National Theatre Fest kicks off with live performances

National Theatre Fest kicks off with live performances

Folk theatre suffered untimely demise and artistes were forced to look for alternative livelihoods.

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 26

Returning back to stage and live performances, the artistes performing on the inaugural day of the three-day National Theatre Festival by Dastak theatre, gasped for relief on Friday. As most commercial art forms shifted to virtual mode in the new normal, folk art forms, especially folk theatre suffered untimely demise, chiefly due to the fact that already marginalised folk artistes were further pressed into looking for alternative livelihood. Just like Dharampal, 50, a bhand from Khandwala, had to resort to doing odd jobs to put food on table.

“It’s a difficult time for folk artistes communities, including our marasi community as we have been out of work for last year. No weddings, no social events and no stage performances to earn from, we were left to fend for ourselves. Performing after such a long time in front of audience today felt good,” he said. His group performed at Virsa Vihar to kickstart the theatre festival that also saw a moving performance of play ‘Manto Ke Rang’. Directed by Rajender Singh, organiser of the festival, the play was presented by Dastak theatre group. Based on the life of Sadat Hasan Manto, who was accused for number of outspoken writings, the dramatic composition put Manto’s perspective through plays ‘Dooda Pehalwan’, ‘Shaheed-Saaj’, ‘License’, ‘Paanch Din’.

The morning session hosted theatre workshop and seminar by eminent theatre personalities Gursharan Singh Channi, his son and theatre actor Gyan Dev and Harleen Kohli. The Chandigarh-based actor Channi is the recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi award for his community theatre and has been working in films and TV as well. He talked about his community theatre initiative CEVA, engaging the common people through street theatre.

Interacting with theatre students, Channi said theatre education has multiple aspects and needs to be seen as an organised, professional industry in order to encourage career for young aspiring theatre actors. Harleen Kohli, his wife and theatre actor herself, agreed that the social stigma attached to theatre being an alternate career needs to be overcome.

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