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Theatre director, actor and anchor of the group Manch Rangmanch, Kewal Dhaliwal is in a reflective mode as he looks back at how the National Theatre Festival, Amritsar, which he began in 2003 as a humble initiative has reached a brand new stage. As the countdown to the 10th National Festival begins, Dhaliwal is happy that this time it's a collective effort, with support from various quarters. "It's a heartening to see that the festival has grown and some of the best groups of the country are participating in it, with audiences coming in from all over Punjab," says Dhaliwal.
This year, the festival is dedicated to the legendary writer Saadat Hasan Manto, with a line-up of plays reflecting the themes, styles, approaches and contexts of theatre and directors from states such as Kerala, Rajasthan, Assam and Delhi as well as a play from Pakistan.
"In the past nine years, we have staged plays in different languages here, and found that language was no bar in art," says Dhaliwal, before talking about the selection of plays which will be performed from December 8 to 16 at Punjab Naat Shala.
Among the plays to staged is Karmawali, directed by Sunita Dhir and written by KL Zakir. The powerful play depicts the tragedy of Partition through the eyes of a woman — a reminder than women are almost always the most acute victims of any upheaval.
From Ujjain comes Arey Sharif Log, directed by Sharad Sharma, while director Baharul Islam's group from Assam brings Aaakash, a funny story by writer-filmmaker Bhabendra Nath Saikia. The play begins with a letter that is dropped into tha hands of a loving father, whose daughter is about to be married. The letter reveals the immoral character of his would-be son-in-law.
Jamleela by Arjun Deo from Jodhpur will depict the folk culture and music of Rajasthan in this woman-oriented production. Anveshana's Dance Theatre will present Anveshan, a woman's story through dance and intense physical movements.