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Children of the Magic Pen

A Review by Sonia Dhaliwal

Above: Manohar Khushalani, Mahima and Charanya

Today children are distracted. Distracted by video games, television, computers, you name it! Everything seems to be an enemy of reading.

In the vivacious play, Children of the Magic Pen written by Nilima Sinha, Devika Rangachari, Girija Rani Asthana, and Nita Berry, our timeless childhood classics jump off the page to valiantly fight the dangers to books. What are the dangers our heroes face? The pit of oblivion, book eating termites morphing into destructive computer viruses, and also distractions like the stunning en­chantress Rangeen Rani, or the silver screen.

The jumble of characters set off on a treasure hunt until at last they reach Magic Castle where the greatest treasure known to man awaits them-immortality! They will live on and on, enchanting generations of young readers through books. It is a campaign that cries out, 'Read India Read!'

This dizzying kaleidoscope of characters includes many of our childhood favourites. Aladdin, our strapping young lad who flew off his carpet from the Arabian Nights, R2D2­the lovable favourite of Star Wars, Mary Poppins-where elegance meets class as she graces the Earth with her magic umbrella, the pompous Queen of Hearts always ready to assert herself, Feluda the overly intellectual detective from India, the gregarious Captain Silver, the crocodile of the Panchatantra whose insatiable palate clamours for hearts, his foe the monkey who commits one blunder after another, the fearful white rabbit, en­chanting Rangeen Rani, the devilish termite king, the wise old librarian and the radical reader, all make up the cast to this delightful comedy, ably directed by the eminent Feisal Alkazi.

I was very impressed by the performances.

Mary Poppins had a charming Old World innocence about her. The Queen of Hearts, well played out a contemptuous pompous character who would continually shout 'off with their head!' as a continuing mantra. The White Rabbit occasionally popped up here and there, fearing the Queen of Hearts would behead him. The monkey kept its humble stance throughout, and fed humorous lines like "Seedhi baat no bakwas. "

The witch, the crocodile and Captain Silver were incredible! They really took the play up to another level! The crocodile had very pronounced facial expressions, while Captain Silver would bellow out and voice his character in such a way that you could not take your eyes off him. The humorous witch cackling her evil plans was a delight to watch!

The Reader made very good eye contact and slow delivery of lines which made the story suitable for children in the audience.


Feluda the detective was an overtly intellectual character who reasoned every way possible to obtain the treasure, and helped everyone get back to track through all the distractions and R.2D2 was funny as it played up its character and did things like a robot dance to .spice things up! Aladdin made the girls swoon and had very humorous moments with Captain Silver when the Captain wanted to  steal his magic lamp! Rangeen Rani was the stunning enchant­ress of the screen, successfully pulling every­one away from their goal, and the Termite King was the dark evil character of the underworld who set his army of termites against the storybook characters. The librarian was a wide eyed fascinating character! His exaggerated dialogues and wily charm made for a memorable ending!


Many of the costumes were good. The witch had extensive makeup which helped exaggerate her expressions and add a pinch of humour at times. The black draping gown certainly put her into character. Long John Silver's bright colours and eccentric mismatching outfit helped contrib­ute to his colourful personality. The Queen of Heart's hairstyle, exceptional red gown, and rosy cheeked makeup made her especially well got up. Rangeen Rani was every bit the seductive enchantress with her well designed belly-dancing outfit full of rich tones. Some costumes needed more attention to detail-for instance the monkey and crocodile could have fared better with either a mask or face painting. The monkey also needed a tail.

In general, the monkey did not give one the impression of being a monkey through it's appearance, but merely a crouching girl. That outfit needs work. R2D2, the White Rabbit, Aladdin, and Mary Poppins all look like their fantasyland counter parts. The Termite King's costume was excellent! The cape added to his sinister ways.


Feluda and the librarian were also well portrayed. The story itself was fast paced and humorous with lines like 'mera dil, pyaar ka diwana' or 'seedhi baat no bakwas' sprinkled through the play. Repetitive dialogues like 'Off with their head!' added to characterization. The alliances and interactions between the characters was the particularly magical element in this comedy's formula.


The transition in the story towards the tribulation of first dealing with an army of book eating termites suddenly morphing to destructive computer viruses was far too abrupt, and. could have been developed slightly more, the interaction between the story and in the audience was the main factor that helped make them feel a part of experience. And that is what it is about! Exciting the ­audience, and getting them to participate makes them feel like a part of the action. That is what it's indeed all about.


Sonia Dhaliwal is a Mass Com student in Gurgaon.


Scripted Collectively by Nilima Sinha, Nita Berry, Devika Rangachari, Girija Rani Asthana

Reproduced from BOOK REVIEW Vol XXXIII No 7 July 2009 issue