Published: 23rd December 2019
Why every child must watch Nisha Abdulla's brilliantly subtle silent play — Koottu
Nisha Abdulla's play Koottu makes children ask difficult and uncomfortable questions to seek choices. This play is a must watch for every child — this is the reason why
Differences cannot be removed but they can be celebrated if they don't impinge your respect and dignity is what Nisha Abdulla, a theatre practitioner, playwright and director believes in. It has been seven years that she is into acting and theatre but she has already written and directed three plays for adults and children. She says, "I have just begun my journey into theatre industry and have a long way to go." Nisha was into a corporate job until one days she realised to go back to the passion of acting and directing. She explains, "In 2012, when I was working into corporate sector, I worked parttime with Improv Theatre Company in Bengaluru. Later, I joined a few other groups and worked in different plays. The skills of acting were something that I learnt on job. In 2013, I decided to quit my job and take up full-time theatre work and formed my own theatre group called Qabila Collective. Working with children and for children was one of my resolutions when this field."
Ashk Neele Hai Mere was her first play which was written and directed by Nisha at the end of the 13 months Director Training Programme with Indian Ensemble organisation. This play went on to do a few more shows. Later, she write Orchestra and the moon which was her second play. This was in English and designed between text and physical format. "Around five actors got together on the floor and we brought it out with text and physical format. It was en experiment for me and gave me a great learning experience. This work led me to write Koottu and direct it as well. It was more of a silent play which included rhythm, music, sound and movements especially for children. Koottu is a Malayalam word Kali Koottukkaran which means coming together or a friend who is always with you. I think this word relates to the play well."
Nisha Abdulla has written and directed three plays till date
Till date, they have performed Koottu in 20 different places including private and government schools. Koottu is a play that usually highlights to overcoming differences among children in the classrooms and imbibe inclusivity, diversity in them. "Initially, when I designed this play, I thought of bringing it out in five different languages including Kannada, Malayalam, English, Hindi and Urdu. Over a period of time, I realised that languages can bring differences among people and students. When we speak of inclusivity, I thought it should be a silent play. In one of the themes, there are two characters in this play who enact that they are eating something. And they don't like each other's food. Children understand from the actions and sounds that it is all about food and how it can divide people. Children are aware of the news and reports like the ban on eating beef etc. Hence, they relate to the play easily."
Nisha adds, "At the end of the play, there is a workshop where children can share their own stories and the ways in which they can negotiate to allay these differences in the classrooms. In one of the schools, students said that they were okay with crackers being banned because they had grandparents and siblings who suffered from asthma and also because it harmed animals. Meanwhile, some students who were against this ban said that it is only for a day and so, they must be allowed to do so. Now, they know how to discuss these differences. One of the students narrated how she had once stopped her friend from helping with Diwali decorations because she was a Christian. After watching Koottu, she had a change of heart. These thoughts are either a result of discussions at home or hear-say. And we aim to sow the seeds of healthy discussion to negotiate and accept these differences."
Koottu play will be doing more shows in different places and schools to reach out many kids
Now, Nisha and her team have been looking to travel to different places and schools so that every child gets to watch Koottu. "Since we are full-time theatre practitioners and there is not much money involved here, we would like some private organisations or individuals to fund us when we perform Koottu in government schools," she humbly requests. When asked about her future plans, she says, "Doing socially-responsible plays and bringing them alive on the stage is always on my list. Apart from this, in January, I will be bringing out a play titled Manifesto for Adults. I am also exploring dramaturgy, which involves working with different directors to bring out their vision on the floor. It is more of a collaborative work and I've always loved to do it. We will also be present at the City Script Festival, which will be organised by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements."