Silchar, Dec 4: The stage is set, the lights dim, a hush falls over the audience and little actors step out from the wings. For the next 30 minutes, they hold the audience's attention with their meticulous performances.
The play is called 'Sound of Smoke'. It holds up a mirror to society, showing how people's everyday activities and relentless infrastructure expansion is affecting the environment.
Not long ago, some of these actors worked in circuses as clowns and avoided curious stares from strangers.
Then they met their mentor, Pabitra Rabha, an alumnus of the National School of Drama who set up a theatre group for dwarves – Dapon (The Mirror) in 2003.
Recalling how he started out, Rabha, who has acted in Bollywood films like Mary Kom and Tango Charlie, told PTI that he went door to door, meeting dwarves and convincing them and their families to join him.
"People were reluctant to trust a stranger who suddenly showed up at their doorstep and asked them to send their daughter or son with him for training," he said, but somehow he managed to convince many of them.
Through his theatre group, Rabha said, he wants to show that dwarves, who are often marginalised by society, can do anything that anyone else can.
"They should also have the opportunity to become a journalist or an officer," he said.
Rabha also set up a village for the little people in Assam's Tangla. However, it is open to all.
Intermingling is key for people to accept them as their own, he said.
When not acting, the village residents spend time farming.
Cut to 2021, Dapon has around 22 members and has performed almost all over the country.
For those who trained under Rabha, it's almost like a fresh start to life, one where their size is not what defines them, where people acknowledge their potential and don't look down on them.
Ranjit, a member of Dapon, said, "I worked in a circus and met Pabitra da in 2011.
Life has changed a lot. Earlier, people did not greet us with a namaste as they would greet you. Now they do."
Many who trained in the village are no longer active members of the group as they have developed health issues due to spinal curvature but they are only a call away, Rabha said.
"This is a lifelong project for me," he said.