when India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, lifted the stigma of criminality from the settled tribes in 1952. A population of some 60 million of these “denotified tribes” can be found throughout India today. Since 1998, Budhan Theatre has performed street plays to raise awareness about the condition of such tribes. Their goal is to demonstrate that Chharas are not “born criminals,” they are humans with real emotions, capacities, and aspirations. Each of their productions has dramatized the events surrounding custodial deaths, abductions, beatings and torture of such tribes throughout the country. At present Budhan Theatre is reaching out to other similarly stigmatized communities and including their stories in its repertoire.

P1000451.JPGNomadic and Denotified Tribes are well-versed culturally, but due to difficult living conditions they have lacked the opportunity to develop their cultural talent properly. According to theatrical director Dakxin Bajrange, himself a Chhara, these tribes have an innate and extraordinary talent for acting. While working with these tribes for many years he has found that their quality of facial expression, speech and gesture are unmatched by other communities. Traditional performers, their families have been acting for hundreds of years. Additionally, the youth now feel they are acting to change their lives, and in many real ways doing it to keep themselves alive. They are performing with what little they have — their bodies, their voices and their creative talent — to change their society so that they may have a future within it.

*Photo by P. Kerim Friedman, from the Hooch and Hamlet website. Material is licensed under creative commons.