Never stop chasing your dreams ! Mallika in the film!!

Never stop chasing your dreams !

A short #film of 2min. This film, ‘#Field In A Box’, features #MallikaNethraSreenivasan. Mallika gives her voice too for the film.

A #dutch conglomerate #TEN CATE,  that is known for advanced materials that make all the difference to humanity through a variety of products – advanced composites, armoury, geo-synthetics, protective fabrics, outdoor fabrics – is also a leader in laying sports #fields of artificial grass.  “Field in a box” is Ten CATE’s community development initiative across the #world through which it creates special, micro-sports-fields near their large sporting-arena projects, as an #inclusive effort, towards #marginals of the society, to #promote #sporting spirit and #nurturing #talent. This film showcases how such endeavours have #impacted the #communities and #societies and urges every #child to chase her #dream!

The talent scouting team of TEN CATE in India was looking for a fresh young girl to cast in the film, and as luck would have it a member of the team landed in one of our good friend, Smita’s home. Smita is the founder of ITIHAAS, that is big time into heritage education of children. It was just a coincidence that while Indira is an integral part of Itihaas in their walks and curriculum development team, I am on their advisory board. Smita, being a theater veteran, was against Mallika being drafted into films at such a young age, and strongly rejected her daughter Ragini’s forceful recommendation of Mallika to the scouting team. Finally Ragini with the help of her aunt, prevailed over Smita to let them approach Mallika and that’s how we got to know about this opportunity.

It was in October 2016, this scouting exercise happened over a few mail exchanges with Mallika’s portfolio that I had shot, with their specifications of looks. Then her voice test etc happened before they finalized her. The producers had some reservations about Mallika’s countenance, as She was 5’7″ at the age of 13 two years ago. Though they were looking for a 13 year old, her personality was much beyond what they had expected. What clinched perhaps is her background in theater (highest level of TIE at National School of Drama that a child can reach) and her national scholarship in classical dance, Bharatnatyam. They were delighted to hear her voice over too.

In November 2016, the filming happened over four days across the slums of Delhi and at the National Stadium, the premier olympic hockey stadium of the nation. What was most taxing for Mallika in the entire film making was the fortnight long training in understanding the basics and playing the game of hockey, under the tutelage of the national women’s hockey coach Saini sir, a Dronacharya awardee. Though Mallika is sporting enough and is a sought after athlete in the events at school, She has never had any sports training of the intensity that Saini sir put her through. Everything, from holding the stick to keeping the ball in play, to repetitive practice of the dribble for a 3-4 hours every day, was tough for Mallika.

Finally the film has been released this month, June 2018. All in all, the whole exercise of making the film gave enough insights to Mallika about the involvement that goes into making of any film – purposefulness, passion, patience, perseverance, hardwork, productivity, effectiveness in delivering in the first go etc… I am sure it will stand in good stead as she embarks upon her journey of life and career.



‘Rangtoli’ of reflections on human emotions and aspirations – Parents’ day at Mallika and Nandu’s NSD’s theatre summer camp

Mallika and Anandita at the NSDs summer theatre workshop

Mallika and Anandita at the NSDs summer theatre workshop

Mallika was insisting on my not going on a tour till Sunday, June 5th, as I was scheduled to visit North-east India. Her NSD summer workshop, Rangtoli, has scheduled parents day and since Indira cannot make it due to her delivery a week ago, she wanted me to be there at any cost. So I deferred my trip by a day. Mallika and Nandu, along with Uma and me, landed at their NSD summer workshop center in Jamia Milia, prompt at 7:30am. Mallika and Nandu have been very secretive as far as revealing the parent day details. They would say, “We will not tell you, it is all going to be a surprise. You only discover when you come.”

When landed at the center, we were welcomed by the spectacular display of the works of the sixty children, 30 each from age groups 8-12 and 13-16. The works included caricatures with descriptions on different topics – My room, Most precious part of my body and why, My family and also their expression of feelings in words in the form of a letter to parents about why they are the best parents, how they feel towards parents response to their behaviour and outlook in life and so on.

Youngsters expressing their feelings to parents

Youngsters expressing their feelings to parents

I cannot express the feelings every parent went through, looking at each of the letters. Many parents were feeling very emotional going through the pictorial descriptions and also the letters written by the elder children to them. They were surprised at the eloquence with which each child shared their inner feelings towards their parents. As the letters did not reveal who is the writer, parents were guessing which letter is of their child, reading through the narration of an incident which they were part of. In the process, almost every parent read every letter. Every parent was touched going through each of the letters. These letters threw a lot questions about the struggles of a child in the adolescent age and what they are expecting from their parents. It was a great way to bring the parents in touch with themselves and the impact of their actions on the psyche of the children. Here are a few of the expressions..

After an hour of getting in touch with oneself, the parents were clubbed in groups in innovative ways. We went on to have a wonderful string of exercises that not only warmed all the participating families, but also familiarized most of us with one another. These exercises included –

a. In the enclosed space, walk at normal speed, slow speed and faster speed; while walking greet one another in whatever way you wish to. Then go on to maximize the greetings
b. Participants to form various clusters by likes – colors, flower, animals, fruits.. in the process every one got to know who all are alike in what respects
c. Random groups to be formed. Each group needs to think of a flower and form the shape of the flower. Other teams have to guess. Then the group has to enact how the flower blossoms, shakes when it rains, celebrates etc…
d. Each of the three groups were asked to make an elephant. Then these elephants had to do different actions as was shared by the facilitators…

Once warmed up and familiarizing oneself, we moved to the next phase of the day plan. Every child had made an invitation card that parents carried. So my invitation card made by Mallika had a pattern cut, and one of the children in their group had the pattern. Once you match the pattern, the child who had my pattern, Sheena in my case, became my facilitator for the day. Two to three families with their facilitators formed a group. We had to interact and get to know about each other families.

We were asked to close our eyes and my facilitator, Sheena, lead me along a path that was jig-jag to a destination. The exercise was about trusting one another and I felt really happy that I surrendered myself to Sheena and she lead me wonderfully. Finally at the destination she asked me to sit and after a while lie down and relax. While relaxing there were tender hands that was massaging my legs and arms and I could make out that it was Sheena. After a while a strong hand came and massaged, this could only be one of the adult trainers of NSD. Then finally there was another pair of hands that went all over the body, straddling, across while massaging and I could sense that this has to be very familiar person who has known me ever, that is Mallika. After half an hour of this relaxation exercise, I was ushered by Sheena to another destination with my eyes shut all the while. She helped me settle in one corner against the wall. I could hear and feel that others are being brought in to this room and helped to settle too. Finally we were allowed to open our eyes. The room was full of parents, forming the outer ring along the wall and the children were sitting in the center of this ring.

Parents shared their feelings about the whole day thus far. Many were obviously moved by what they read on the display and the tender massages they received. They were emotional and shared how this workshop has thrown open new dimensions to their relationship with their children.

Parents exploring children and themselves

Parents exploring children and themselves

After the feedback and sharings, we moved to the final stretch of the day. The groups thus formed, seven in all, each were given a situation to enact. The condition was that the adults have to be children and children were to be adults. The groups were given about 15 minutes to plan out before all assemble in the same room. A performing arena was demarcated and all groups settled in the audience spaces. Each group was called to perform. The scenarios included..

a. Children are getting spoiled; no idea what sort of friendships are being cultivated
b. Children are lazy and they neither understand the parents nor they help them
c. Children do not study and they are stuck to TV, computers and play-stations now a days
d. Chaotic family
e. Understanding family
f. Children misbehave when you take them to a marriage function
g. Children taking care of old parents

It was fun as well as learning experience interacting with other families and planning the skit. Many of the women and including a few men, were participating in such an exercise for the first time. It was a great experience for them also to open up and come out of the cocoon. On the other hand there were a few who were very uninhibited and were in acting with felicity.

Each episode was enacted and then all participants discussed the issues – as how do we make the environment better for the children at home. The process did throw quite a few thoughts and many parents took away new ways of dealing with situations and their children. It also made many parents aware of their responsibilities towards their growing children and how they can go about investing.

I came back and sat next to Mallika, after our group enacted the scenario – children getting spoiled. She was staring at me. I asked what was the matter. She immediately said, “you are a bad boy, you are spoiling others.” I could see that she did not expect me to portray such a character and does not approve of my dalliances. Nandu said that I was very funny..

With this exercise, the parents’ day came to an end. All parents were delighted to be there. I am sure the day would have thrown a lot of questions to each parent to ponder about and respond in a better way to children.

This one month NSD’s theatre workshop would make a world of good for every selected child, Since this workshop is all about helping children to come in touch with their inner journey and external journey, with oneself and their behavioural patterns, with their securities and insecurities.

Long live NSD, Long live TIE – Theatre in Education. Kudos to NSD’s facilitators. Kudos to children. It was truly a ‘rangtoli’ of reflections on human emotions and aspirations.

On the verge of second rebirth… reminiscing last eight years with Mallika

One of my dear friends, Geetu, when I appreciated a lovely portrait of her with her daughter, stated –

“Yes Vasan , it is only when we are in our parent’s shoes that we appreciate them even more. Am thankful to my parents for being there for me and also to God for giving us the opportunity to impart the similar love and affection to our little ones “,

I responded – ” I understand – the rebel is introspecting!! ;))

Geetu- “Vasan , I almost forgot abt the grief I gave my parents”.

This interaction made me write this piece. Thanks Geetu.

Indira, Mallika and I are waiting the arrival of our new family member any time.  I have been completely grounded. It has been a fortnight since.  I have been working from home mostly, in anticipation of the arrival.

As we have been waiting for our second child, I was reminiscing the last eight years of journey with Mallika. What a journey has it be along with Indira.  It has been no less than a rebirth.  I loved every moment. Indira, I am sure, enjoyed more than me for she has always been there for and with Mallika.

My forced break from hectic activities has proved to be invaluable in enriching family bonding – with a couple of false alarms on Indira’s front to helping Mallika find her feet in the real world. The fortnight has been very action packed and very significant in Mallika’s life too.

For Mallika, we were keen to find a school that is in sync with our value system, yet that would help her blossom as good a human being while stoking her creative self. One such school we identified was Sardar Patel Vidyalaya (SPV). As the luck would have it, suddenly SPV opened admissions in the middle of the year for classes 1-3 and invited us also to fill the form. Mallika was not so keen initially.  She really enjoyed going to her current school, Billabong high, as she loved her friends. Indira was instrumental in softening Mallika by taking her to a couple of events at SPV. Mallika started liking SPV as a result, though  still ambivalent.  Slowly we convinced her to take a shot at it.

We filled the form and SPV took all the aspirants through the process of written exam. This was her first face-off with the real world, with about a 100 aspirants for 25 seats. After her written test, Mallika was a little disappointed as she herself felt, she could have done much better. She performed below her potential. But when the results of written exam was announced, Mallika made it to the shortlist of 40. It was a good boost to her confidence. She then jumped into it headlong. Then the face2face interaction followed.  Finally, we found Mallika in the selected list. She found a good school for herself and hope it will turn out to be a great one.

While the school admission process was on, we came across an advertisement about the selection process for summer theatre camp of National school of Drama. We went ahead and brought two forms, one for Mallika and another for her loving cousin Anandita. We applied keenly for both, though we were not sure whether Anandita will be able participate in the month-long programme.  An audition was conducted for all the applicants and results were announced. Anandita made it to the final selected list, but Mallika was wait-listed. Mallika was really dejected. Since Anandita made it and she could not, it was all the more hurting her. She came back home and started painting with purposefulness. Indira and I were discussing, that perhaps it was the best result that could have happened, as Mallika was taking things for granted – parents exposing her to too many avenues!! This is a great lesson for her to reflect upon and take corrective measures.

I went for the inaugural session of the summer workshop to see the possibility if any of the selected candidates do not turn up. It may give an opportunity for Mallika to squeeze in. Yes, indeed two of the selected candidates did not make it, and Mallika was the third in the waiting list. It is still a touch and go affair. NSD called us to be there in the evening to take stock and announce the status of the wait-listed.

Mallika was sitting beside me waiting for the status, praying with folded hands and closed eyes. I have never seen Mallika so eager. So desperate to have it.  She wants to be in the workshop along with her loving cousin Anandita very badly.  As luck would have it, again she just managed to make it as the last selected candidate… Her joy knew no bounds. In a matter of a week, she grabbed two trophies – School and NSD theatre workshop.

The journey of these eight years have been very very enriching. Got a great deal of opportunities to explore, experiment, experience and enliven our own lives.  Music, dance, painting, photography, puppetry, poetry, story telling, unraveling science..traveling and living in country side, abroad…  I recall every single moment with Mallika and Indira. My camera has been able to capture all these moments… What a journey it has been… The visual documentation is here for all to see..

Mallika's JourneyAlphabets - New Age NurseryMallika in her creating spaceMallika in her creating spaceMallika in her creating spaceAnandita and Mallika getting ready for NSD rangtoli audition
Mallika at IIC and IHCMallika at IIC and IHCMallika at IIC and IHCMallika at IIC and IHCMallika at IIC and IHCMallika at IIC and IHC
Maagu and NanduMaagu and NanduMaagu and NanduMaagu and NanduMaagu and NanduMaagu and Nandu
Maagu and NanduAakhyan - India traditional story telling -  @ IGNCAAakhyan - India traditional story telling -  @ IGNCAAakhyan - Indian traditional story telling -  @ IGNCAChildren in SikkimDarjeeling, Sikkim - People, places and lifestyle

Life and times of Mallika, a set on Flickr.

I am eagerly looking forward to years and years ahead, with Mallika and the young one who is going to arrive this week. I want to see how Mallika bonds with the young one. It was here insistence to have a playmate, a sibling, that made Indira and me go for our second child. I am sure the journey ahead is going to be doubly enriching…. Welcome life….

Thanks Indira and Mallika. Love you…

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