Highlight culture, not petty
morning show Gallaan atey Geet took a look at the current
state of Punjabi theatre. The invited guest, Ajmer Singh Kainth,
gave an overview of the development of theatre in Punjab —
observing that it had experienced a meteoric rise and fall
during the period spanning early 1970s to late 1980s. He also
recalled the contributions of such stalwarts as Gursharan Singh,
IC Nanda etc towards the development of this genre of performing
that people have been put off by repeats and adaptations,
indicating popular desire for new plots and
innovative/imaginative presentations. It was quite an
interesting talk. However, certain points were overlooked. For
example, theatre in India in general and Punjab in particular
has been tied to ideological apron-strings of Leftist political
parties. This, in turn, has resulted in dogmatic/propagandist
content having a limited appeal.
from the folklore, too, have been adapted, Heer-Ranjha
and Mirza-Sahiba for example, there has been very little
relevance to the present socio-cultural and economic realities.
Political didacticism has almost killed the genre in the region.
Elsewhere (in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai) more
contemporary content has been generated but its presentation has
been too esoteric and borrowed to enthuse the average theatre
buff. Here we are not talking of exceptions like Ghasiram
Kotwal and Adrak Ke Panje because
these have established benchmarks that Punjabi theatre cannot
possibly reach – given its present condition.
As Kainth pointed
out, theatre in Punjab is experiencing disconnect with its
traditional audiences that comprise largely of rural folks and
students. However, one was pleasantly surprised by the
enthusiasm of viewers, even from Haryana, who had cared to phone
in and assure Kainth of their support.
seminar at Chandigarh triggered off high drama on November 25.
The same evening Ritesh Lakhi’s Masle took up the issue
with panellists comprising an ex-serviceman, a human rights
activist, a BJP politician and two from the hitherto unknown
Internationalist Democratic Party. Predictably, the BJP stuck to
its Rightist-nationalist stance, while the IDP seemed to be on
the defensive, unable to refute the innuendo that they were mere
pawns in a chess game being played elsewhere. Theatrics has
become sine qua non of news-based talk shows, especially when
politicians are debating such issues as mis/non-governance,
corruption, political perfidy and such others that impact their
political prospects directly or indirectly.
If the Akali-BJP
combine raises the issue of 2G, CWG and Adarsh scams, the
Congress side rebuts with Yeddyurappa’s land scam in Bangalore.
Whether it is Masle or Khabarsaar, or any other
forum, huge quantities of gas and heat get generated but no
light is shed, alas! Consequently genuine, hardcore problems
specific to Punjab get sidetracked. The Congress and Akali-BJP
politicians trade charges and indulge in blatant theatrics just
to impress their respective bosses/constituencies (though why
should anyone be impressed with such crassness is beyond one’s
ken). It is time various Punjabi television talk shows had a
second look at the format, content and invitees. What irritates
one is the personalising of issues and needless exercise of
vocal chords by the invited panellists.
debates need to shift the focus away from personalities and take
a structural/systemic approach while discussing issues. Too much
prominence is being given to petty politics on the small screen
when the need of the hour is relentless media focus on
development, culture, education and sports. Moreover,
knowledgeable, apolitical persons from academia, administration,
media and various performing and fine arts fields ought to be
invited for discussions. The anchor should do his/her homework
and ensure that discussions proceed in a manner that would
enable viewers to form an informed opinion and not bamboozle
them with mindless decibel-generated chaos. Any takers?