This was a project to re-vitalize the beautiful genre of theatre called the Ramlila, performed in neighbourhoods in Banaras, and help it to grow into an annual learning activity for children.
The aim was to help elevate the status of the month-long affair from an old-fashioned and over-familiar one to a multi-functional programme of education and great charm for children that could be innovative in addressing their needs in a rapidly changing world.
The “Ramlila” Project consisted of four components. July and August 2007 were spent in training a team of young actors in theatre techniques and working with children, and in Concept Team meetings to plan the workshop. In September, we held a month-long workshop in theatre, history, and civic consciousness open to all children from the neighbourhood of Khojwa who wished to sign up. In October, we watched and filmed the Ramlila, and interviewed committee members. November to March was spent in producing a curriculum kit, "My World", for educators and parents to be able to conduct a similar workshop in their organisation, school, or home, two books for children: "Ramlila!" and "The Kingdom of Banaras", and a film, "Children Playing Gods". The film will be released in August 2008.
The trailer of the film is now available for viewing! More information about the products as well as details about the project will be online soon. Funding for this project was provided by the India Foundation of the Arts (www.indiaifa.org).
Children Playing Gods
(2008, 61 mins, Hindi and English with English subtitles)
During the festival of the Ramlila, the streets of the city of Varanasi, India, are transformed into dramatic stages, where the "gods" descend onto the earth and 'play', in the form of children.
A group of actors, artists, and teachers worked with children from a Ramlila neighbourhood to teach theatre, history, and self-identity. They encountered support and prejudice from the community and a child's world unforgiving in its realities and universal in its imagination and discoveries.
This film is about their journey.
Irfana Majumdar (director, editor) is a theatre director, documentary filmmaker, and teacher, living in Varanasi. She works with NIRMAN, a non-profit working for education and the arts. Arshad Mirza (photographer, editing assistant) is a designer, illustrator, and dancer, also working with NIRMAN. Their previous films, "Images of Indian Children: Work and Play" and "Anupriya" have been screened at conferences and talks in the USA and India. This film is a culmination of a six-month project on children and the Ramlila by the NIRMAN Theatre Studio