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Bully Proof

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Rachana Iyer and Rohan Sabharwal, artists: 

The role of the artist is to ask questions, but Mumbai-based collective CraYon Impact seeks to find answers. Co-founded by filmmaker Rohan Sabharwal and social activist Rachana Iyer earlier this year, CI is a poignant step towards addressing social issues through film, performance arts, poetry and the like. 

With this creative streak, CraYon brings forth their latest project, Bully Proof—an event that aims to address bullying in schools, colleges, workplaces as well as social bullying for those who are differently abled, suffering from mental disorders or those part of the LGBTQIA community. We asked Rachana and Rohan more about their initiative.

Tell us a bit about your background and journey in attempting social change through contemporary arts.
Even before CraYon was born, we both had a long history of volunteer work as well as a strong belief that communities can uplift society and that social change is not only about financial empowerment but also about changing attitudes and perspectives, which can happen when people come together and truly understand one another. 

Rachana: I volunteered as an expressive arts therapist at KhulaAsman where I worked at a rescue home for women rescued from trafficking and prostitution. I designed sessions using mixed mediums of visual art, dance and movement, rhythm and music along with storytelling and drama. I have also has been performing spoken word poetry since 2012 in UAE, Turkey, India and Nairobi. Spoken word is a powerful medium to speak about social issues and I have performed pieces around breaking taboos on menstruation, violence, sexuality and body shaming. 

Rohan: I have been providing affordable and sometimes free services to NGOs, start -ups and artists. I have designed websites, branding, posters as well as edited show-reels for upcoming filmmakers and changemakers to enable them to secure opportunities at various stages of their career. I also conduct workshops for communities, children and organisations on design and filmmaking. I am a film curator and promote social change through cinema. Some of the films I have screened tackle various relevant issues. 

What is CraYon Impact all about? 
At CraYon Impact we are passionate about 'telling stories of those making a difference, with a difference'. In its essence, CraYon works across different mediums (film, visual, music,etc.) to support social enterprises and changemakers in showcasing the passion and impact that their work is having keeping quality and outreach to target audiences in mind. We also organise one independent event every month pertaining to a social issue that engages the contemporary and performing arts. We believe that there is no better way to spread awareness on various issues than using the arts to do so.
What inspired you to form it?
Both of us have spent a considerable amount of time traveling and observing the way awareness and messaging for change is communicated. We found a serious gap in the way most change-makers currently tell their story. We stand for helping to spread awareness on different causes in a dignified manner, dropping the need to pose as a charity with a begging bowl. The more traditional approaches to advocacy such as conducting lecture sessions or workshops that merely cite the problems and what the ‘ideal’ mindset should be can only go so far. When are we really convinced about something? When we experience it ourselves. We believe that attitude and behaviour change in larger society can be tackled in much more innovative and creative ways that push people to think for themselves and question their stereotypes and prejudices.

Tell us more about the event, Bully Proof. Can you cite some specific experiences from your own lives, or those that you witnessed, which led you into initiating this event?
Bully Proof is the first of its kind open space for dialogue and discussions on the issue of bullying. The event will start with a screening of the film Bully aka The Bully Project (2011) followed by a diverse panel of speakers. 

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