Social Contracthttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/social-contract/

Social Contract

Tagore Bylanes is a movement speaking on behalf of the common man.

On World Theatre Day,artists express their commitment to issues that concern us all

Tagore Bylanes is a movement speaking on behalf of the common man. What it articulates is the concern that free public spaces and platforms of expression,in this case,the Tagore Theatre,are increasingly getting out of the reach of the common man. To argue for the cause,Dr Gaurav Chhabra of Humlog,a non-governmental organisation,along with other theatre personalities,led a peaceful protest on World Theatre Day on March 27.

“Tagore theatre was the mecca of professional and amateur theatre groups of the Tricity. Of late,it has become very costly and no amateur theatre group can afford it. Tagore was established to promote theatre but is lost to commercialisation. Theatre is not just for the elite,we want theatre for commoners too,” says Gaurav.

As part of the protest,Vijay Machal of Mask Theatre presented a street play,Mera Chandigarh,dwelling on the common man’s restricted access to everything. “I wanted to stress the need for transparency and a freedom to express. There’s no better way than a play to reach out to a larger audience on an issue that concerns us all,’’ he says.

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Sudesh Sharma,founder and director,Theatre For Theatre,who received the First Bharat Muni Award,2010 has always chosen plays that were socially relevant. In the tumultuous period of terrorism in Punjab,Sharma had staged plays on people’s resistance against unbridled violence. During the Kargil War,he staged Shaheed Ki Wapasi for 50 days to foster a spirit of patriotism. “Right now,we are focusing on society’s double standards,” adds Sharma.

Kamal Tewari says the effort of the Sangeet Natak Akademi has been to take street plays to rural areas in Punjab,sensitising people abouth gender bias,alcoholism,AIDS and poverty. “Theatre should not be a medium of the elite. Plays are a mirror of society and should comment on things around us. Chandigarh,right now,is witnessing vibrant theatre activity from local and national theatre groups,” says Tewari.

For the last ten years on every World Theatre Day,Rajiv Mehta of Theatre Arts has been addressing the public directly through his plays. “We want to raise our voice against dowry,caste system,female foeticide,AIDS,environmental degradation,corruption,delayed justice and organ rackets,” he says. On this occasion,Mehta staged Sadak Humarey Baap Ki,a satire on the disobedience of traffic rules by people of our country.

Sahib Singh,too,has been on the streets spreading the word from the villages of Punjab to Mumbai. “No theatre in the world is done sans an issue,” he remarks. Some of his performances have dealt with weighty issues like communal rights,gender bias,labour and peasantry problems.

Jaspal Bhatti’s connect with the common man is through humour. His first street play,Thekeon Theke took up the problem of alcoholism and drug addiction among the youth. Bhatti says theatre is not just entertainment,but an exploration of pain and problems too.

Agrees Zulfikar Khan of Theatre Age,who has helped many slum children find a direction in life through theatre.