Punjab Naatshala in Amritsar introduced me to theatre in 1998. It was March-end, March 27 to be precise, when I witnessed a play for the first time on World Theatre Day.
Punjab Naatshala was no ordinary institution of theatre. Those who have experienced theatre here once are most likely to follow the art regularly with gusto. The plays staged here are on varied subjects and themes but they reflect the same dedication, hard work and professionalism.
Punjabi play 'Kudesan' was my first at Punjab Naatshala. It exceeded expectations to the extent that it motivated me to introduce neighbours, relatives and friends to the experience of watching a play. So wherever I'd go, whoever I'd meet, I'd want to know if they'd been to the Naatshala.
A step into the innovative and imposing auditorium and the traditional touch would transport you to your roots.
Some plays bring tears, others a smile but they all hold a mirror to society with a message to reflect on. Some remarkable productions savoured at the Punjab Naatshala have been 'Daughter of the Bin', 'Faasle', 'Mirch Masala' and 'Suchi Saanjh'. I liked them because they raised questions for society to answer.
Theatre is life-like. It is sensitive towards one and all. There is sound in the silence, something you can't experience in the movies or TV. If there is rain on stage, you can sense the moist environs, if flowers are being gifted to someone in the play, the fragrance fills the auditorium. In short, you feel the experience.
I wouldn't be doing justice to Amritsar's pride if I don't mention the man behind Punjab Naatshala. He is Jatinder Brar, an engineer by profession but a lover of theatre since his college days. A classmate of his often narrates incidents that reflect his passion for theatre. "Such was Jatinder's passion that during class hours, he would be busy writing plays. We knew that he would prove himself in theatre one day," his college batchmate shared the other day.
Jatinder's dream gave actors, directors and playwrights a platform to showcase their talent and earn a livelihood, while we the people of Amritsar got an inspiring source of entertainment.
Comedians Bharti Singh and Rajeev Thakur, who are household names today thanks to TV, started performing at Punjab Naatshala. Jatinder didn't let the shortage of funds come in the way of realising his dream. For that, and for initiating us into theatre, every Amritsari is proud, and grateful.
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