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"Mahabharat" to spread word about manuscripts

Mandira Nayar

Targeting schoolchildren to ensure survival of heritage

NEW DELHI: The National Mission for Manuscripts has decided to use "Mahabharat" to spread the word about manuscripts to schoolchildren. While the Epic tale of the war has been re-told over and over again with various morals, the Mission will now introduce a `new' message to ensure it lives on.

Moving to the next level to ensure that manuscripts that the Mission is busy digitising have a future, a small bunch of actors are going on the road to Gujarat and the North-East to perform the "Mahabharat'' in front of school children to get them hooked to the Mission's cause. Titled the "Living Words'', this programme has already been tested out in ten government schools in the Capital.

"There is a need to connect to the future and not only be stuck in the past, so the Mission is trying to take manuscripts to the next generation. Apart from combing the country for manuscripts it is also important to get young children to get interested in this heritage.

"Living Words'' is a play that the Mission commissioned for this purpose. Since the children in the Capital have responded really well to it, we have decided to take it around,'' said an official from the Ministry of Culture.

An interactive play that uses four actors -- two men and two women -- the Mission's Mahabharat that was conceived by Yellow Cat Theatre, concentrates on the `war' part of the story.

"The play starts off as children playing normally and then the fights start. It is like it happens in real life. After the play is over, someone from the Mission who is accompanying the actors starts talking to the children about where they have heard this story and then starts talking about manuscripts and the need to conserve them,'' said artistic director of Yellow Cat Theatre Sukesh Arora.

Apart from getting to learn about the `source' of many stories, "Living Words'' also gives children the rare opportunity to come close to an old manuscript. Making a beginning with government schools where there are no budgets for theatre, it is an interesting way to introduce them to their heritage.

The Mission has also made a short film on "Living Words'' which it plans to take around various colleges later this year.

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