IIT graduate spreads theatre bug among NGO kids 

Prajna Neelgund Shanthinath, a dancer, musician, theatre artist, painter and administrator at Deenabandhu (an NGO working towards education and rehabilitation of orphan and destitute children.

Published: 03rd April 2018 05:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd April 2018 05:49 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Prajna Neelgund Shanthinath, a dancer, musician, theatre artist, painter and administrator at Deenabandhu (an NGO working towards education and rehabilitation of orphan and destitute children located in Chamarajanagar district) gave up a high-paying job at CISCO for children. From childhood, she dreamt of dedicating her life to teaching. A BE graduate from BIET college, Davanagere and MTech graduate from IIT, Mumbai, she was appointed to CISCO through campus recruitment. The company had collaborated with various government schools as a part of CSR (corporate social responsibility). Prajna started teaching in those schools and her passion grew from there, which made her quit her job. 

Prajna is a trained Hindustani and Carnatic Classical singer, presently pursuing Bharatanatyam training too. She is also a painter and illustrator. “My father and the founder of Deenabandhu trust, Professor G S Jayadev, are good friends and I had visited the trust when I was young. When I started teaching kids at government schools during my CISCO days, I started a blog that focused on the changes required in the teaching system. After seeing the blog, my father took me to Deenabandhu. I started working on weekends as a teacher,” says Prajna. In 2011 she joined the trust, and from 2013- 2015  she took a sabbatical to pursue year-long theatre training in Neenasam. On returning in 2015, she started teaching and training students in theatre and other subjects.

Theatre student bags Kannada soap
Deenabandhu currently has 45 boys and 31 girls. Prajna runs a monthly magazine called ‘Anubhava’, for which she has written articles regarding training teachers. She formed a theatre team called Deenabandhu Theatre Group, where children are trained and perform each year. Of the students in the group, Sunil Kumar hass now playing the lead role in the popular Kannada soap Shani.“Sunil was very good at dancing and acting. After tenth standard, Sunil was sent to a Yakshagana training institute and he was spotted by Kannada Colors officials and was offered a role,” says Prajna.

For the past six years, Natesh Ullal, a filmmaker, has been training the kids at the trust. The children are trained in camera handling, editing, voiceovers and other techniques. Every year, tenth standard children direct a five-minute short movie that is exhibited. “The senior children teach the younger children these film techniques. It’s wonderful watching their movies on a big screen,” says Prajna.A Harvard University professor, Dr Alexandra Harryson, has taken the initiative to train mothers in the area on how to protect their children from stressful environments. The project is called ‘Mother’s Group’ and is all set to be launched shortly. Prajna, who is part of the project, has already trained many mothers.
To contact Prajna, mail at prajnaneelgund@gmail.com.

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