Punjabi theatre director, playwright and children’s poet Tony Batish (58) passed away on Saturday at a private hospital here.
He had suffered brain haemorrhage on Monday and will be cremated on Sunday here. Born on January 11, 1958, at Bathinda’s Fateh Singh Wala village, Batish came from a family of Punjabi theatre artistes. His father, Jagdish Farihadi, was a stage actor and director. Batish married Parveen Kumari in 1982 and they had a daughter, Natika, and a son, Rupak. He lived in Bathinda and working here as a school activity teacher.
His theatre career started in 1975 at Bathinda, where he established Venus Art Theatre and performed symbolic plays such as Murgikhana (poultry house), Relgaddi (the train), Sadhe Tinn Lattan Wala Mez (three-and-a-half-legged table), and Ishaq Jinhan Di Haddi Rachia (about legendary lovers) in the rural area of Punjab’s Malwa region. At the peak of his career, Kahani Ik Pind Di (story of a village) and Balwant Gargi’s Razia Sultan were his two major productions. Kudrat De Sab Bandey (All of nature’s beings) is another of his short-street plays that was performed almost every day in Punjab during the militancy days of 1980 to 1995.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal described the director’s passing away as “a huge loss to the world of art, literature and culture in contemporary Punjab”. He said Batish had experimented with new ideas and updated and refined Punjabi drama. “His involvement with children’s theatre shows just how artistes are conscience keepers of the future generations,” he said.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) also expressed grief on the tragedy. CPI state secretary Hardev Singh Arshi said that Tony and his family had worked for people’s rights through their plays and raised public issues. Batish’s father was one of the founders of Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA).
Major directorial works
‘Kahani Ik Pind Di’, ‘Razia Sultan’, ‘Rishtian Da Ki Rakhiye Na’, ‘Murgikhana’, ‘Anne-Kaane’, ‘Gubarey’, ‘Relgaddi’, ‘Jadon Raushni Hundi Hai’ (Gursharan Singh), ‘Arbad Narbad Dhundukara’, ‘Ghar Gum Hai’, ‘Terrorist Di Premika’, ‘Chavian Di Rutt’ and children’s plays ‘Bhagoure’, ‘Farhlo-Farhlo’, and ‘Chugalkhor Lumbar’.