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Bengaluru’s Nali Mana Revolutionizes Trauma Therapy for Children through Theatre

Art has been a powerful tool for self-expression and emotional exploration for centuries. Studies show that engaging in creative pursuits can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This chemical response can elevate mood, boost self-esteem, and even reduce stress hormones. In child development, art offers a unique advantage by providing a safe space for young minds to navigate complex emotions, build self-awareness, and develop effective coping mechanisms. This is precisely the philosophy behind Nali Mana, a Bengaluru-based initiative that harnesses the power of theatre to nurture a child’s psychological well-being.

Nali Mana’s founder, Chukki KR, has always been deeply engaged with the dual worlds of theatre and psychology. During her college years, she balanced her passion for acting with her academic studies in psychology, being actively involved in her parents’ (N Mangala and Rangayana Raghu) theatre group, Sanchari. Psychology classes intertwined with her evenings spent in theatre rehearsals, prompting Chukki to unconsciously bridge the gap between the two fields. This connection ultimately inspired her dissertation: exploring the impact of theatre on well-being. Interviews with fellow young theatre artists echoed her own experience: “Theatre wasn’t just acting; it shaped their approach to life.” Encouraged by her supportive professor, Chukki’s dissertation became the seed for Nali Mana.

Founded in April 2023 after her graduation, Nali Mana today provides a nurturing environment for 15 children aged between five and 14 to explore their emotions and build a foundation for a healthy mind.

Chukki envisions Nali Mana as a platform that leverages theatre as a therapeutic tool for children. “I see it improving their happiness, personality, and overall behaviour,” she explains. While acknowledging the existence of other art therapies that utilise drawing and movement, she clarifies Nali Mana’s distinct approach. “In Nali Mana, we start by breaking the ice. We have a simple game called Tom and Jerry — it’s like a chasing game. This helps the kids loosen up and feel like they’re part of a team,” she says.

Once the ice is broken, the sessions seamlessly transition into storytelling. Recognising theatre’s multifaceted nature, Chukki incorporates movement and music to create a well-rounded experience. “We might start with a few games,” she adds, “Then, we might move on to storytelling activities and conclude with some relaxation techniques that use music and movement.”

“Storytelling is a big way we encourage imagination and creativity,” she elaborates. “We might play some music, let the kids relax, and then I’ll start telling a story.

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. They have to imagine the story as I go, and then once it’s over, they retell it. It’s different from the original story because their imaginations take it in various directions. Sometimes, they’ll retell it with words or even draw pictures. It’s amazing to see how each child interprets the same story differently!”

Nali Mana prioritises tracking each child’s progress, achieved through daily observations documented in individual worksheets akin to personal journals. Chukki finds this process fascinating as it allows her to witness each child’s transformative journey. “For instance, a child who might be hesitant to speak up on day one might be taking the initiative and interact comfortably with others by day 15.”

These behavioural shifts are recorded and shared with parents. Roopa R, mother to Kushaavartha P (11) and Gaanavi P (7), echoes the positive impact of Nali Mana on her children. “Before Nali Mana, my kids wouldn’t mingle with anyone. However, something changed after the sessions with Chukki. It wasn’t immediate. But slowly, my son started treating his sister and me differently. He was being helpful. Even my daughter has become more confident in the way she speaks.”

Chukki’s vision for Nali Mana extends far beyond its current operations. “Why not embrace something as simple as theatre if it can spark happiness?” she asks. Having completed a year, she aims for Nali Mana to collaborate with schools to extend its reach. “I’m interested in creating a program for adults as well,” she reveals.

“We all deserve a space to express ourselves and boost our confidence. So, Nali Mana is for more than just kids. Art and therapy are for everyone.”

For more information, contact 7090959669.