A delightful story of a young tribal girl, Moyna, who is curious about everything and will never stop asking the question 'WHY?' Written by one of India's celebrated writers, Mahasweta Devi, we see how education for children, especially girls in underserved communities can make such a positive impact.


This performance is based on the book The Why Why Girl by Mahasweta Devi, illustrated by Kanyika Kini, and published by Tulika. It has been adapted with original music and illustration for The Red Curtain Project.

Preeti introduces the story

In the video below, Preeti Vasudevan (Artistic Director of Thresh, the company behind the Red Curtain Project) provides a short introduction to the story, and its relevance to today's world.

The Performance


Thresh and the Red Curtain Project is proud to partner with Tulika, an independent, multilingual publisher of children's books that pioneered a fresh wave in Indian publishing when it was founded in 1996 (winner of the 2019 London Book Fair Award for Excellence in Literary Translation Initiative). 



In the video above you see Preeti use a mixed bag of facial expressions and hand gestures ("mudras").

Now let's break this down: you'll find a series of short video clips below, in which Preeti demonstrates each gesture and the facial expressions she's chosen to use.


For each one, she includes the name in Sanskrit (the classical language of India) and some further examples and applications.

"Mudras" (hand gestures) & body positions

First we'll look at hand gestures and body positions.


Every culture uses its hands for expression. Preeti grew up learning Indian classical dance (bharatanatyam) in South India where gestures are classified in minute detail. Each gesture has specific meanings and applications. And lower body positions are...

Be sure to scroll / swipe through all the videos (there are four in total).


Facial expressions & Emotion

In Indian dance and theatre, the face is a key tool for communicating emotion—Indian dancers and actors train for years to perfect their control of their facial muscles!


There are many techniques to isolate the movements of the face, which are classified as "bheda" (BAY-dah). Indian classical performer uses these in combination to create an emotional mood under what is called "saatvika abhinaya" (SAAT-vika ab-in-EYE-a).


In particular, watch these short demo videos to see how Preeti manipulates different aspects of facial expression (eyes, lips, eyebrows etc.) to create the emotional effect.


ASK PREETI: Commentary & Analysis

There's a lot going on in Indian classical dance, even in a short sequence such as this. In the videos below Preeti talks you through how she's using the classical gestural vocabulary to tell the story.



Think you're an expert? Try this quiz!

The RED CURTAIN Drawing Challenge!

This week we'd love you to create a drawing inspired by Moyna in the book The Why Why Girl. What are you curious about? What do you want to become when you grow older?


An artist, a scientist, a farmer...Imagine what your world will be like with your dream life and send us a drawing with you in it. Your drawings and ideas will help make others imagine and create a fantastical world!


Send your drawings to us at We'll publish as many as we can on this site! (And you can see some great drawings we've received so far from kids around the world by clicking here!)

The Sabar tribe: Pictures & History

Swipe or scroll through these images relating to the Sabar tribe from northern India to learn more about the lives of girls like Moyna. 




Kamala Sankaram


New York, USA

I'm a composer and teacher who likes to write music for opera and theater. My dad is from Andhra Pradesh in Southern India, so I'm always looking for ways to combine Indian and European classical music.


I've been thrilled to write two children's operas that do this: The Jungle Book, written for the Glimmerglass Festival, and Monkey and Francine in the City Tigers, written for Houston Grand Opera. I also have a band called Bombay Rickey. We love it when people come to our shows and dance, so I hope we'll see you at one soon!

To read more about Kamala's work and her many accolades, visit

We also asked Kamala to share with us her inspiration for her music composition. Click the button below to see a short video.

Shreya Mehta


New York, USA

Shreya Mehta is an award-winning visual artist who confronts questions of identity and spirituality in her vibrant and eclectic practice. 


Shreya was born in India and raised in Antwerp, Belgium, where she attended the Royal Academy of Art as its first woman of Indian origin. After graduating with the prestigious V.R.I.K.A Award, she eventually settled in New York, where she continues her practice. Mehta’s work has a global presence and has been exhibited at galleries and fairs in New York, Dubai, and Mumbai. Her paintings can also be found in several prestigious private collections, such as that of the Prime Minister of India. See more of Shreya's work at her website

We also asked Shreya to share with us her inspiration for her artwork. Click the button below to see a short video.

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We loved collaborating with online learning experts Learn Interactive on this project. 


If you're an artist or an arts organization looking to create online learning content in these challenging times, contact Learn Interactive who'll be delighted to discuss your project!