In July, members of Aagaaz Theatre Trust were invited to be part of the Dharamshala Residential & International Festival for Theatre (DRIFT). DRIFT is an entirely crowdfunded and volunteer-run theatre festival that has been taking place in Dharamshala since 2016.
Nagina and Aslam of the Aagaaz Repertory worked with students of the Gamru Village School for 2 weeks, on building a performance for the festival, based on the stories of Nasreddin Hodja, which was performed on the first day of the festival. They said of their experience, “Drift के साथ engage करना हमारे लिये बहुत नया था पर वहां के लोग बहुत welcoming थे। हमने वहां पर बच्चों के साथ 10 दिन workshop किया जिसमें हमने उनके body & voice पर काम किया। हमने साथ में मिलकर एक नाटक भी बनाया। बच्चों के साथ नाटक बनाने का process बहुत energizing और exciting था, हमें उनके साथ काम करके बहुत मज़ा आया।
DRIFT में हम सबने अलग अलग तरह का role निभाया, जैसे कुछ लोगो ने Lighting करने में मदद करी, किसी ने ushering की, किसी ने setup करने में help करी, तो किसी ने management मे help करी। यह एक ऐसी जगह थी जहां पर सीखने और सीखाने का तरीका हमारे usual काम से अलग था, क्यूंकी काफी कुछ काम हमने ऐसे भी किये जो हमारे लिए बहुत नये थे। इसलिए यह हम सब के लिये बहुत कुछ सीखने का मौका भी बन गया। साथ में मिलकर काम करने और engage करने का यह मौका हमारे लिये बहुत ख़ास और खूबसूरत रहा।”
Niranjani, founder of the festival, talked about her vision for the festival, and the collaboration with Aagaaz:
“One of the main intents of DRIFT is to bring theatre to people who don’t otherwise have access to it, in the course of their regular lives. The work with the Gamru Village School, the Tibetan Village School, the ladies from Dolls for Tibet, various Mahila Mandals is a way to engage with people through theatre in a way that makes it accessible and in a way that they can get comfortable with it. I think that this is how Aagaaz fits into that vision- the work with the children in Nizamuddin Basti, and especially the consistency is what I deeply admire in Aagaaz. This is one way in which Aagaaz and DRIFT kind of resonate with each other. It’s something that I hope that we are able to continue to do more regularly. We’ve been hosting the festival for 7 years now, and hope to continue to do so in the future too.
Why The Tales of Nasreddin Hodja? Because I think it’s important, in whatever little way we can, to also have stories other than the ones in mainstream media and discourse, where the narrative is either that of the “victim” or the “horrible” Muslim. Most of the kids we work with are Hindu and I really wanted them to also have another idea of the Islamic world, and Muslims, and not just this binary that’s being peddled by forces in power. And also, since the Aagaaz repertory members were going to be facilitating, I wanted them to be able to share their personal stories as well. It was so lovely to see all these kids from Dharamshala do salaam and call them baaji and bhai. This is the syncretism that we hope to have in our country, that we’d like to build, and which can been eroded so quickly… So, so, quickly that I find it, sometimes, difficult to believe that it even existed. So this was an attempt to try and give an alternative narrative to our people.”
This partnership was an especially fruitful one for Aagaaz as well. Apart from Nagina and Aslam’s workshop, some members of the Aagaaz Repertory also performed one of their new dramatized readings, Samay Kaise Guzra, on both days of the festival. Alia, of Aagaaz’s Facilitators’ Collective (Fac Col), facilitated 2 comic making workshops in addition to working with the Tibetan Community Village School in building a performance for the festival. Subhadra, core team member and Fac-Coll-er, also conducted a music workshop with the attendees of the festival. Additionally, Nagina, Alia, and Subhadra performed a reading of Agarbatti, along with four other actors from Dharamshala.
As we come back to Delhi and drift into our usual work, we look forward to finding ways to collaborate and work with DRIFT in the future. :)