‘Using Street Plays to Help Actors Overcome Addiction in Mumbai’

Nukkad naatak has been used as a tool of awareness since a long time.

Updated
My Report
2 min read

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati

Coronavirus, cancer, Swachh Bharat – our street theatre group has gone from galli to galli in Mumbai, raising awareness on issues of societal importance. I am Nizamuddin Shah, an actor from the Netflix original Yeh Ballet. I have been directing street plays since a few years now, and with that, helping young performers hone their skills.

Nukkad natak has been used as a tool to raise awareness for a long time. However, several people still believe it is not a real form of art, and its impromptu nature makes some believe that not a lot of work goes into a performance.

What makes our group unique is its composition. While all the performers come from low-income families, most of them have been rescued from a life of alcohol and drug addiction.

‘Using Street Plays to Help Actors Overcome Addiction in Mumbai’
(Photo Courtesy: Nizamuddin Shah)

There are 10 performers in the group between 17-26 years of age, who have been living in Mumbai’s slums all their lives. Despite disapproval from parents, nukkad has become their safe haven, an avenue to focus their energies on character-building.

The main aim has been to help wrongly-influenced youth to overcome addiction, while asking them to use their energies positively. 

For example, in a play about cancer, the actors will be those kids who have a proclivity towards smoking cigarettes or ganja.

“I had lost all friendships and had been pulled into a bad path that would have wasted my life and career. I did a street play about cancer and after that, I realised how dangerous what I was doing was.”
Pushpraj Lazer, Actor

Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks in the success of a play. Since 2011, we have been trying to get a permanent space to rehearse, but we have not been able to succeed. Hence, we have to rehearse in parks and other open spaces.

“Sometimes, there was not enough food to feed ourselves. We used to go to a nearby gurudwara and eat there. During rains, we used to go on despite getting wet while rehearsing.”
Sandeep Jaiswal, Actor

Amid the pandemic, we had started rehearsing and coordinating over the phone, wondering when things would go back to normal. We wish to expand our reach and connect more people with this endeavour.

There may be several young people who are under bad influence, we wish to connect with them and help them through this kind of work by diverting their thoughts.

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