Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: A meeting to condole the death of noted theatre artiste Sheila Bhatia was organised at the National School of Drama here on Friday. Ms. Bhatia passed away on February 17.

After starting out as a teacher of mathematics in Lahore during the pre-Partition days, Ms. Bhatia got involved in the country’s freedom struggle. It was her singing talent that later became her medium of expression in theatre productions.

Her move to Delhi heralded a new chapter in her life and she went on to form the Delhi Art Theatre. The Theatre’s maiden production was “Call of the Valley” in 1951 and was dedicated to Kashmir, a place very close to Ms. Bhatia’s heart. The second venture “Heer Ranja” too was a landmark production as it introduced the “opera” style with everything being said through music and songs.

According to her close associates, her plays symbolised rare moments of joy, warmth, celebration and shared living. Recounting her rich contributions, theatre critic and her close associate Romesh Chander said: “She managed to collect a train-full of grains from Punjab for relief purposes during the Bengal famine simply by touring various villages, towns and cities and singing songs with her troupe.”

According to Mr. Chander, the two most important things that influenced her life as a theatre artiste as well as sowed the seeds of political consciousness in her were her years spent at the Ganga Ram School in Lahore and the farmers’ movement started by the Punjab Kisan Sabha in India. “The Government should help in setting up of a research centre so that the movement started by Ms. Bhatia can be taken ahead.”

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