When Bal Suranchi Mehfil gave their first performance in the last week of May, nobody had anticipated that the all-child orchestra will be received so well. Today, the group is receiving invitations to perform not just from around Thane and Mumbai but from cities all over Maharashtra – Pune, Nasik, and Ratnagiri to name a few. The orchestra is unique because it has 60 child artists from Thane city, aged between five and 15 years, working in harmony, to pack a three-hour entertainment programme with Marathi folk songs, modern songs (including film numbers), traditional folk dances like lavani, solo-act plays, and more. There are seven singers, 35 dancers, 2 mono-actors, and 16 instrument-players in the orchestra. The show is directed by Professor Mandar Tillu and the music is arranged by Amish Kondra. The child-orchestra is an initiative of Thane Bal Samvedana, an organisation for children in the field of performing arts and culture.
Although the producers and the director are adults, everything else is carried out by the kids themselves – singing, dancing, instrument-playing and solo-act plays. For instance, Adit Pandirkar does a four-minute long mono act, while Bhairavi Goregaonkar enacts a short extract from the play "Tee Phulrani" written by the legendary playwright P L Deshpande and immortalised on stage by the late Bhakti Barve. Even the compere is a 12-year old girl named Skhada Patkar. Although the show, which popularly known as Marathi Vadyavrinda, is performed entirely by children, it is by no means meant only for children. People from every age group enjoy the orchestra and in fact are also in awe of the performances of the kids.
The husband-wife duo of Vinod and Varsha Pandirkar decided to produce this show because they found that many children are gifted with different artistic faculties but they don’t get the opportunity stage their talents. And if the reactions of the audience are any indication, then the talent is amply demonstrated. In the inaugural show at Gadkari Rangayatan, producer-director Ashok Hande (of Mangal Gani Dangal Gani fame), was all praise for the professional way that the show was presented. Hande said in his speech, "I have been in the business of stage shows for 14 long years and I haven’t been able to achieve what these kids have in such a short period of time. This can happen only in Thane."
It’s true that the city’s vibrant heritage stimulates and encourages innovative initiatives like Bal Suranchi Mehfil by Thane residents. Hande statement echoes the sentiments of thousands culturally conscious residents of Thane who witness many such initiatives that are organised in the city time after time and then say: "This happens only in Thane!"