This is the first time in eight years that we will be doing the Gursharan Naat Utsav without bhaji. Its tough, says theatre director Anita Shabdeesh,remembering her teacher and mentor Gursharan Singh.
Activist,social worker,writer and theatre director,Singh is referred to as the hero of the common man. Through his simple and straightforward approach to theatre,Singh reached out to the interiors of rural Punjab and talked to people farmers and labourers about their issues and concerns. With Singhs birthday on September 16,the Utsav,which began in 2004,was planned by Shabdeeshs Suchetak Rangmanch as an ode to the master.
With theatre groups from across Punjab participating in the festival,the Utsav acts as a platform that brings forth the simple,no-fuss style of Singhs theatre. Many of us doing theatre in Punjab are his students. This is our salute to the man who taught us everything about theatre and took it to the people, says Shabdeesh.
This years Utsav has many new elements and endeavours,and intends to reach out to large audience. With 13 plays being staged during the10-day festival,which begins on September 16 and ends on Singhs death anniversary (September 26),the stage is set for directors to present their latest productions as well as some of Singhs own plays. All plays at the Utsav will have social themes and a two-day seminar will highlight Singhs distinct form of theatre. He just needed a small space or a low platform to stage a play,sans music,sets and props. And this was called thada theatre. The seminar will throw light on various aspects of his work,direction,writing and which we will document as well, adds Shabdeesh.
The festival will be spread over venues that were special to Singh and where he performed often,including the open air theatre of Punjab Kala Bhawan and the stage of Sarang Lok in Mohali as well as the auditorium of Gyan Sagar Hospital,which is dedicated to Singh. To acknowledge his contributions,a small gallery will be inaugurated at Sarang Lok,on his birthday. This will showcase art,along with photographs,films,articles and CDs related to the late director.
On September 27,organisations and theatre groups that Singh was associated with,will get together to remember the man they referred to as their father. Cooking,eating and performing together,Shabdeesh says that this get-together will be the perfect way to remember Singh.