City students’ play on displacement travels to France

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Noida, July 9 (IANS) What do home and exile mean for families that live through conflict? A unique play by eight city students travelled from Noida to Frances Amiens, and sought to introspect various facets of displacement.

In “Faaslein” (Distances), a puppet play by students aged 13-17 from Noida’s Shiv Nadar School, themes of migration, exile and war are thrust against the physical and emotional trauma they engender for the people involved. The play has been facilitated by the Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust.

The 35-minute play chronicles, among other stories, the forcible migration across the shadow lines between India and Pakistan in wake of partition in 1947 and recreates the harsh experiences in refugee camps through shadow puppetry.

A second story narrates the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the land they occupied for centuries, stirring sentiments through a beautiful combination of puppetry, music, voice-overs and text.

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“The play follows a non-linear narrative. There are snippets of things that happen, which go from one space to the other,” said Neel Sengupta, a theatre trainer-facilitator at the Shiv Nadar School.

The opening sequence is of the First World War (1914-1918), representing both the war front and the home front. Two Japanese Bunraku puppets show an Indian soldier on duty and his wife back home — reading letters, separated by the distance of conflict.

“For research, we read compilations of letters Indian soldiers sent and received during the war. Imagining ourselves to be one of them or a family member left behind, we wrote letters taking inspiration from real letters,” said a student.

Stressing the wider impact of this segment, another teacher-facilitator said that stepping into the shoes of people braving conflict helped them develop empathy.

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“After all, you can’t understand what losing a home is until you know what a home is like”, said one of the students Vardaan Pandey, whose hard-hitting poem “It was morning” features in a sequence on global refugee crisis.

The last part of the play is a reflection of what has transpired, and brings in the story of Mahatma Gandhi as an “old man with a walking stick, who preached non-violence”.

The students involved in the play are: Ananya Budhia, Anosha Rishi, Anya Kapoor, Fiza Mishra, Kabir Kaul Dutta, Mahiika Khanna, Romsha Singh and Vardaan Pandey.

It premiered as a part of “The Exiles Project”, organised by French puppetry company “Ches Panses Vertes” in May, which featured students from eight countries — France, India, South Africa, Morocco, Belgium, Argentina and Brazil — performing their works around the theme “exile”.

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