A wave of children’s theatre swept through the city recently, soaking young audiences normally parched of such fare. Max Mueller Bhavan’s ongoing Grips Project (which originated in Berlin) involved one group from outside and one local unit in two separate adaptations of plays by German dramatist Volker Ludwig.

Theatre Academy, Pune, staged Nāko re Bābā, its popular Marathi version of Mann o Mann; and Sutrapat presented Care Kari nā!, Ludwig’s well-known Max and Milli in Bengali. Ludwig correctly applies the accepted technique of modernist children’s literature—facing the troubles of the real world head-on rather than escaping into fantasy—but from the evidence of these two plays, his dramatic range seems formulaic, because both deal with three children (two siblings and a friend from different social backgrounds, virtually all shown under single-parental influence) ultimately resolving the family problems that confront them.

Both adaptations, by Srirang Godbole and Jayoti Bose respectively, do not flinch from using slang and vulgar idiom in a creditable attempt at fidelity, but Godbole’s production relies on cardboard depiction of the adult characters while Bose’s direction is much more natural. Similarly, the “children” (Paresh Mokashi, Swati Deodhar, Pounima Ganu in Marathi; Debapratim Dasgupta, Sahana Dutta, Janardan Ghosh in Bengali) all act well, but it stretches credibility to see obvious teenagers behaving like seven-year-olds under Godbole’s hands, whereas the Bengali cast (in fact comprising college students) perform in a more believably child-like manner, disciplinarily suppressing their adultness.

In theory, however, this reviewer disagrees with the Grips concept that adolescents may portray small kids since the latter are not mature enough. It is quite possible for eight-year-olds to play themselves; if older children are used, why not rewrite the play so that their parts are suitably older? Nevertheless, the overall impact of Care Kari na!, aided by its humour, stage sense and Debangshu Sengupta’s catchy music, caused much enjoyment among the younger members of the audience and is well worth an evening out with the kids.


As if to underline the point about the availability of very young theatrical talent, Calcutta School of Music had a big hit with its dramatization of the classic Walt Disney film Pinocchio (Birla Sabhagar). Mohit Raina in the title role and Bikramjit Ghosh—despite showing traces of nerves—as Jiminy Cricket proved we have no dearth of good juvenile actors. Among their seniors, old Gepetto (Anindya Sen), crafty Honest John (Rohit Malkani) and giggly Giddy (Monica Raina) displayed both histrionic and singing abilities, particularly Malkani’s robust interpretation of “Hi-diddle-dee-dee (an actor’s life for me)”. Kitty Madan directed the whole show well, and CSM mustered all its musical expertise, bolstered by the Oxford Mission Orchestra conducted by Digby Barrow and a full-scale vocal choir, to give adequate treatment to the excellent score, culminating in the shimmering “When you wish upon a star”.

(From The Telegraph, 2 April 1993)