Lucknow's theatre by and for senior citizens

People's Initiative, an NGO, plan "theatre for elderlies", engaging senior citizens in producing plays revolving around themes related to the golden years of life

Representative image of a film screening for senior citizens
Representative image of a film screening for senior citizens


People's Initiative, a Lucknow-based non-profit organisation, has come up with the concept of "theatre for elderlies"—by them and for them.

The members plan theatre workshops for the elderly and have discussed how senior citizens can be engaged and plays can be produced revolving around themes related to their life stage. Also an aim: getting youth involved in order to build understanding for senior citizens' perspectives.

The examples of veteran actor Anil Rastogi and theatre director Punit Asthana, who are pursuing their passions in their 60s and 70s, may be upheld as inspiration.

According to a survey by HelpAge India, titled 'Bridge the Gap: Understanding Elder Needs', 47 per cent of senior citizens are dependent on family support for an income, and 34 per cent depend on pensions.

Only 21 per cent of elderly people are still working and earning.

"Theatre for senior citizens can go a long way in sensitising our community to the way they look at old age and the contribution it can make to later generations," said theatre director Salim Arif.

"The ensemble activity of theatre itself requires bonding that is essential to the building of a self-reliant social structure that is at the core of our survival and well-being. Instead of thinking of seniors as individuals over the hill, we should see them as the core of our foundation," he added.

Theatre veteran Sangam Bahuguna said, "Theatre can influence and have a deep impact on people's minds. The problems faced by senior citizens are evident. Through stories related to comedy, giving out a positive message is required."

Sharing a recent anecdote from the recent 30 Days, 30 Plays event, Bahuguna added, "While we were sceptical [of whether] people will come to see the plays on all 30 days, it was overwhelming to find that not only the auditorium was jam-packed but most people in the audience were the elderlies."

Theatre artist Gopal Sinha said, "Senior artists should not be given the role of [only] elderly people. If a youngster can play the role of a senior citizen, it should be vice versa too."

Members of the organisation agreed that a 40-day theatre workshop should be organised where elderly people can teach, learn, write, enact and get involved in whatever way they can and also institute an award for creative writing by and for the elderly.

To engage more senior citizens, the members also discussed how they can do baithaks (discussion events) and qissa goi (storytelling), and organise small gatherings in their locality so that people can become aware of such ventures.

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