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75 Years Of India's Independence

We The People: A Theatre Artiste Who Provides Respect And Employment To Dwarf Community

Assam’s Pabitra Rabha, 46, on his resolve to fight the stigma and discrimination faced by those affected by Dwarfism

Pabitra Rabha, Actor

Short isn’t necessarily sweet, especially for the dwarf community.

Marginalised and scoffed at bec­ause of their height, dwarfs are neg­lected, discriminated against and socially excluded globally. In real life, they are objects of amusement and in Indian circuses and cinema, where some dwarfs tend to find employment, they are only given ‘comic’ roles.

Assam’s Pabitra Rabha, 46, an act­or-cum-director, resolved to fight the stigma and discrimination faced by those affected by Dwarfism, a genetic condition which limits height.

Rabha, an alumnus of National School of Drama, in 2008, started Dapoon–The Mirror, a theatre group with 30 dwarf members. ‘Sardar of Dwarfs’ is his new moniker now.

“Short people do not get the same res­pect like others. The aim of launching the theatre group was to show that short people are capable of doing everything like other people,” says the Udalguri-born Rabha. He scoured the country with a friend looking for dwarfs and convinced around 30 to join his theatre group. It wasn’t easy.

“Some thought they would be sold to circus groups. Parents of some didn’t allow them to come with us. Many came with apprehensions,” he says. In 2011, Rabha showcased his first play with dwarf actors. The play Kinu Kou (What Can I Say) was a collage of discrimination, life struggles and stigmas faced by the community. Since 2011, the play has had 100 shows across India.

“People who have seen our plays performed by dwarf artistes realised that they are in no way lesser than a person with average height. It brought the otherwise socially excluded community closer to people,” Rabha adds. The theatre group has now incorporated other artistes in the mix.

“If we only showcase lives of short people performed by short people, we will again exclude them from the mainstream. We perform plays based on social issues of any kind and cast dwarf artistes along with others,” he says.

Rabha has now set up ‘Amar Gaon’ (Our Village), in Udalguri, where artists can practice their craft. “Many of these artistes also organise workshops on theatre… attend schools and colleges nearby. Some are anganwadi workers, teachers etc. Many help me grow rice, mustard, turmeric and fish at my farm. Amar Gaon’s objective is to become self-sustained and cater to education, health care of the artistes,” he tells Outlook.

His passion for restoring dignity to the dwarf community has also been scoffed at often.

“Many accused me of trying to do business with dwarfs. But today I feel, we have somehow become successful in bringing the community closer to society. This was my aim when I started 14 years back,” he says.

(This appeared in the print edition as "Standing Tall")

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