The candles burn bright, with the green and red décor highlighting photographs of theatre director and activist Gursharan Singh, along with posters that support the protesting farmers, their cause and their agitation. ‘No farmers. No food. No future. If we don’t speak now, it will be too late. This is the time to speak the truth….’
The 17th Gursharan Singh Naat Utsav by Suchetak Rangmanch opened on Friday at Punjab Kala Bhawan, with the theatre group dedicating the three-day festival to the farmers, supporting and standing by their demands. After a gap of nine long months, theatre lovers were welcomed back to see live theatre, with the festival opening on Friday evening with discussions on the protests by farmers, dialogue on government policies and laws related to agriculture, with the audience lighting candles in solidarity with the farmers.
“If Gursharan bhaji was alive, he would be sitting with the farmers right now and presenting his plays at the farmer protest sites. His theatre was dedicated to the people of the villages of Punjab, with his plays talking about the issues faced by the rural and agricultural community, thus, this festival like all the previous 16 ones, is dedicated to him and the farmers,” said Anita Shabdeesh, actor, director and founder of Suchetak Rangmanch. She said that they were both excited and nervous about staging a live festival after a long period of nine months. “There were apprehensions, but the response to the festival was overwhelming, with so many people calling to say that they would be there,” added Anita. The audience did not disappoint the organisers, as they came forward to support the cause of the festival.
Anita was in Delhi recently to be part of the farmer protests and said that it is a fight that is not limited to the farmers, “it is an issue that concerns everyone. For, no matter what, we all need food and if we artistes do not stand by them, then our art is of no value,” said Anita.
The Festival opened with ‘Samman Wali Daang’, written and directed by Sahib Singh, with the play highlighting the many plights of a farmer, as he writes a letter to the highest authorities expressing his issues and grief of the past and the present. The play was packed with metaphors, a prominent one being that if there is a snake in the house, one has to pick up the stick.
‘Man Mitti Da Boleya’, the second play of the festival has been written by Shabdeesh and directed by Anita. The play brings to the centre stage the burning issue of rape and the fact that many cases never find justice, with the women’s voices never being heard.
Another play that was put up, ‘Je Hun Vi Na Bole’, is based on poems by different poets, with the poetry highlighting the times one lives in – the pandemic, migrant crisis, the political insensitivity towards the common man in Kashmir, the ways in which the new farm laws are against the farmers. “Gursharan bhaji walked with the downtrodden and we, the people and artistes are inspired by him to come on the same platform as the farmers to protest,” reflected Shabdeesh.
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