Punjabi theatre fest explores pre-Sikh history

Prembabu shrma

‘Panchnad da Paani’ the third day presentation at Punjabi Theatre festival moved the crowd with the pre-Sikh history which denoted 13th century Punjab.

Directed by Dr Atamjit, the play is based on two historical short stories, written by Manmohan Bawa. While one story hovered around Naila, a historical character, a Rajput princess who was the mother of Feroz Shah Tughalq, and the other is story of Birju, a fictional character of Bawa’s imagination.Set in pre-Sikh period of Punjab, the play brings to fore issues of contemporary times such as feminism, subalterns, good vs evil and Sufism.Atamjit has been engaged in exploring the subliminal, psychological depths of human behaviour that often define as well as defy the limits of human understanding.

Panchnad Da Paani (Water of the Land of Five Rivers), showcased the struggles of the time when Mongols were on a constant spree of attacking Punjab and the territory was being defended by the Turks. The play goes through dramatic situations like, Ghazi Malik, who later ruled India as Gyasu din Tughlak, asks the hand of Naila, daughter of Bhatti for his brother Rajab Ali and Naila creating history by accepting the proposal.

However, this dramatic narrative is not merely a linear account of a Hindu girl marrying a Turk, but also probes into complex questions such as what exactly is sin and who is the real sinner?

“We have very few Punjabi theatre productions that go back to the pre-Sikh period. We are bounded to our history and no one separate us from our roots. It is our history which teaches and inspires us to move ahead with better understanding in our lives. We need to delve into our past,” said Dr Atamjit, adding that Panchnad Da Paani is a serious attempt to make the scene of contemporary Punjabi theatre more vibrant, exciting and reverent for its admirers.

Mr. Rawail Singh, Secretary, Punjabi Academy quoted to the media, “Dr. Atamjit is one of the revolutionary playwrights in Punjab. He is a streak in him to explore the less luminous areas of Punjabi culture like the theme of today’s play. I appreciate the courage he has shown to choose a chapter of history that preceded the birth of Sikhism by many centuries, but also characters those are not known to many.”

“This year we have chosen those plays which have gone beyond usual practices and lifted Punjabi theatre to a higher level. I am sure that today the audience must have got a real taste of what a stage performance can do. We have surpassed the typical norms of theatre production,” he added.