Tin Forest International Theatre Festival

Pankaj is an established actor, director and choreographer who’s bagged roles in Bollywood films like ‘Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye!’ and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhag’, ‘Road to Ladakh’ and 'Murari, The Mad Gentleman’ among others. He has a longstanding job as an actor in Kingdom of Dreams’s production, ‘Jhumroo’.  He ran away from his village Firozpur (Uttar Pradesh) as a young boy and came to Delhi to start life anew. His years at the Salaam Baalak home take him through school and college, as his interest in Theatre grows. Today Pankaj teaches theater in different schools, has performed in dance shows in India and abroad as a member of the Astad Deboo Dance Company. He was one of the actor’s in the group that represented India at the Tin Forrest International Theatre Festival organised by National Theatre of Scotland in 2014. Pankaj first became a part of Yuva Ekta through the Summer Theatre Program. Starting off as a participant to becoming a facilitator, his association with the organisation has grown stronger over the years. He shares his experience saying, “I got chance to meet many friends from across the world. I also participated in different workshops with them and learnt new things about performing arts. We were representing India at an International Youth Theatre Festival in Glasgow and it was a great feeling. The Tin Forrest International Theatre Festival was organised by the National Theatre of Scotland as a part of the Glasgow Cultural Festival during the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It got together youth theatre groups and performers from the Commonwealth Countries for a one-of-a-kind celebration of the arts. This was our first attempt at preparing an international production and getting on board a cast and crew that could travel abroad. Our play, “Shoonya se Shikhar - a Journey of Transformation” brought together stories that criss-crossed length and breadth of India, weaving a tapestry of progress, hope and empowerment. The story talked about the challenge of Democracy and Diversity, of expanding the scope of development to go beyond mere economic definitions, to include social empowerment of the marginalized… stories of the soil, of struggle, transition, change and growth. The process of planning and strategizing for the Tin Forest Project began in December, 2013. Open auditions were conducted through which cast of 12 performers was selected. The group was representative of India’s social reality, as young people from different socio-economic backgrounds, harbouring different aspirations, came together on one platform. Through a series of workshops and brainstorming, we zeroed down on the concept of the play that we wanted to showcase - representing the diversity of India, and questioning the change and development happening in our country through the lens of our nation’s Youth. The play premiered at the ICCR auditorium on 8th July, 2014. Our audience included Mr. Satish Mehta, Director General, ICCR, Mr. Vivek Mansukhani, Director Arts, British Council India, Ms. Sarbani Chakravarty, Confederation of Indian Industry, children from Salaam Baalak Trust and students from different schools and colleges across Delhi. Glasgow was a great experience for the entire team. For most of the members, it was their first trip abroad. Islam from Salaam Baalak shared his experience with the audience at Tin Forest as well, saying that he never thought he will get a chance to travel abroad, and this trip was like a dream come true for him. We performed on 25th July, the second day of the festival. Since our plot had a lot of scenarios, transitions, characters and costume changes, all we hoped for was that the audience would understand and connect with the story. After the performance, audience members met the caste and crew backstage. Many told us that the subtitles weren't necessary as our story and portrayal aptly represented our intent. Others were becoming aware about the sub-continent's problems for the first time. The response we received was amazing, and it was heartening to see audience come up to us share their feedback and love. Most of the feedback we got was that it was very brave of us to talk about issues that we feel strongly about.I think your performance was great - I liked how you incorporated personal stories into it. The ending was quite a strong one. I don't think the subtitles were necessary when the characters were speaking English but they didn't bother me at all. I think the 'from nowhere to somewhere' was very clear so I think you did a great job.I got chance to meet many friends from across the world. I also participated in different workshops with them and learnt new things about performance. We were representing India in International Youth Theatre Festival, Glasgow, and it was a great feeling.