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Making the impossible possible



Abanti Chakraborty. -- Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

She believes to the hilt the famous adage that Napoleon coined, "Impossible is the word found in the dictionary of fools", and to prove it, she has taken up the pilot project of her directorial venture with the children with hearing impairment.

Meet Abanti Chakraborty, a bubbly young Kolkata based girl who has just completed her post-graduation in applied linguistics and translation studies from the Central University in Hyderabad.

Though the stage and theatre arts always appealed to her since her childhood it was only when she was in her ninth standard that she got a break to act in a few Max Mueller and Shakespeare plays, and since then the stage has been a part of her life. She has been associated with various professional theatre groups hosting plays across the country, without compromising on the academic front. After completing her graduation in arts from Kolkata she came to the `city of pearls' to pursue her PG study, during which she encountered a subject called speech phonetics that triggered the dormant passion for play with renewed vigour and new ideas.

She developed the idea of directing a play with the hearing impaired and at that juncture she came across a friend who incidentally happened to be a faculty member in the Andhra Mahila Sabha Special School for Deaf Children. Abanti approached the institution and her proposal was approved.

That was the birth of another Abanti in the attire of a director. One should not be misled by her age and her pretty looks, she is a taskmaster on stage, at least for the 19 hearing impaired children whom she selected for enacting the rib-tickling Shakespearean classic "A Midsummer Night's Dream". She has not only been able to get the best out of them within a span of three months but the children look towards her as their chief motivator.

"While going through the subject of speech phonetics I decided to do something for these children so that they can prove that even they have the talent and capability to compete with other normal children," avers Abanti.

But working with children with profound hearing impairment had not been easy. It had taken her over three months, working eight hours a day, to get them to perfection. "Communicating with the children has never been my problem, with whatever sign language I gathered over the years I use them liberally. But the main problem was to make them understand the theme of the play and the character that each was going to play. To do so I enacted the whole play a couple of times in the initial days referring each character to the child concerned. Once I realised that they were able to understand the story and could relate themselves to the play I assigned the roles to them. Later, to make them react to the scenes I used high frequency drum beats in the music composition, which was faintly audible to the children. The entire play of one hour is divided in to 1,100 parts (approx) that the children keep counting mentally from the word go and each entry, exit, facial expression is based on this count. This was the most crucial phase of practice because all through the play sign language was not used by any children or any assistant in the wings. The entire play is synchronised on the mental count of the children and the high frequency drum beats with lighting effects. Who said it is impossible? Everything is possible if we have the will and determination, and my children have proved it," asserts Abanti.

With this as a launch pad Abanti wants to pursue a dual role in theatre life. She wishes to pursue her acting career working for a serious theatre group and continue to host shows with her hearing impaired children all around the globe.

S.B.

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