The Lahore-based famous theatre group Ajoka Theatre, left for India in March this year to take part in the Humsaya Festival, held in Amritsar every year.
The group, with the leader and founder Madeeha Gauhar, traveled across the Wagah border, becoming the first Pakistani artists to visit India since the escalation of the conflict between the two countries over 19 Indian soldiers being killed by militants in Kashmir and the ban on Pakistani artists entering the neighbouring country.
The third Humsaya Theatre Festival took place from 15-20 March and saw six plays performed at two venues in Amritsar, merely 50km from Lahore. This year’s theme was ‘Revisiting Partition’, in light of the 70 years since independence and a seminar on ‘Partition and Theatre’ was also held on 20th March. Two prominent Indian theatre groups, Manch Rang Manch and Adakaar Manch, also performed at the festival.
Ajoka Theatre has been performing in India for almost 25 years and its mission is to promote and bring peace through art. After the festival, Ajoka performed in Jaladhar, Patiala and Chandigarh with the play Anhi Maai da Sufna, or ‘A Blind Woman’s Dream’ telling a story of generations separated during the turmoil of Partition. A blind woman, Janki, resident of Amritsar cannot forget her native village Premnagar, now located in Pakistan, and she insists that her family visit her homeland. Dharma Dass aka Rangu Rangsaaz, who fought to stay back in Lahore after his family was uprooted in 1947, wants to attend his granddaughter’s wedding in India but is unable to get the visa.
Written by the executive director of Ajoka and a prolific playwright, Shahid Nadeem, the play was inspired by true stories, and was directed by a Indian Bengali veteran theatre director Usha Ganguly.