Founder Director - Smt. Rekha Jain

rekha jain teaching theatre to children in umang   Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2010

Smt. Rekha Jain, the Founder-Director of Umang was a pioneer in the field of Children’s Theatre, dedicating 60 years of her life writing, directing, designing, choreographing and leading a movement for children’s theatre.

Born in 1924 to a conservative family in Agra, Rekha Jain entered creative life with the encouragement of her husband eminent poet and critic Nemichandra Jain. She forayed into theatre with a role in 'Antim Abhilasha', a play based on the Bengal famine, directed by Shombhu Mitra for IPTA. She played a significant role in the Bengal Cultural Squad and the Central Troupe in Mumbai through the dance-dramas based on the ideal of an independent India. After staying in Kolkata, Mumbai and Allahabad she came to Delhi in 1956 and associated herself with Delhi Children's Theatre. To provide a platform for creative expression to children from all sections of society she started her own organization Umang in 1979. She regularly organized and conducted theatre workshops for children in several cities like Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Agra, Bhopal, Bhilai, Imphal, Bengaluru apart from Delhi.

Rekha ji constantly endeavored to include marginalized and underprivileged children in her theatre work. With her understanding and experience in diverse artistic expressions, she tried to create a unique amalgam which gave a new direction to children's theatre in the country. In her work she managed to create a magical world for children which not only attracted them but also made them more aware of social realities. She set high artistic standards through her own work in this field as she believed that theatre for children needs to be visually and artistically rich as this would provide the base for their aesthetics in life.

Along with dance, music, acting and direction Rekha ji was particularly interested in writing and has to her credit twelve anthologies of plays for children. Many of her memoirs and articles on music, dance and theatre have regularly been published in journals and have also been broadcast on AIR and Doordarshan.

In recognition of her 60-year long commitment to the field, she received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for lifetime contribution to the performing arts. She also received awards from the Hindi Akademi, Delhi and the Uttar Pradesh Government for her work in the field of children's literature. For contribution to children's theatre she got several awards, of which those given by Sahitya Kala Parishad, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi Natya Sangh, and Indo Russian Rotary Club are significant.

Rekha ji also travelled extensively to Europe and other countries under the Cultural Exchange Programme of the Government of India, as a children's theatre expert. The National School of Drama has published a book on her contribution, written and edited by Mahesh Anand titled Rekha Jain: Krititva aur Vyaktitva. In 2010, Doordarshan telecast a feature on her which ran for four weeks.

In April 2010, while she was busy planning the annual workshop for children, she passed away after a brief illness. However she continues to inspire several generations for the exacting standards she had set and the dreams of an equitable society that she tried to weave in her creative work.