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What does a Nalamdana performance entail?

Theatre has always been a popular medium in India. Tamil Nadu has many forms of folk and traditional theatre but sadly, with the advent of television both rural and urban masses have become more reliant on the small screen for their entertainment.

The influence of TV and cinema is so overwhelming in Tamil Nadu that savvy politicians have used these media to build mass support. In order to compete with the electronic media, Nalamdana uses a popular,"filmi" style of passionate drama, melodramatic characters, stories, situations that strike a chord with the audience, as well as professional scripting and acting.

Nalamdana street plays grab the attention of everyone in the community: young and old, men and women. A rapt audience of 500 to 700 people (on average, though some shows have drawn crowds of up to 2,000) convene in great clusters, sitting in the clearing before a make-shift stage. They become totally engrossed in the various adventures of the "hero and heroine."

Love, comedy, family upheavals all carry the undercurrent of the main health issue whether it is HIV/AIDS or Pre-natal health. The team's pre and post play interviews help the group fine tune the story and clarify the messages. Familiar film songs are used as background music to create the right ambience. The pre play entertainment ensureslocal participation and knits the assorted crowd together...to stay...sometimes two hours after the conclusion of the play.

Young men and shy girls still cluster around the actors, reluctant to let them go. They invite them to come to their houses and want to talk to them more to get as much information as possible. The Nalamdana team promises to visit them the next day to have an informal discussion or sometimes to hold a workshop on any given health issue. Many of the Nalamdana actors are trained counsellors and evaluators. Some of them come from communities similar to the ones in which they perform. This helps the group to effectively understand and address subtle beliefs and practices.

The show inevitably ends with the team being invited to come back again. High quality entertainment that respects the audience's taste and standards is a powerful vehicle that has served Nalamdana well in getting the message across.