Obit: Punjabi writer Ajmer Aulakh dies at 75, lives on in his plays; artistes laud his contribution | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Obit: Punjabi writer Ajmer Aulakh dies at 75, lives on in his plays; artistes laud his contribution

Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, says, “A legend passes away but not after leaving a great body of work and inspiring young theatre workers. I received much encouragement from him and I count him as a colossus of Punjabi drama who touched on social issues with passion.”

punjab Updated: Jun 15, 2017 22:51 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Ajmer Singh Aulakh (1942-2017)
Ajmer Singh Aulakh (1942-2017)(HT Photo)

It was in the early eighties that playwright and director Ajmer Singh Aulakh (1942-2017) brought his play, ‘Begane Borh di Chhan (In the shade of an alien Banyan)’, to Chandigarh’s Tagore Theatre. Simply staged with a makeshift tree and a string cot in the centre of the stage and actors speaking a chaste Malwai dialect, the play went straight to the hearts of the audience. The spell cast was such that the standing ovation would just not stop and I recall Gursharan Singh Channi, then a street theatre activist, clapping most heartily.

As the news of the passing away of the much-loved playwright spread like wild fire on a hazy Thursday morning, Channi wrote on Facebook, “Although you have traversed to another dimension, you will always reside in our hearts and minds through your writings and your cultural activism.”

Such is the sentiment echoed by many others and Kewal Dhaliwal, chairperson, Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, says, “A legend passes away but not after leaving a great body of work and inspiring young theatre workers. I received much encouragement from him and I count him as a colossus of Punjabi drama who touched on social issues with passion.”

Dhaliwal adds that his play, ‘Yaar Mere Da Sathrha’, was a moving document of friends killed in the suppression of the Naxalite movement in Punjab.

ACTIVIST AND ARTISTE

Aulakh had achieved in that play, what fiction writer Gurdial Singh, had done in the ’60s with his classic novel, ‘Marhi Da Diva’. He took it on himself to highlight the plight of the marginalised sections of Punjabi society and the oppression of women in the patriarchal agrarian world. The national Sahitya Akademi Award came to him in 2006 for his play ‘Ishaka Bajha Namaza Da Haja Nahi’, a play which strongly took up the issue of honour killings of Punjabi girls.

Film-maker and writer Daljit Ami says, “Aulakh was a rare blend of activist and artiste. He led campaigns against state repression from the front. Known for his pro-people stance, rural Punjabi diction and direct speak to power, he lived by his values.”

ROOTED TO MANSA

Born in Kishangarh village of Mansa, he remained rooted to the soil, teaching in a Mansa college and finding his creative outlet and reaching out to people through theatre.

He has a rich and astounding body or works, including plays such as ‘Ik Ramayan Hor’, ‘Satt Begaane Kehar Singh Di Maut’, ‘Aise Jana Wirale Sam̆sāre’ and ‘Toorhi Wala Kotha’.

Punjabi writer Des Raj Kali says, “His courage was immense and that was shown in my penning and staging ‘Ahne Nishanchi’, a play against terrorism in those dreadful times.” His use of the Malwai dialect was exceptional and he created a miniature painting on the stage on the subject of the wretched of the earth in place of prince and princesses, he adds.

As a person, Aulakh was gentle, shy and humorous even in the worst of times.

His last years were difficult as he battled cancer.

Recounting his contribution, Gulzar Singh Sandhu, chairman, Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi, says, “His entire life was dedicated to presenting his socio-political convictions on stage. There will never be another like him.”

(nirudutt@gmail.com)