Art can be a great way to convey a message, if a social or health message is delivered in an interesting manner through a visually appealing poster, a catchy song, an amusing play then not only more number of people would stop and take notice but they are likely to grasp it easily and retain the message as well. Certain issues which are is difficult to discuss openly, these can be effectively conveyed through art. Despite Television and internet becoming ubiquitous role of artists such as singers, play actors, poster artists etc remain crucial for popularizing healthy choices.
Ehtram Siddique, is a retired artist from the song and drama division of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Government of India. He served at the department for as many as 30 years. Post retirement he started a troop called ‘Fankaar’ performing street skits to spread awareness about health issues.
Siddique explains the effectiveness of skits in spreading awareness “Nobody wants to listen to lectures but everybody wants to be entertained, we spread our message in the garb of entertainment. We firstly make them laugh, ‘hasa nahi ke phasa nahi’ and when we see people clapping and smiling we know that we have their attention this is the precise moment to give our message. Different people take away different messages from our skits”.
When asked about his motivation for starting a troop post retirement he explains “I had served there for 30 years. I felt that all the experience that I had acquired over the course my service should not go waste. That was the reason why I started the troop and continued this work post retirement as well”.
The Septuagenarian believes that street plays are more effective than Television “When social messages come on TV between the advertisements people usually change the channels compared to this at a street play if people stop to watch a street play they are more attentive, people stop for entertainment but also take along with them some message”.
Gangasharan Arya works as a lift supervisor at AIIMS but serving the nation remains his primary goal. He has been promoting healthy practices through posters and pamphlets since 1999. Arya’s puts up poster exhibitions at schools, colleges and seminars on health related issues at Delhi and adjacent states.
Arya a social worker with the Arya Samaj since adolesance he describes why he chose health awareness promotion as his way of serving the nation “Health is a prerequisite for having a strong nation if physical progress is impaired then spiritual growth would get hampered and without spiritual progress society’s development is impossible”. Way back in 1991 he established a library at his native Shahbad Muhammadpur village residence for dissemination of Ayurvedic knowledge.
Arya emphasis the effectiveness of posters “Visual medium convey the broad points very effectively especially among children, when I go to the schools I get a very good response. Not only are people attracted to the posters memory recollects visuals very accurately. Look at Television how deeply this impacts the children” he says.
Arya is in favor of having more emphasis of prevention of disease than finding cure for them “Policy of solely focusing in curing diseases is like watering the leaves and forgetting to water the roots. People have even written to me appreciating my work and they want that the Government should give prominence to spreading awareness about diseases rather than merely spending for treatment alone”.
Ramzan Akhtar has been working for television and doing street plays for spreading health awareness. He has directed spots and jingles for NACO, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and has been associated with Doordarshan for three decades. Besides being associated with Television he regularly visits the rural hinterland for conducting street plays along with his troop ‘RAAG’.
When told that television is more effective than live performance he disagrees “People in the interiors have very few sources of entertainment. Even those who have television at home electricity supply is erratic so TV is not always functional. This is the reason why live entertainment immediately draws big crowds”.
He feels that street plays are the most effective medium of spreading awareness compared to merely organizing dance and song “Merely singing a song or presenting dance then lecturing on an issue would not be particularly effective. If a song is to be sung then the lyrics should be based on the issue. These could bring the crowds and people may enjoy but the larger point is missed. In a street play however there are characters which people enact and people relate to these characters”. He further explains the effectiveness of plays from the point of view of raising those issues that are difficult to talk about “If let’s say we are conducting a play regarding child sexual abuse, many children are not even aware that they are being subjected to this but when they see a character in the play being victimised in this fashion it dawns on them and they are more likely to inform their parents about this” he says.