Do you ever look at a mosquito as anything more than a menace—as one that bites and deserves to be swatted? Well, director Saurabh Nayyar thought the same, until one day he didn’t. “What if a mosquito chose not to bite? What if s/he chose to fly like the birds and other insects?” says Nayyar about making Mosquito Wosquito, a play for children, set to open at Prithvi Theatre’s Wintertime festival.
Written and directed by Nayyar, and produced by his own Jubilee Theatre Company, Mosquito Wosquito is the tale of a delightful friendship between two namesakes, a young mosquito and a young girl. It is a musical, with compositions by Shridhar Nagraj, whose last outing with Nayyar was the foot-tapping 1970s tribute, Golden Jubilee.
The mosquito, Kittu, has just entered the world and is being trained by her father and his aides. She is handed a pair of wings and they teach her the basics of mosquito life; flying, biting, and escaping. She, however, is afraid of no one and shows no inclination of wanting to bite a human being.
The other Kittu, a human child, is curious about the forest and its inhabitants. She wants to fly and see the world through their eyes. She shares this wish often and uninhibitedly with her mother, and her nanny, Shanta Tai. The latter is also an ace mosquito killer and is called upon every evening for her skills. Mosquitoes fear her and she uses everything she can get her hands on (sticks, coils, sprays, and bats) to eliminate them.
A fated encounter between the two Kittus leads to a heartwarming conversation, where the human offers the mosquito her soup. The two forge a bond, which forms the crux of the rest of the play. The human Kittu wants the mosquito to teach her to fly, and the latter wants an endless supply of the aforementioned soup.
Chaos ensues as the mosquito parent and aides get wind of their plan. There is some biting and some sermonising involved. In a parallel track, Kittu the mosquito is introduced to Girgit Rani, the chameleon queen, who instills fear in the young mosquito. Kittu is now scared of human beings, and everything around her. Her carefree days are over.
Nayyar’s Mosquito Wosquito begins like any other whimsical tale for children but gains both pace and substance. It alludes to the human condition where freedom comes with limitations. Nayyar’s mosquitoes and humans speak slightly different languages with the former’s Hindi laced with his native Bundeli. The result is comical. And yet, the two Kittus never struggle to communicate.
The play has several inventive and hummable songs and actors break into frequent choreographed sequences. The lyrics are imaginative and full of joy, including a forest number where the two Kittus survey the land below as they take flight. About choosing the musical form, Nayyar says, “Music is for everyone. The form enables us to reach and entertain children right from the age of three. They also have short attention spans and music can help convey difficult ideas simply”.
Mosquito Wosquito is complex in its narrative with underlying messages about peace in a time riddled with war, and harmony between species. It allows young ones (both mosquitos and humans) to be outliers in their worlds, and make their own rules. The mosquito can fly and explore distant lands while the child can reject human limitations to live a life filled with kindness for other beings.
This may be a play for children but is equally entertaining and meaningful for an adult audience. You’ll be humming the tunes before you know it, and be invested in the life of a revolutionary young mosquito who won’t be bogged down by society.
Mosquito Wosquito will be staged on 26 December, 4 pm, at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, and again on 26 January, 4 pm at the Kala Ghoda Festival.
Prachi Sibal is an independent writer.