As a celebration of 25 years of hard work and enjoyment Umang decided to dedicate the entire year to children by organizing varied activities. Even though Umang is essentially a children’s theatre organization, that year we decided to take a more holistic approach and therefore organized many activities that encourage creativity in children. However, the focus was on the marginalized children of our society, since they are the ones that are unable to afford such exposure and expensive professional theatre workshops that are held in the city.

Theatre Workshops with under-privileged children

As the first phase of the celebrations several theatre workshops with underprivileged children from NDMC schools and NGOs were conducted in collaboration with the National School of Drama. The experts included Smt. Mohini Mathur, Sh. Harish Verma, Sh. Gulshan Walia, Ms. Sarojini Arya and Sh. Arun Singh.

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Teacher Training Workshops

While Umang has been involved with theatre for children to give them a platform for creative expression, it has seen theatre as an integral part of a child’s real education-by way of greater awareness of oneself and society , sensitization to the other, confidence and discipline building. In the silver jubilee year we wanted to reach out to maximum number of children to make education fun for them. And we decided what better way to reach children, than through teachers, who could be our ambassadors to several generations of children.

With this in mind we approached Ms. Janakirajan, then Director, SCERT, who responded very positively and agreed to collaborate on this project. The idea was that these workshops would be followed by a pilot project in collaboration with NSD to introduce theatre in 10 Government Schools for which the schools were identified through the teacher training workshops. Umang conducted two workshops with 50 in-service teachers of Government Schools at DIET Daryaganj from 5th to 12th May 2004. These workshops were conducted by Abdul Latif Khatana and Surwarn Rawat, both founder members of NSD TIE Company. The keenness and enthusiasm of these teachers was much beyond our expectation.

We also conducted six workshops with 120 trainee teachers at the same venue from 24th to 29th May, 2004 These workshops were conducted by well-established experts in the field – Moloyshree Hashmi, Ashish Ghosh, Abdul Latif Khatana, Suwarn Rawat, Charru Sharma and B. Gauri.

However the second phase of the workshop of introducing this in government schools could not take off due to other preoccupations of SCERT, though a very fruitful interaction with some school principals had taken place and they seemed keen in principle to take on the project.

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Paint with the Masters – a day with eminent artists

The second phase of Umang’s Silver Jubilee celebrations started on a colourful note. An evening with four stalwarts from the world of art, Shamshad Hussain, Amitava Das, Gopi Gajwani and Sidharth, and an opportunity to share a canvas with them. The Sarvodaya Higher Secondary School at Shakarpur suddently came alive on Wednesday, the 8th of September 2004 with sixty children from different NGOs and schools waiting full of anticipation, excited about meeting the artists and ready to attack the canvas. The children came from the Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, Salaam Balak Trust and Arya Samaj School.

The four painters immediately started off on one canvas each with fifteen children from one school. All four used different approaches to appeal to the creativity of the young minds before them. Some told the children to forget whatever they have been taught and use the brushes and colours on the canvas as wildly as possible, others told them stories in verse to decide the theme of the painting.

Children began hesitantly perhaps because they had never used these colours before, nor had they been given such a large canvas to express themselves. Very soon the room was bursting with the creative energy of the children, carefully navigated by the eminent masters to produce four amazing paintings. This was a unique experience for us and the children and we will cherish it forever. Thank you Gopi Gajwani ji, Shamshad Ji, Amitava Ji and Sidharth Ji for taking the time out of your schedule to bring in so much colour in the lives of these children.

Paint with masters   Paint with masters   Paint with masters

Mukhauta – a mask making workshop

The Mask Making Workshop was the next activity in the second phase of Silver Jubilee celebrations, under the expert guidance of Harish Verma. The workshop was held at Bal Bharti Public School, NOIDA. The children who attended the workshop belonged to Ankur, the school run by ANAWA, a charitable association, which imparts free education to the children of underprivileged families.

Once again, children were expectantly waiting to jump into the task of mask making with papers, colours, scissors and staplers, with Harish Uncle to show them how. As they got down to ‘work’, what started emerging were several birds, ducks, fish, king, soldiers, and even rakshasas in different sizes, shapes, and expressions. Their hands worked deftly to produce these shapes and colours and very soon the open courtyard was inhabited with a variety of characters enough to make several new plays. The pride in their creation was visible on these faces as they adorned these masks for a final photos session.

Paint with masters   Paint with masters   Paint with masters

Cartoon Workshop

Sudhir Tailang, the well-known cartoonist, acceded to our request to conduct a cartoon making workshop with children as part of our Silver Jubilee celebrations. Umang had had a long association with him and he had worked before with Umang children. Announcement of this workshop had requests pouring in from different groups of children that this should be done with them. Who does not want to learn to make cartoons and that too with Sudhir Tailang! Finally, children working in Umang plays protested that all workshops are being done with other children, why not at least this one with them. And they won the argument.

There were hectic preparations at Mother Teresa Public School, Preet Vihar, with around 100 excited children waiting with their sketch books and crayons, and the stage set with an easel and drawing sheets for the workshop conductor. Soon he took the children on this wondrous journey through tricks of line drawing, highlighting essential features of the subject of the cartoon. We found ourselves hiding from the children lest we become the subjects of the cartoons. But very soon we had every child working like an expert cartoonist making a series of cartoons, realizing that they too can do it with just a little guidance. So now Umang also had a host of potential young cartoonists and who knows which of them had discovered that this was his calling and decide to take this up as a profession.

Cartoon Making 2004   Cartoon Making 2004   Cartoon Making 2004   Cartoon Making 2004

Publication of Children’s Plays and Stories by eminent Hindi writers

Worldwide there is a practice of eminent writers also writing for children, but in India, or at least in the Hindi region, writing for children is a generally neglected area. To fill this void we approached several eminent Hindi writers to write plays for children for a special anthology we wanted to bring out on this occasion. We were very happy that several writers responded readily to our request and contributed to this collection, even if it was a first time effort by them. Some, who could not write a play contributed their stories or a screen play.

We proudly announced this very special anthology, edited by Sh. Ashok Vajpeyi, and suitably titled Umang. We felt this would be a valuable addition to the repertoire of children’s plays, and might also have initated a process of writers thinking of regularly writing for children.

The writers whose plays featured in this collection were, Shrilal Shukla, Kamleshwar, Ramesh Chandra Shah, Giriraj Kishore, Mridula Garg, Rajesh Joshi, Kamal Vashishth, Divik Ramesh, Rajesh Jain and Sudha Arora. Krishna Sobti contributed a story and Uday Prakash, a screen Play. Our heartfelt thanks to the writers who made this book so special by contributing to it.

The book was formally released by the eminent litterateur Prof. Namvar Singh at a function organized at India International Centre, on 28th September, 2004. Apart from Krishna Sobti, Giriraj Kishore, Mridula Garg and Rajesh Jain several writers, artists and well-wishers of Umang attended this event.

Publication of eminent Hindi writers

Umang National Theatre Festival

The last phase and culmination of its celebrations (October5-8 2004) was a grand and joyous affair with a National Theatre Festival inaugurated with a children’s march to highlight the importance of art and theatre in education, a carnival featuring child folk artistes, an exhibition of photographs, masks, costumes etc, marked the 25 year journey of Umang. The festival featured seven children’s plays, three from the Umang repertoire, and four that had been invited from NGOs Butterflies, Udayan Care, the IMAGO-TIE company with children from the Spastic Society, and from Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad. All in all the precincts of Kamani auditorium reverberated with a riot of colours , sounds and visuals of children for those three days. Umang was full of children and the children were full of umang. A fitting finale!

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