I have always experimented with unconventional, bold subjects and themes which have made many uneasy. But on stage, I resolve to stay away from the cliched and predictable and this award is a recognition of my perseverance, inspiring me to continue on the path chosen,” says Chandigarh-based theatre director and actor Namrata Sharma, who has been selected for Ut Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, 2018, for acting.
An alumnus of the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University, Sharma has been teaching as an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Television, Punjabi University, Patiala, for 14 years. An active theatre practitioner since 1998, she has initiated theatre groups in three cities, worked with people of different ages and backgrounds, ones driven by passion for theatre. The dream to explore myriad themes, experimenting with fresh subjects and cultivating a strong and vibrant theatre culture in the tricity led Sharma to create Khela Natya Sansthan, a platform for young theatre practitioners.
“It began for me with a theatre camp I attended in 1998, where I played a major character in Shambhu Mitra’s play, Kanchanrang. That one month set the path for the rest of my journey,” shares Sharma, who began by initiating a theatre group in Sri Ganganagar (Rajasthan), a place where she grew up, and staged several plays, including organising the district’s first ticketed four-day long theatre festival. After her masters in theatre from Panjab University, Sharma began working with children, major theatre directors, and participated in various theatre festivals. She formed her theatre group, Khela, in 2015 to explore different genres of theatre and perform for diverse audiences. “As a designer, I love to make props with my hands. Living a different character every time on stage, feeling the power which enables an actor to carry her audience along, enveloped by various emotions, is the sole reason for my being,” says the 39-year-old.
For over 21 years, Sharma has acted, directed and designed several productions such as The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt, Aazar Ka Khwaab (Begum Qudsia Zaidi’s Urdu adaptation of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw), Ashadh Ka Ek Din by Mohan Rakesh, Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Jamya Nai by Asghar Wajahat, Maa (Gursharan Singh’s adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s Mother), Saamp Seedhi and Ho Ke Rahega Kuch Na Kuch by Mohan Maharishi, and Aahat by Prashant Dalvi, among others.
Theatre, she says, is a serious discipline which demands hard work and an undying passion to explore realms of creativity. “Having learned from the finest of teachers, I put my heart and soul in training young people. I focus on voice and speech training. I dream of a strong and vibrant theatre culture in our country where people buy tickets to watch plays, where theatre is an integral part of people’s lives and groups don’t have to ask for grants or are not forced to perform for free. Theatre should earn them both respect and money,” says Sharma, adding how she is always looking for new scripts and ideas.