If you haven’t been to one of the sound-and-light shows that pop-up all over Dharavi during the Ganesh Chaturthi season, there's one more reason for you to visit. Towards the end of the monsoon, when the festival celebrating the Hindu god Ganesha is in full swing, mandals (community groups) stage shows with automata, dolls, mannequins, cut-outs, puppets and papier-mache sculptures on a socially relevant theme. The themes range from drug use to organ donation and are brought to life by elaborate dioramas and audio. The crux of the shows, many of which compete for local prizes, is that Ganesha sweeps in to save the day (read more on our blog).

For the Biennnale, Dharavi-based artist Sham Jhadav and his team worked on a secular show about alcohol addiction. The show depicts the tragic unravelling of a life consumed by alcohol and its social and medical impact. It points out the importance of counselling, de-addiction and rehabilitation. A number of automata move in sync with the audio-play and the show is as serious and as entertaining as a Bollywood family drama.

The 20 minute Hindi sound-and-light performance revolves around the thoughts of a teenage boy whose father is a heavy drinker. As the family’s days and nights are overtaken by the father’s addiction, the boy questions the reasons for it and the ways to overcome it. There are questions about gender: is he less of a man if he refuses to drink with his friends or his father's friends? His sister dreams of a more ideal family, and his mother gives her husband an ultimatum to stop drinking and leave the bar dancer he socialises with. Finally, after his liver is affected, the father takes the first step to saying no to his alcohol addiction by signing up at the Kripa Foundation, an NGO working in Dharavi.

“Say No” was installed on the upper floor of the the Colour Box. It ran for the whole Alley Galli Biennale and was a great hit with both locals and visitors, who were intrigued by the combination of high and low tech that we think constitutes a contemporary form of folk art.


Sham Jhadav, Kishore Jhadav, Datta Khar