Once Differently-Abled Himself, This Street Actor Walked Halfway Across India To Create Awareness On Social Issues
“Zindagi behtereen hain, mazze lo.”
“My mother wanted a daughter but I came as a bit of a mixed news for them. They did get a child. But the child came with a set of problems. Till the age of three, he couldn’t walk, was mute, mentally challenged and wasn’t even expected to live beyond the age of nine!”
All of this sounds quite messed up, doesn’t it? But that is how Vipul’s story started off! Once disabled, Vipul Singh from Bhopal, is now a nomad nukkad actor. Proficient in stand-up comedy, his life lessons come wrapped in hilarious one-liners and interesting little stories. His every tale will thrill your heart and the picture-like description will transport you to the venue instantly.
The twenty-four-year-old solo performer had a liking for theatre from a very young age. He started acting in plays during school days and realised soon enough that studying was never a cup of his tea. “I figured out, this was one thing I could do efficiently and I started doing it. I joined theatre just for the sake of doing stand-up comedy. Back then in our times, it was Raju Srivastav and Ehsaan Qureshi that we looked up to. Soon I realised I could do so much more. I started off as an actor, later began directing, performing in plays that I wrote,” Vipul said when The Logical Indian spoke to him.
Fast forward to graduation. He took up a degree in mechanical engineering and by the end of the third year, he earned 17 backlogs! He decided to quit studies for good and pursue the one thing he was confident of, that is acting. He proudly added, he even made it to a national level debating championship. This was one great feat for someone who couldn’t even talk, at one point of time in life.
Vipul told his parents he couldn’t continue with his studies anymore and his parents were really supportive of his choice. He started working with NGOs, writing and acting and directing in plays for their cause. He worked hard but his dues never really got paid. The actor got no recognition. Soon, Vipul decided to write, produce and direct his own plays.
Without a formal degree, he was a mere 12th pass and he knew well that no organisation would hire him. He decided to set out on his own. His journey was driven completely out of the passion for what he calls his dulhan, which is theatre and acting.
With Rs. 380 in his pockets, he set out on a journey to Jammu from Bhopal, on foot! “By then, I had already wasted eight lakhs on engineering and I was in no mood ask more from my parents. But I had to something, so I set out. I knew I was ready to be a full-time actor, playwright and director,” Vipul said.
His idea was pretty simple, wake up, go to the destination, act, receive money as a token of respect, return, sleep and repeat. He doesn’t mind surviving on one meal for three or four days, he doesn’t mind filling his stomach only on cups of tea.
Though he hasn’t walked through the entire stretch, he has hitchhiked at intervals as well. From Bharuch in Gujarat to Goa, a stretch of 1000 kilometres, he hiked all the way, with only Rs 30 on him. Sounds impossible for many of us, ain’t it?
Each state he crossed, was fighting with severe social issues. He used the medium of candid, raw yet extremely relatable Nukkad Natak to deal with these issues.
The theatre is an extremely engaging medium in itself. Sketches, where he performs as an actor effectively, arouses sentiments among the audience and this helps in driving certain ideas home. Ideas that can help the localites to deal with social issues. With this innovative approach, he designed the theme of his plays on social issues, including domestic violence, sex education, menstruation and much more.
This TEDx Delhi speaker has performed in solo plays in North-Western and Western states of the country. His focus areas have remained rural zones. “The areas which remain impenetrable by most organisations are the rural areas. In order to raise awareness here, we need to adopt medium that can be relatable to them. In this context what can work better than street plays. Rural India has a rich culture of oral narratives being adapted into plays, like Jatra, Ram-Leela, Yakshagana etc” Vipul said.
From not being able to walk properly as a child, Vipul undertook a padayatra by travelling 2700 kilometres on foot and creating awareness about social issues. He made it a point to include local theatre form and speak volumes about the rich cultural heritage of the otherwise neglected regions of India.
“I remember one incident where a child marriage was taking place in Ohani village, somewhere chose to Jhansi. While performing street plays, I had an opportunity to actually intervene and create a stir. Through my sketches, I convinced the village Sarpanch that child marriage is a social evil. Thereby the marriage was stalled.”
The road ahead
Till date, he has performed over seven hundred street plays and has educated, created an awareness among many. “Mera manzil kahin dur hain, yahin safar khatam nahi hoga!” He plans on another trip, this time to the seven sister states in the North-East and Bay of Bengal, Bhubaneshwar on his way back. He plans on cycling or walking through the entire stretch.
Closest to his heart are topics like sex education and menstruation. Mostly performed in the remote rural areas, these sketches well tears up his eyes, as he plays the role of an actor. His blunt yet extremely honest approach doesn’t fail to strike a chord with the audience.
Vipul went back to his books and he is about to finish his engineering degree. He also plans on pursuing a master degree in Psychology.
“I don’t aim for a huge drastic change. I want to perform 20000 plays. If 20 people are influenced by me, in the least, I’d consider myself to be lucky!” Vipul says. He also added, “You need to know what you can do with what you have. Zyada aagey ka mat socho, nahi toh dar jaaoge”
You can watch his TEDx talk here:
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.