Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Bhajji continues to inspireGursharan Singh

Bhajji continues to inspire

Legendary theatre-person Gursharan Singh left behind much more than just stage technicalities. He touched each and every life that he came in contact with. Remembering him…18 Nov 2017 | 12:04 AM

A missionary, socialist, and a rebel, who would never bat an eyelid while talking about the discrepancies in society. The Baba Bodh of theatre, as Gursharan Singh was called, had staged the play Takht Lahore, targeting Ayub Khan’s regime in Pakistan. This play was the reason for his dismissal from a government job.

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Jasmine Singh

A missionary, socialist, and a rebel, who would never bat an eyelid while talking about the discrepancies in society.

The Baba Bodh of theatre, as Gursharan Singh was called, had staged the play Takht Lahore, targeting Ayub Khan’s regime in Pakistan. This play was the reason for his dismissal from a government job. 

As Chandigarh plays host to the Gursharan Singh Naat Utsav starting November 21 at Punjab Kala Bhawan, artistes who worked with him in the border villages of Amritsar, artistes who owe their existence in theatre to this die-hard leftist, step up on stage, to share moments spend with this man that have left a deep impact in their heart and soul. 

As they know Bhajji 

Gursharan Singh left a deep impact on many, in both acting and in personal life. Popular Punjabi actor Harish Verma, who joined Bhajji in 1999, owes his dialogue delivery to the noted theatre personality. “This was just one aspect of how he influenced my acting, but there are numerous other things that I learnt from him which have become integral to my living. To be honest, as an actor he wouldn’t say much, he would always tell me to focus on dialogues and expressions because that is real acting.” 

Harish went to trace his filmi career and doing pretty well in it. “He would often tell me, Harish apniyan foto bana ke Bombay bej, tera face sohna hai,” Harish smiles remembering the days spent with Gursharan Singh.

Those who worked with him, those who were in awe of him, those who shared endless cups of tea with him, know that Gursharan Singh would often talk about the basic rights and how there should be equality in the distribution of these rights. 

There is yet another interesting incident that people from theatre remember about this towering personality. In September 1976, Gursharan Singh staged a play at Jammu University. Four days after the performance he was arrested in Amritsar. He was charged for hatching a conspiracy to blow up the bridge. 

But the judge, who acquitted him in the case, had remarked that the police should have ideally charged him for staging a play rather than attempting to blow up a bridge. 

Talking about relevance 

Gursharan Singh would often describe his theatre as rural theatre with modern sensibilities. “And this is way too relevant in today’s time, more than ever before,” shares theatre-person Sahib Singh, who spent good eight years with Bhajji touring Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Canada and England. 

“Bhajji would talk about the Dalits, he would talk about the marginalised people of society and what we are doing for them. And I think his theatre is very much relevant and required to deal with the present scenario.” 

On the personal front, it is the habit of reading world literature, and the habit of questioning the need for theatre that he got from Bhajji. 

“Even today, whether I am doing a play or a film, I ask myself why is it important and for whom.”

Gursharan Singh’s contribution to the world of theatre (his was also called the thadi theatre, one that didn’t need a stage to perform), is enormous. In his lifetime, Bhajji wrote about 70 plays that include Toya, Kursiwala, Manjiwala and more. He also founded the Natak Kala Kendra in Amritsar and the Chandigarh School of Drama in the late 80s. 

There cannot be another Bhajji 

Popular theatre personality Shabdeesh of Suchetak Rangmanch and his wife Anita Shabdeesh have been organising the festival on Gursharan Singh.

“But if you ask me, if we can carry forward his legacy, of course we can, but we cannot write or express the way he did. Neither me, nor Sahib Singh, nor Kewal Dhaliwal, can write like him. What we can is carry forward his ideologies, and what his theatre stood for but there definitely cannot be another Gursharan Singh.” 

Ikatar Singh, who worked with Gursharan Singh for 10-11 years and is carrying forward his theatre, too believes that there can be no one like him. 

“I try to keep his content and style intact. But then there are many small theatre groups in Punjab which are doing plays based on the content of his plays. Their style might vary, but not the essence.”  The Naat Utsav is dedicated to playwright Ajmer Singh Aulakh. 

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