EVER SINCE it was formed two years ago, theatre group Red Arts Punjab has already staged more than 5,500 shows of their best selling street play, Aakhir Kado Tak, across Punjab.
Centred on the drug menace in Punjab, the play captures every facet of the problem — from dealers, addicts, drug routes, politicians, police to the entire nexus and the life-threatening complications.
Now this group is set to adapt their play into a full-length feature film, Punjab 2016. In a conversation, the group’s founding members Inderjit Moga and Deep Jagdeep share their struggle and challenges in turning their play into a film.
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“This was a emotional decision to convert the play into a film. Theatre still has a limited reach compared to film. We also feel it is time that we highlighted the real issue plaguing Punjab and addiction is one of them,” said writer of the play Deep Jagdeep, who is from the Theatre and Television Department, Punjabi University, Patiala, and started his theatre career with the play, Sach Di Sardal.
Into theatre for the last 15 years, Moga described how his “tall and handsome friends lost their looks and physique to drugs”.
“I realised this was not just the problem of my college but entire Punjab, and it motivated us to create awareness on this evil of society,” added Moga.
While film Punjab 2016 is being directed by Balraj Sagar and Inderjit Moga, it was a challenge for the team to find funding and producer for the same.
“Till Surjit Singh Sidhu, principal at Baba Kundan Singh College, Muhar, came on board,” said the filmmakers, who also pooled in their resources from play revenue. Sidhu, who lost his nephew, a kabaddi champion, to drugs, had every reason to back this project. “Dirty politics, unemployment, rising gangster problem, unawareness are major causes of drug use,” said Sidhu.
The group comprises around 40 members, mostly from Moga and Punjabi University, Patiala, and borrows its name from Pakistan’s ‘Laal Band’, known for its revolutionary music.
Till now, Red Arts Punjab has been known for staging plays like Admit India, Cheepan Toh Phela, Jai Pardushan, and short films, including Chandigarh, The Real Bhagat Singh. So effective and popular are their works and passion that established artistes like Rana Ranbir, Jasbir Jassi, Harshdeep Kaur, Raj Brar, Gurchet Chitarkar, Kanwar Grewal and Anita Meet have agreed to work in their film for free.
“This is the story Punjab needs to know. It is just the beginning of a revolution. There are many novels, stories, subjects worth turning into Punjabi movies,” said Rana Ranbir. He will be seen in a negative role, a corrupt politician, for the first time in this film.
Jasbir Jassi who is doing music for the film believes music is a religion of togetherness. He said, “Singers are nowadays glorifying violence, teasing girls, behaving like gangsters in videos which is questionable. The government is also responsible to some extent.”