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Humsaya — Theatre For Peace Festival: Play depicts true stories of people from Punjab and Pakistan during 1947 Partition

The play is inspired by true stories of the generation dislocated by the Partition, their shattered dreams, traumatic experiences, and also the resilience of the human spirit.

Written by Parul | Chandigarh | Updated: July 28, 2016 2:12 pm
play 759 Artistes stage a play, Anhi Mai Da Sufna, at Tagore Theatre in Sector 18, Chandigarh, on Wednesday. Express photo by Divya Negi

For some, it’s a pain that will never end and time cannot heal the wounds of those dislocated and tormented by the Partition in 1947.

On the concluding day of the five-day Humsaya Theatre For Peace Festival in the city on Wednesday, playwright Shahid Nadeem and Kolkata-based theatre director Usha Ganguli presented a play, Anhi Mai Da Sufna, with some true stories of the anguish and tribulations of the people from Punjab, who suffered more than any other community because of the Partition.

Ganguli, who has been a part of Indian theatre for more than 40 years, said: “Partition is a subject that has so many aspects and is always a challenge to stage. This play is an outcome of the intensive workshops that I did with the actors of Ajoka Theatre in Pakistan. Since the ‘80s, there has been many collaborations between my group Rangkarmi and Ajoka, with many of our plays like Rudaali, Chandalika and Antaryatra staged as part of Ajoka’s festivals,” said.

She added that Anhi Mai Da Sufna emerged from the need to connect with people from both the countries and depict our shared past.

The play is inspired by true stories of the generation dislocated by the Partition, their shattered dreams, traumatic experiences, and also the resilience of the human spirit. Mai Janki, who now lives in Amritsar, is old, weak and blind and cannot forget her native village across the border in Pakistan, and is determined to visit it.

Ustad Rangu Rangsaaz, who refused to leave Lahore at the time of Partition, now wants to attend his grand-daughter’s wedding in Amritsar.

Ganguli said theatre doesn’t differentiate on the basis of caste, creed, religion. It’s a social medium that brings people together and portrays human sensibilities.

“When this play was staged in Pakistan, there was such an overwhelming response from people, for we have unbreakable cultural, historical and emotional bonds. The common people want to be together in spite of the hurdles created by vested interests. So, in the contemporary times of strife and violence, exchange of ideas through theatre is paramount and festivals like Humsaya can bring peace,” she said.

For Nadeem and Ganguli, the play is a tribute to the hopes and desires of the common people and their dreams of living a life of freedom, peace and happiness.

Using live music, various characters and motifs, Ganguli creates a production that she describes as “theatre within theatre’’, one that celebrates the undying human spirit and its ability to bounce back from setback and find joy and hope in the face of hopelessness.

“This is our first show in India, and I am so happy with how the actors, with their dedication, have made this play so impactful,” said Ganguli.

Humsaya’ was an effort of Ajoka Theatre in collaboration with the Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi and Adakar Manch, Mohali.

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