When theatre is identity

Much variety A scene from one of the plays staged.

Much variety A scene from one of the plays staged.  


A recent Sindhi Theatre Festival illuminated a rich tradition.

Comic themes became a staple in some of the Sindhi dramas some plays also glorified Sindhi historical and mythological heroes

A two-day annual Sindhi Theatre Festival organised by the Sindhi Academy, Delhi at Kamani auditorium recently evoked nostalgia for the good old days in Sindh among those members of the audience who had migrated to India during Partition and had lived a hard life at refugees camps for a considerable time. Events like this also afford an opportunity to discover the identity of a people uprooted from their cultural and social moorings and also an occasion to inculcate in the new generation a love for their rich cultural heritage.

In fact, Sindhi theatre has a rich tradition. Its folk and traditional theatre include story-telling in a musical form mostly drawn from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, enactment of stories in a style called kafiyaan and styles like Naw and Saang. The first Sindhi play written by Marza Beig in 1880 was entitled “Layla Majnun”. Since then migrant Sindhis have settled in different parts of India and formed a small minority. A few committed cultural revivalists worked hard to stage plays and musical concerts; others thought to assimilate the culture of their new homes with their ancestors’ cultural heritage. Having suffered financially and culturally, first generation Sindhis who settled in India wanted some escape to forget their wounds of separation. They started presenting farcical comedies. These comic themes became a staple in some of the Sindhi dramas. There were also a few plays that glorified Sindhi historical and mythological heroes and also social plays to convey moral lessons to the younger generation.

These broad trends are discernible in the Sindhi Academy’s theatre festival, which is engaged in the propagation and preservation of Sindhi language, literature and culture. It was established by the government of NCT Delhi in July 1994. The festival opened with “Samrat Dahirsen”, which was presented by Nawyuwak Kala Mandal from Bikaner. The play highlights the bravery, kind heartedness and King Dahirsen’s total commitment to high moral values even at the cost of his life. The king is killed in the battlefield by his enemy’s deception.

Written and directed by Suresh Hindustani, a playwright, he has been presenting Sindhi plays in different parts of the country. The performers acted out their roles with passionate intensity. In the course of its 15-years existence, this drama group has staged about 60 plays in Hindi and Sindhi at about 1000 places in the country.

Comedy play

This was followed by a comedy play entitled “Maau Murali, Peeu Tamburo, Put Wajaen”. Written by Muralidhar Balwani, it revolves round a family, which is dominated by a hot-headed wife. Whenever her husband appears before her, he becomes as timid as a mouse. Terrorised by his wife, the husband is reduced into a mere puppet. The young son is sorry to see the plight of his father. To teach a lesson to his mother, he devices a plan to show his father in love with a young girl. As the son starts to execute his plan, an unforeseen chain of events takes place leaving the comic characters flabbergasted. The girl, who is supposed to be in love with the father, is in fact, a figment of the son’s imagination, actually enters the scene, creating a hilarious situation. Presented by Rang Samooh, Bhopal the performers displayed a fine sense of timing.

Suresh Bablani’s “Karar” presented by Sindhi Drama Group, Ajmer under the direction of Ashok Saxena deals with the lack of filial duty. Engrossed in their own world two sons ignore their ageing father at a time when he needs affection and support. However, a friend of the father succeeds in awakening humane sentiments in the insensitive sons.

The concluding piece of the festival was “Shaadi Shart Saan”, which is written and directed by Shankar Moolvani who has acted in a number of Sindhi plays and films. The director is a Delhi-based theatre artist and “Shaadi Shart Saan” is his maiden effort as a playwright.

It is a comic exposure of the follies of the parents of a bridegroom who demand that the domestic servant of the bride’s family should also work for them. This strange demand, which is a form of dowry evokes loud laughter.

The festival was dedicated to the memory of Hem Raj Nagwani who pioneered the Sindhi theatre movement in the Capital.

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