Venue: India Habitat Centre
Date: 6th August 2017
Punjabi pop is cool. Be it a disc in Delhi or an event in Kolkata, Punjabi numbers are hot favourite. But can we say that about other forms of Punjabi art such as theatre?
Sheila Bhatia, poet, playwright, theatre personality and the founder of the Delhi Art Theatre, was pained by partition. A host of her works in Urdu and Punjabi are reflective of her emotions. One such piece, like a musical or Punjabi opera is Chann Badlan Da was first performed in the year 1967. This has been revived and recently staged by Delhi Art Theatre at India Habitat Centre.
The event evoked a lot of hope from the word go.
Firstly, it started dot on time and after a short introduction, the play started on a high tempo from the word go. It was a collection of soulful songs, either solo or in groups and were accompanied by suitable Bhangra / Gidda dance acts. The songs were slightly loud, somewhat dramatic but always melodious and straight from the heart. All lines and numbers were in Punjabi and struck a spontaneous chord with the Punjabi speaking audience. We heard many whistle during the sequence with wedding songs. Given that this was a musical and the songs were sometimes peppy, sometimes soulful but always very pleasant, it was also enjoyable for people who did not follow Punjabi. The songs were ably supported by a seasoned musical ensemble sitting on the side of the stage.
The whole production managed to create a yester era feel. A band of ladies sitting on stage and singing in chorus made one imagine rural India. The colourful costumes and the group performances were reflective of the joie de vivre of the Punjabi culture. The whole production – in a folk opera format – was very suitable for an open thrust stage. The wedding sequence, specially the barat that walked through the audience amid song and dance, involved the audience some of whom shook a leg. The dhol and the dance were indeed very catchy.
The big cast performed with clock work precision. Not a line or a tune was amiss. The actor who played the young bride (Anushree Ghosh) getting married is a natural. She stood out amongst others.
Chann Badlan Da is an eye opener into the Punjabi culture. A rich heritage that is way beyond peppy pop. While more than 50 years old, Chann Badln Da and such works are still very relevant. Hope Delhi Art Theatre brings other pieces akin to Chann Badlan Da that bear testimony to the rich culture traditions of India.