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It was during 1980. Nepal was reeling under the repressive Panchayati system. Human rights and democracy were terribly snatched away by the autocratic rulers. Freedom of expression was in jail and poor Nepalese helplessly spent their days in terror and tremor. It was during such a time when young and fearless Ashesh Malla wrote and staged a play, "Murdabad ma utheka hathharu (Hands raised in protest)" at the Tribhuwan University Auditorium in Kathmandu. The play's target was the political system, with artists depicting the grave realities of the political upheaval in the country. For that brave act, the ruling political elite of the time banned the play ; however, they couldn't suppress the wave erupting inside this brave playwright and theatre director. Malla united other like minded theatre artists and gave birth to Sarwanam Theatre Group in A.D 1982.
Today, Sarwanam has established itself as the leading theatre group of Nepal. By introducing alternative theatre that requires little or no artificial props on the stage, Sarwanam has successfully triumphed over the dominating rule of the traditional and conventional proscenium theatre in Nepal. Before the birth of Sarwanam, conventional theatre was the popular form of theatre in Nepal that only focused towards the elite and privileged classes and displayed expensive props and settings. Sarwanam devised alternative theatre as a need to reach out to the common people that accumulate the large population of the country.
Sarwanam emphasizes on mime and symbolic body movements to express social based stories in a distinctive style. It's heart rendering social plays express the plight of sufferers from all across the country. Since its initial days, Sarwanam has been constantly fighting to attain democracy in the nation through its highly artistic plays. It has traveled all over the nation delivering social messages through its plays. It has also established more than 50 theatre groups in various communities by assisting them in training and other activities.
Sarwanam is also the pioneer organization of street theatre in Nepal. In a developing country like Nepal, Ashesh Malla took street theatre to every nook and corner of the country, even to most remote areas where the only mode of transportation is walking. Collaborating with INGO's like The Asia Foundation, UN, DANIDA, WWF and Save the Children, Sarwanam's street theatre delivers various social messages through its entertaining and engaging street plays.
Sarwanam has performed popular proscenium plays all over Nepal and abroad like- U.S.A, Canada, Japan, China, Australia and most South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It regularly invites foreign theatre groups to perform in Nepal.
Some works pioneered by Sarwanam
- Street Drama
- Experimental presentation of short stories and poems in stage
- Advertisement Play
- Sarwanam music
- Playback Theatre
- Community development through theatrical activities