Direction : Rasika Agashe
Writer : Neha Singh


Deepa Punjani

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With little children watching the play and laughing out loud, participating enthusiastically in the question-answer session and throwing back the smiley balls given to them, you would never guess the grave issue that the play addresses.

In a brave attempt, this children's play shines light on the dark and murky topic of sexual abuse of children. In a country like ours with the largest population of children in the world and where sexual abuse is rampant - it is important to familiarise the young with sex education which would also help otherwise. We need to de-stigmatise the topic so that victims may come out and share their stories.

So we have two young friends Pummy (Sahaj) and Puchku (Priyanka) playing cricket and they get into an argument about 'girls don't play cricket' and 'boys don't cry'. The youngsters in the audience are called out to take part in the discussion and oh boy, do they speak up! They do, loud and clear- defying the gender bias.

Then comes along another pair of youngsters - Gittu (Vandana) and Bittu (Rishabh). Gittu claims that she is the good one and Bittu asserts he's the bad guy. Dressed as a Prince, Bittu says he must 'kiss' the sleeping beauty to stake a claim to the throne. Deep in the jungle, he finds a young damsel sleeping under a canopy. Seizing his chance he advances to kiss the girl but to his shock, she springs back on him and gives him a tight slap for violating her privacy. The fairy tale gets a modern twist, where the young girl claims to be an athlete and her dream is NOT to find a Prince Charming but to win sports competitions.

The four youngsters meet and they play together. During the play, Bittu happens to hug and kiss Pummy which upsets him completely and he runs away. Only after a frantic search, they find Pummy crying alone, perched on his favourite banyan tree. Why is he so upset? They find out the reason through a word association game. Pummy reveals that the 'building uncle' has been fondling him inappropriately. The children gang up against the perpetrator and pelt him with balls. But then the solution to this grave problem isn't that simple! The reality is rather harsh and the simplistic ending of the play must be taken as a symbolic gesture to stand up against inappropriate sexual behavior.

The play thus addresses important issues like gender bias and child sexual abuse in a child friendly manner. To the credit of the writer, through the fun-filled narrative is replete with song and dance, the issues are never trivialised. The director chooses the Grips style of theatre in which adults play children. The actors slip into their child roles very easily. Engaging and educating, the play is a must watch for growing children. It is an effective tool for spreading awareness among children about the heinous act of sexual abuse.

*Deepa Punjani has been writing on theatre and performance for close to two decades. She represents the Indian National Section of Theatre Critics, which is part of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) that has over 50 participating countries.

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