This year, the festival is dedicated to the legendary writer Saadat Hasan Manto, with a line-up of plays reflecting the themes, styles, approaches and contexts of theatre and directors from states such as Kerala, Rajasthan, Assam and Delhi as well as a play from Pakistan.
“In the past nine years, we have staged plays in different languages here, and found that language was no bar in art,” says Dhaliwal, before talking about the selection of plays which will be performed from December 8 to 16 at Punjab Naat Shala.
Among the plays to staged is Karmawali, directed by Sunita Dhir and written by KL Zakir. The powerful play depicts the tragedy of Partition through the eyes of a woman — a reminder than women are almost always the most acute victims of any upheaval.
From Ujjain comes Arey Sharif Log, directed by Sharad Sharma, while director Baharul Islam’s group from Assam brings Aaakash, a funny story by writer-filmmaker Bhabendra Nath Saikia. The play begins with a letter that is dropped into tha hands of a loving father, whose daughter is about to be married. The letter reveals the immoral character of his would-be son-in-law.
Jamleela by Arjun Deo from Jodhpur will depict the folk culture and music of Rajasthan in this woman-oriented production. Anveshana’s Dance Theatre will present Anveshan, a woman’s story through dance and intense physical movements.
The audiences will also be treated to Kerala-based director Chandradasan’s acclaimed production Draupadi. The play, as its title suggests, revolves around the main female protagonist of the Mahabharata, the powerful and often-misunderstood Draupadi. In the production, the playwright tries to analyse the nature of modern women through this epic character. Draupadi, a woman married to five men, who is often considered to be one of the reasons for the great war between the Pandavas and Kauravas. The play is presented in an unusual style — with props such as paintings, masks and puppeteers taking the story forward.
The festival opens with Dhaliwal’s Manch Rangmanch’s new production, Kis Thag Ne Luteya Shehar, an experimental production that attempts to tackle the changing face of cities, where concrete is fast replacing human elements, and the youth are moving away to the greener pastures for power and money.
The last play is Kaun Hay Ye Gustakh, by Pakistani theatre person, Madeeha Gauhar’s group, Ajoka Theatre. The play is based on the various trials that Manto faced and brings to the fore some unknown facets and writings of Manto. “We have spent time and energy to put together a festival that will appeal to different audiences,” says Dhaliwal.