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Participatory Theatre with IIM, Ahmedabad

Chharas teach theatre to IIMA students.

Members of the community, once known as a colony of born criminals, are conducting classes on Budhan theatre
– Dhwani Pathak Dave,
Posted On Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 03:01:21 AM

Chharas, who were once labelled “born criminals”, are now conducting classes at one of India’s premier management schools. A group of youngsters from the community are teaching Budhan theatre to students of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, (IIMA). Remarkably, some of these youngsters have never attended school, but they are now visiting a campus known for academic brilliance.

Learning Budhan theatre — a powerful tool that Chharas have been using to highlight a range of community issues and bring about social change — is part an elective chosen by IIMA’s PGP-II students. The course, known as participatory theatre for development, is a component of the institute’s Public Systems Group.

Chharas, students share their problems
A course coordinator at IIMA said that Chharas started taking classes on February 4. “It’s a 14-day programme,” he said. Interestingly, no textbooks are involved. Students and Chharas sit together and share their problems. “Empathy cannot be taught. This is an effort to create a society with empathetic leaders, communicators and decision-makers. There is no textual way to do this,” he said.

The coordinator said that Budhan theatre was not a traditional medium where actors played different roles. “It a powerful form of political and development theatre where enactors are part of a social change. It is a form that involves more group processes,” he said. Radhe Shyam, an IIMA student who has opted for the elective, said that he always wanted to be part of an activity aimed at bringing about social development.

Another student, Meenakshi Deogram, said that Bhudhan theatre was more about reacting than acting. “In the traditional form, we just blurt out dialogues given to us. We don’t react. In Bhudhan, we try to understand what the other person has gone through,” she said. Meenakshi has found friends in Chharas visiting the campus. She, in fact, plans to gift them a computer after completing the course.

Chharanagar, IIMA two different worlds
“Theatre is a medium that touches everyone. It instils a lot of confidence in participants,” Kalpana Gagdekar of the Budhan theatre group said. She pointed out that IIMA and Chharanagar were two completely different worlds. “Chharas who are conducting workshops at IIMA have never been to the campus before. In fact, they had not even seen the institutes’ gates. Visiting the campus and interacting with students has boosted their confidence.”

Kajal Sashi (20), who is a part of Budhan theatre group, said that she was initially nervous about interacting with IIMA students. “When I first came here, I didn’t know how I would talk to students and share my issues. However, now I have made some friends with whom I can discuss my problems,” she said. Sangita, also a Chhara, said before she joined the theatre group, she had seen little of the world outside her home.

Chharas who are conducting workshops at IIMA had never even seen its gates before. Interacting with students has boosted their confidence – Kalpana Gagdekar of Budhan group

When I first came here, I didn’t know how to talk to students. However, now I have made some friends – Kajal Sashi of Budhan theatre

I always wanted to be part of an activity aimed at bringing about social change – Radhe Shyam, IIMA student

Budhan School of Theatr Arts, Journalism and Media Studies.

Since its inception before a decade ago, one of the primary objective of Budhan Theatre was to prepare a breed of professionals in the field of communication. As theatre, journalism and media studies are the important aspect to prepare the students in the field of communication, the group has started a six months certificate course.

The school
The school is located in the Chharanagar library in Ahmedabad and currently the lectures has already in progress. The school is currently run by Budhan Theatre group, a part of the umbrella organisations of Bhasha Research and Publication Centre in Vadodara.

The students
There are currently 30 students who comes for regular lectures in the school. All of them are either the residents of Chharanagar and/or from the nearby localities.

The Director
Currently, the post of director is vacant and is awaited for the right candidate from the community.

The Honorary director
Roxy Gagdekar, a full time journalist working in Ahmedabad and a member of Budhan Theatre is currently the honorary director of the school. He teaches the basics of journalism and the skills of reporting to the students.

The faculty
Other members of Budhan Theatre are teaching the basics of theatre and other aspects of communication to the students.

Notes of Budhan Theatre Festival at Pune

Before few years, I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Ajay joshi at Ninasam Institute of performing Arts, Heggudu when India Theatre Forum seminar was orgenised by Prithvi Theatre.

After my speech, he interviewed me about my theatre and community. The interview appeared in PT notes and we have been in touch with each other to work out BT’s performances in Pune and Mumbai. He had an occasion to meet Budhan Theatre member during his short visit to Chharanagar. Finally, we planned to go to Pune to organize Budhan Theatre’s first Theatre Festival.

I sent request to our Baroda based parent organization Bhasha Research and Publication Centre and they happily agreed to support for this event.

Sir (Dr. Ganesh Devy) told me, “Dakxin you have to do lots of rehearsals and make all the plays qualitative because Pune theatre audience is so sharp, intelligent, critical and highly discussants about Theatre.”

One day I called up to Dr. Ajay and asked , “Will we get an audience?” He replied, “It can not be predictable”

Finally, BT Theatre festival could work out and we 25 members went to Pune after rigorous rehearsals of plays Budhan, Charandas Chor and Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Suddenly, our one of child actor Nikul’s father died on 24th of May and we had to travel on 27th for Festival. We decided to drop him as he has to pay some of community traditions also. He called up to Atish and said,

“Atish, today evening I will not come for rehearsals but tomorrow definitely come for it. I am sorry for that.”

Atish stunned to hear these words. We tried to make him understand not to come and we will replace your character but finally his willingness won. In fact his mother also agreed to send him for Festival. Perhaps, she could understand the Theatre better then anyone else!

As it was our first ticket show in last 11 years and that’s why we were very conscious for the preparation of the all the plays. There were very good arrangements for accommodation and rehearsals in Sudarshana Rangamanch.

Sudarshan Rangamanch is an intimate space and black box theatre with approximate 150 sitting arrangements on chairs and floor. Very first day of festival, we got 68 people who came to watch play Budhan including some of national film awardees like Sachin Kundalkar and others.  I tried to give some sense of background of Budhan Thetare that why we were there?

Budhan Play performed by under 16 children of Chhara Tribe which was, I hope, warmly welcomed by the Pune audience. As Budhan play is basically been perform in street theatre form, it was bit difficult for children to perform it on the stage. I could see their lack of confidence in performance which usually high in the street performance.  They were not look like children but they tried to perform as adults. The scene of bagger Irkya and his wife was brilliantly performed by Sahil (15) and Nandini (16). The chores song in the end of scene ‘Char Tinke Utha ke Jungle Se” was very powerful but I could see the lack of rhythm which I think come by proper vocal trainings. During the song when children delivered one by one dialogs of real incidents of atrocities across the country were highly energetic and appealing. Audience seems stunned to hear the lots of atrocity cases on Denotified communities in last few minutes. The play followed by discussion, mainly, the importance of Theatre for social justice.

On 29th we performed Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of Anarchist which is translated by Amitabh Shrivastava. We adapted this play in Ahmedabad bomb blast context. Director tried to maintain the fast speaking maniac’s character as Fo written but it was bit difficult for the audience who are not too much familiar subject and its politics. All the characters performed very well but some were audience could not understand the fast speaker Maniac’s dialogs but over all the play was also witnessed by 70 people and the suggestions came up from the audience that Director make police people’s role so obedient. Generally, as per subject, It can’ be. In this kind of case, police become so arrogant not obedient!

Yes. I do agree.

Third day. 30th May 2010. Lots of people were waiting for this day and play. Habib Saab’s Charandas Chor. 95 people came to watch this play. Unexpected audience. Very well performed by the children of Budhan Theatre. Hardika Chhara, the girl, performed lead character of Charandas Chor. Over all we could see and feel that the group didn’t have technical rehearsals of fade in and fade out.  Almost audience thoroughly enjoyed the play.

We ended the Budhan Theatre festival to heartiest Thanks to audience, To our parent organization  Bhasha Research and Publications Centre for their funding support, Dr. Ravindra Damle, Mr. Pramod Kale, Sudarshana Rangamanch Staff and especially Dr. Ajay Joshi, without his support the festival could not be possible to organize.

After the play, Prof. Sanjay Bhave, came to me and gave me a sweet to eat. He expressed his concerns for the Budhan Theatre and its quality of productions. He said that now Budhan Theatre having a nation wide and internally high reputation and audience expect from you very qualitative productions. Your all the plays could be highly criticized by the Pune audience but as you have a social stigma cause and people have sympathy for it, they might not criticized your plays but you should work on productions quality and actors preparation. Now it is a time!

Yes, Sanjaybhai. I do agree. We will.

Great Learning experience for me and entire team!

You should perform plays in your indigenous Dialect – Sachin Khedekar

Dear Friends, before few days i went to see play Kanji V/s Kanji. Alok, Our one of actor who is NSD pass out also acted in that play. After play he introduced me to plays lead character and renown film and theatre actor Mr. Sachin Khedekar. After short introduction i simply ask him “why don’t you visit our library? he happily agreed to come and next day he visited Chharanagar Library.

We talked with him about the historical stigma attached to Chhara community and also to all the Denotified Tribes. He was so happy to see the library running in the community and children and youth are using theatre to come out from stigma and to educate rest of world to leave prejudices of Criminal Tribes from their mind set. He also greeted to children who passed in Std. 10 exam. Budhan Theatre children presented some of excerpts from the play Budhan. After that he interacted with all the child actors about their own day to day life and suggests us to make plays in our own dialect called Bhantu.

I committed to him that in near future you will see us to performing plays in Bhantu dialect.

Want to share some of stills of his visit.


Budhan Theatre Festival in Pune from 28th to 30th May.

Budhan Theatre is going to organize its Theatre festival at Sudarshan Rangamanch, Pune from 28th to 30th May. BT Group will perform play BUDHAN on 28th May (Based on custodial death of Budhan Sabar in West Bengal. A Denotified Tribal.), ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST on 29th May (renowned play by Italian writer and Noble Laureate Dario Fo. The play is about police corruption, impersonation, infiltration, and double-talk. And CHARANDAS CHOR on 30th May, written by legendry Theatre activist Late Habib Tanvir. The play is constructed as a folk tale about a thief who inadvertently makes a pledge to his guru never to tell a lie.
Friends, if you based in Pune or you are around during 28th to 30 May, Budhan Theatre team is hoping to see you at performance. All the plays will be followed by discussion about the play and Denotified Tribes of India.  See you then!

Please spread words about BT Festival.


It’s curtains up for Buddhan at IIMA, CEPT

Bangalore Mirror

Students from city’s premier institutes as well as foreign universities to learn how Buddhan theatre can bring about social transformation; they will also explore cultura dimension of Chharanagar slums

Workshops will be held to make students aware of stigmas and prejudices that Chharas and other denotified tribes face

They were once ‘born criminals’. Today, Chharas are all set to teach at premier institutes like IIM Ahmedabad, CEPT university. They will teach Buddhan — a powerful form of development and political theatre — not only to students from the city, but to those studying at international universities.

Confirming this, IIMA assistant professor Navdeep Mathur says, “The theatre here is similar to the ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ which was created by Augusto Boal during the 1960s in Brazil.

“The theatre offered a creative way to bring about social transformation. It showcases socially relevant scenes of injustice and asks the audience to become spectactors and take part in solving the issue on stage The actors will help bridge the disparate worlds of IIM and Chharanagar.”

Theatre artist and social activist Dakshin Chhara says IIM students will conduct workshops at Chharanagar. “They will come to our premises and learn the art of theatre directly from people here. These students will be made aware of stigmas and prejudices that Chharas and other denotified tribes face,” he said, adding: “Apart from theatre, the Chharanagar library is growing, too. Our society is attracting a lot of overseas students.”

Close to 30 students from the University of Columbia will come to Chharanagar later this year to study urban designing and how theatre here is building a stronger community. CEPT is also planning to conduct field research here. During a two-month period, they will study how space is utilised here, said Chhara.

Utpal Sharma, dean of Planning & Public Policy faculty at CEPT,  says: “We are setting up a studio at Chharanagar next semester. Students from the faculty of arts and humanities, faculty of housing (planning) and some students from Boston university will be a part of this exercise.”

He adds, “It will be an exercise for a development case study ‘Learning to Build’ during which the students shall explore the cultural dimension of the slums. The students of Arts faculty will also come up with a theatre production.”

Says Sharma, “At the end of the exercise, we will submit a report to the state government, requesting them to allocate funds for the development of the area.” Chhara says, “If students from premier institutes and foreign institutes mention Chharanagar in their dissertations, an academic discussion about this tribe will kick off, opening avenues for development.”

By Dhwani Pathak

Posted On Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 03:21:11 AM


Dear Friends,

Recently, Budhan Theatre performed Ek Aur Balcony and Budhan Bolta Hai plays in Chharanagar in an experimental way. We tried to go beyond Time and Space. We performed in space where people use to have a bath. It was evening time and to gather audience we performed Budhan Bolta Hai and after few minutes more than 300 people gathered. After that we performed Ek Aur Balcony in a proscenium style to use space as a stage.

It was good experience and encounter with the Theatre Art for Chhara People and kids. The play speaks about the problems of oppressed people and these people discussed about the police atrocity, present political arena and constitutional guarantee to citizen of India.

Theatre begin a thought process…then dialog…awareness…acceptance….livelihood and then life with dignity.

More plays are coming….


Budhan Theatre conducted An Art Workshop from 24th to 26th May at Mahaveer Kasarat Shala, Nr. Chharanagar, Ahmedabad. 120 children participated in the workshop. The workshop conducted by Sameer Mahurkar (Painting), Kunal Tamaich (Western Dance), Theatre (Jeetu, Aatish and Ankur), Mahendi (Neelam Tamaichi).

Have a tour of workshop…watch the stills…

Kankariya Lake Agitation – Street Play “Taras Tagi Chhe Taras”



Dear Friends,

Our home town, Ahmedabad, is beautifying by Government. Entire city is dig up to construct roads, bridges, gardens etc. You can see many bridges and new roads in the name of Development. When Bollywood star Jitendra visited city, he said ‘Wow! I can’t believe this is Ahmedabad city! He shined to see shined city. But no one could see that how many people died, displaced, migrated and victimized of this concrete development. The Other side of this Vibrant Shine is full of darkness.

Kankariya Lake, one of most beautiful site of my city where many people earned their livelihood by their petty business like ballonwala, Pakodiwala, Bhel or Sandwichwala…But now there is no one around the lake because entire lake is ‘Behind The Bar’ in the name of development. Once upon a time when people can see the lake just to pass around it, that sight is now ticketed@Rs10. The public place where anybody could come is now behind the huge wall and the lake is missing its common class people who made it alive.

Ticketing of the public lake is a business policy of government and due to that the worst affected class is poor class who could not see his or her public place until he or she not pay Rs. 10 per person.

 Budhan Theatre in association with Fade in Theatre is  performing a street play “Taras Lagi Chhe Taras” in the various part of Ahmedabad city, especially sorrounding areas of Kankariya Lake to protest the ticketing of public lake. As both groups are being a ‘Voice’ of oppressed people, we are trying to mobilize as many people and on 25th April we will enter in the lake without tickets and break the ticket policy on non violent way.

Let’s be a ‘Voice’ of ‘Unheard Voices’.p11005091





Ek Aur Balcony @ IIMA

Dear Budhan Theatre Friends,

Recently, on 22nd Jan, Budhan Theatre performed in Ravi Muthai Auditorium at IIMA. I would like to share with you that around one month backs, 25 students including Prof. Navdeep Mathur of IIMA visited chharanagar to study the society and stigma. Budhan Theatre warmly welcomed them and gave understanding that how community is being historically stigmatized and what kind of problems facing by the legal and judiciary system. They met to the people of chharanagar and also watched a street play Budhan Bolta Hai in Navkholi area of Chharanagar.


(I should mention that a boy Jayesh who was performing Deepak Pawar’s character injured by the glass bottle during the performance but he not stopped to perform, he was bleeding but the performance was going on…I don’t know why?)


After the visit, as I discussed with the student the output of the visit and one of them told that ‘we were aware about the crime but here we first come to know that how crime is state sponsored’.


After few days I received a call from Prof. Mathur and he invited to us to perform in IIMA during the training programme of middle to IAS officers. As we always are ready for performance, we accepted this invitation and decided to perform plays Budhan Bolta Hai and Ek Aur Balcony.


On 22nd evening, we performed both plays. Prof. Navdeep Mathur introduced the back ground of community and Budhan Theatre. After performance we received tremendous response from the audience. We had a very discussion about the Chharas and DNTs with most high profile officers and policy makers of India. We said that


‘Theatre give is acceptance and become bridge between our stigmatized community and rest worlds’


More then 100 people watched both plays including Director of Institute Dr. Samir Barua and Dr. T. Kumar, IAS (Principal Secretary to Honorable Speaker, Lok Sabha).


Ek Aur Balcony, a political play widely appreciated and criticized.