Interview with Chetna Mehrotra: Founder of Rangbhumi – A Happy Playground, Drama Based Learning Facilitator, Theatre of the Oppressed Facilitator, Playback Theatre Artist, Wardrobe & Etiquette Consultant
Q: What inspired you to start your own business?
A: It was destined to happen and there was no real inspiration. Being a single parent, I had to run the house. I realized I have to start a platform on my own as a full-time job wasn’t an option. Also, being from a theatre background helped me in gradually putting things in place. However, the joy of knowing that we are one of the very few theatre entities which do what we are doing drives me to walk miles and beyond.
Q: What hurdles came across in beginning?
A: When it began there were apprehensions from the schools whether this would work or not or if it is just a casual activity which we do. I had to really train myself well by attending numerous workshops on various paradigms of theatre including Playback, Theatre of the Oppressed, Theatre in Education, etc. It was initially difficult to find people who could be a part of the team or could be trusted with children. Gradually, it all fell into place and we could see the like-minded people coming in and working well with children and adults alike, whether at school or anywhere else.
Q: What is Your Struggle Story?
A: The struggle has been real. Starting a self-run business with no real back up was always going to be tough. On top of it, our work is more at the psychometric level which drains you out and makes you exhausted. All that on top of the constant need of following up with various schools, colleges, corporates, etc made it more exhausting. I have met with the administration of over 25 schools in Mumbai alone and a lot of them were interested in what we do but at the same time were skeptical of the methodology of our work due to which many such presentations never materialized. As our work spread over the time, another tough call was to find trainers with such background and their adaptability with the kind of work we do. Fortunately, we have managed to build a core team which is flexible, adaptable and ever willing to learn. We are moving ahead with a clear vision now and would hopefully build an even bigger platform where we can work with people from all walks of life, age and race.
Q: What is your business into?
A: We at Rangbhumi have created a learning space for participatory forms of theatre, some of which are Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), Playback Theatre, Drama for Learning & Reflection, Theatre in Education and Participatory Research Programs. We have worked with children at different schools covering the areas of concern such as examination pressure, education system, and parental expectations. We have also worked with corporates on diversity, inclusion, and gender sensitization. We have performed Playback shows and workshops with schools, colleges, cancer hospital, juvenile rescue homes, Teach for India, mothers of students/kids, and more. The observations have been heartening as these processes have brought a shift in the expressions among the participants, their dialogues have experienced an inner change and have created awareness among the participants.