The Tomboy And The Tribal
Hidayat Sami recently revived, under the Theatre Unit banner, Ramu Ramanthan’s children’s play, Medha & Zoombish, that actually speaks to adults, who create barriers of caste and class between children.
The tomboyish Medha (Garima Yajnik) comes to the village of Vada Kanjeer, with her pregnant mother (Saloni Shukla) to visit her grandfather (Girish Sharma), who teaches Sanskrit to Kunjan (Ananditaa Singh). Medha is a city girl—who wants to be a boy—so is fascinated by a tribal kid Zoombish (Prashant Amlani), his camel (a puppet pokes its head out from the wing) and his store of treasures, like a snail and a headless cockroach. But the grandfather treats Zoomish like an untouchable, and Kunjan has been told by her mother that’s he must not talk to or play with the dirty boy.
Still, the kids get up to all kinds of mischief, while around them tribal protests are roughly quelled; Zoombish’s parents are arrested too. A water project is to be inaugurated soon, which Medha and Kunjan manage to wreck while pretending to be James Bond. And Zoombish proves his heroism by coming to the aid of Medha’s family in a crisis. The others have to admit that they were wrong to hold such biases against the child.
The play wraps the message with humour, song and dance and older kids in the audience would, probably identify with the three high-spirited kids, played by grown-ups in the Grips style of theatre, who have performed with remarkable energy and replicated the innocence of children—particularly Garima Yajnik, playing Medha.
The production has a simple design of a village house, a courtyard and the ubiquitous charpai. It is enjoyable, but not mindlessly so, and treats children in the audience as people with minds and hearts, who will see the problems faced by Zoomish and his people, and hopefully grow up with more compassion than their parents, and fewer prejudices.