Kori Paati Theatre Group was established in 2016. It was born out of an earlier educational and recreational group of urban poor children in Dharavi, called ‘The Grand Group’ started in 2008, with just 7 adolescents. Today, it is a support-network of 120 children and adolescents, which provides them a platform for exchange, experience-sharing and to learn life-skills together.
Kori Paati Theatre group’s philosophy is informed by Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ form and uses participatory tools to channelize the creativity of slum children; casting them as storytellers, narrators, conscience-keepers and changemakers of their communities. The process of creating plays nurtures their compassionate side and breaks their isolation. Children are encouraged to collectively create stories and develop scripts on topics of social relevance and subsequently direct, choreograph and produce their own plays.
Kori Paati’s most resounding success has been in the Dharavi community itself, the message of each play undeniably strikes an introspective chord with the audience. On 8th March 2016, Kori Paati successfully presented their first-ever play ‘Yashoda ki Kahani’ which sensitively portrayed the devastating effects of alcoholism and domestic violence on families, and the damage to the physical and emotional health of children. Their popularity rose following two more performances; one at Suman Nagar on Eastern Express Highway and the other at Microsoft India’s Kalina office.
Their second street play titled ‘Khelne ki Azaadi’ (Right to Play) was a story about the shrinking playing spaces for children in urban areas, and the successful struggle by slum-children in reclaiming these spaces. Their next performance ‘Do Bahadur Auratein: Shanta aur Saraswati’ heroed two senior women in Dharavi by the same names, whose challenging lives were portrayed as short sketches.
Kori Paati’s theatre productions go beyond the Dharavi community. Since 2018, Kori Paati has been actively collaborating with the students of Oberoi International School of Mumbai to co-create and jointly perform at the Oberoi school’s annual theatre festival Dreamfest. The process of creating plays for Dreamfest brings together children and adolescents from very different socio-economic backgrounds to interact and successfully collaborate in creating progressive theatre.
Kori Paati Theatre group performed the play ‘Sapnay’ at Dreamfest 2018 which portrayed the hardships and bravery of a child bride who chooses to overcome and improve her circumstances with support from her husband. ‘Love is Love’ was showcased at Dreamfest 2019, which celebrated the timelessness of love through the ages, across generations and across borders of religion, colour and gender identities.
Kori Paati’s 2020 production is a powerful story about urban poverty, migration and a deep loving bond between a single father and his son, in the times of COVID-19 pandemic. Kori Paati children and their 'fans' in diverse communities across Mumbai are convinced that theatre is a powerful instrument of social change.