Theatre as a form of entertainment has captivated the masses for centuries now, whether the play is on stage or on a street. Now, a Hyderabad-based theatre group Nishumbita is using the form to spread awareness about health issues. Recently, the theatre group conducted street plays at Gandhi Hospital and Niloufer Hospital to spread awareness on retinopathy of prematurity, a potentially blinding disease in premature infants.
“Retinopathy of prematurity affects premature children and it can result in the child being blinded in a few years. Simple tests and simple treatment at the right time can go a long way towards the child’s vision and that’s why we did this play. Parents usually ignore it and timely intervention is not done. Through our play, we explained about how the eye issue can be diagnosed and treated and what can happen if the issue is not treated in time,” explains Ram Mohan Holagundi, director of Nishumbita, adding, “It is a serious issue and not many know about it. In fact, many people go to faith healers when their child starts losing sight. If we tell them or conduct a workshop or something, there’s a high chance people wouldn’t listen. This is why we felt the need to raise awareness in a way that is highly entertaining, so we did this play with a 15-member team with a lot of songs, dance, humour and more in the play.”
According to Ram Mohan, their theatre group did this campaign in association with Public Health Foundation of India and the response that they got at those two hospitals has now made them want to take this further. “We first did the play at Gandhi hospital and it was completely in Telangana-style Telugu. A couple of hundred people watched it there and after that we went to Niloufer. There, we decided to have a little Udru thrown in to the play, to suit the audience. We decided on the spot that we will have some dialogues in Urdu and that was received well too,” he explains.
In addition to using theatre to spread awareness, Ram Mohan and his team also use it to build confidence and communication skills among underprivileged children from government schools. He says, “We recently conducted a theatre workshop as we believe theatre in education goes a long way towards children’s overall growth. It helps them get rid of their inhibitions and teaches them voice modulation and body language. We also help them figure out their own ways of explaining conventional school subjects in a fun style through theatre.”