Gatha Jallianwala Bagh, Alankar Theatre
“This play has changed our perspective towards how we interpret our history. This painful chapter of our past has given us a chance to understand and analyse the politics of our times,” says Chakresh Kumar, theatre actor, director and founder of Alankar Theatre, talking about the production that will open in Amritsar this week. The play has been written by actors Gaurav Kumar and Ankhush Shukla, who read and researched multiple books and explored numerous resources to understand the tragedy from different dimensions.
Gatha Jallianwala Bagh is based on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that happened on April 13, 1919. It discusses the brutality of the British government in India. The play also looks at the journey of well-known revolutionary Udham Singh to London and his struggles.
“The play will include all the events prior to the massacre that led to the gathering at Jallianwala Bagh,” says Kumar. The writers believe that the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is explicable even today, as such situations continue to exist. “In Jallianwala Bagh, people came together not for themselves but for the country. In today’s time, it is imperative to bring this historical event in front of people and show them the struggle many went through to attain independence,” adds Shukla.
Kumar feels, we have forgotten the sacrifices of our freedom fighters and the tragedies faced by people. “We need to be aware of our history, because what Dyer did in Jallianwala Bagh was against humanity. While moving forward, we should not forget our history. It is of utmost importance to bring Gatha Jallianwala Bagh to audiences across the county to remind our new generation that they should respect our freedom and country. In the play, we also look at the many issues that common people faced then — including poverty, famines, exploitation, torture, disrespect and forced participation in the army,” says Kumar.
Chall Amritsar London Challie, Suchetak Rang Manch
“We went to Jallianwala Bagh before we began the rehearsals of our new production, as we wanted to feel every emotion. I got back some mitti of the Bagh to use in the play,” says Anita Shabdeesh, lead actor and director of Chall Amritsar London Challie. Founder of Suchetak Rang Manch, Shabdeesh hopes to stage the play in London, with the help of the Indian Workers’ Association. Written by Shabdeesh, the play presents a dramatic account of the period between the Jallianwala massacre and the martyrdom of Udham Singh, and also reveals many unknown facts from the life of the revolutionary.
The play opens in a jail in London, with Singh waiting for his hanging. The following narrative is a flashback. Comprising 14 characters, folk music, poetry and songs, the play looks at the political and social conditions of the time, including the circumstances of World War I, when Indians were protesting against the Rowlatt Act and the the two-nation theory that was widely being accepted around 1940. “This play is not for entertainment but to connect the past with the present, and a continuing fight for an apology for this shameful act, which hasn’t come even after 100 years,” says Shabdeesh.
Jo Sar Jhuke Nahin, Lok Kala Manch
“Hundred years back, people were divided in the name of caste, religion, class and sadly, nothing has changed. Then also they tried to break these shackles, and today too, the fight for freedom continues. Jo Sar Jukhe Nahin, with Jallianwala Bagh as its central point, strives to connect common people with our history,” says theatre actor and director Harkesh Chaudhry, one of the founder members of Lok Kala Manch. The play is being staged across Punjab, with the intent to bring on centrestage the stories of our freedom fighters and their sacrifices. “This play is a tribute to our martyrs and a voice against imperialism. We need to fulfill the dreams of our martyrs and realise that humanity is the biggest and most important religion. The common people, then and now, did not believe in any discrimination or divide. These were games played by petty politicians for their own gains,” says Chaudhry.