Behind the DRAMA

Asha Devi uses drama therapy to inform, convey and change

The ‘train game’, where kids hold onto each other’s shoulders and make hissing sounds while they move around is a deceptively simple game. But not so for Asha Devi, actor and director of FACE (Fantasia Artistic Creative Execution), a city-based drama therapy camp for kids.

The complexities lie in the social dynamics it discusses, unknown to the child who is having fun. This simple exercise strengthens cooperation and a sense of unity, as they adjust themselves for the benefit and smooth functioning of the team as a whole.

“Theatre is about everyday life. By discussing contemporary issues, it aims to bring about a social change. Theatre therapy distils the concepts of theatre to bring about change in one’s lifestyle,” says Asha, adding that “body language can tell one a lot about a person.”

Riding a bullet through the streets of Palarivattom, Asha is all about challenging the conventional ideas of womanhood set up by society. She says our women are taught inferior body language and this affects our confidence. Women are always taught to sit right, keep their legs close and not to laugh out too loud. Reared from a young age to protect her body at any given moment, as if predators lay all around, a woman becomes overly conscious of her physical being. “Acting makes you forget the body,” says Asha. Women empowerment, gender roles and a protest against the unfair power structures within a family, lie in the depths of her dramas, which are skilfully coated with humour.

She uses drama therapy to inform, convey and change.

In one of her plays, the husband who relaxes on an armchair watching TV, calls out to his wife umpteen times to pick up a remote lying a few meters away. After the show, a man in the crowd came to her with tears in his eyes that he had watched himself on stage and so far had never realised the peril of his actions.

Asha believes discipline is a core value and should be inculcated in children from a young age. But rather than using violent measures she advocates assigning them household chores, be it cooking, cleaning or washing one’s own plates to make them responsible. “Most girls today don’t know how to cook. But I believe both boys and girls should know how to do so.”

Asha founded FACE early this year. Prior to that, she ran Penn Arrangu along with two friends, Sona P M, a bank employee and Jyothi Narayanan, a social activist. She won the Best Actress award (Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award in Amateur Drama competition in 2008).

FACE aims at developing the personality of a child by sharpening their observation skills and animating their imagination through drama. She works to build social responsibility in them through fun games rather than by setting rules in stone.

(The writer is an intern with The Hindu).

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