Dream to set up multiplex theatre in Jammu- Balwant Thakur

TNN Bureau. Updated: 10/3/2016 12:01:32 PM This Person: Then and Now

Born in a remote hilly village called Bakkal in Jammu, the man is known responsible for giving Dogri language and culture of Jammu an international standard. Balwant Thakur has been honoured with a list of prominent awards like Sanskriti Award, the Jammu and Kashmir Academy Award, the Abhinay Samman and the Padam Shree.

In 1983, Thakur established the theatre group, Natrang. The group’s weekend show, titled “Sunday Show,”which showcases a different performance every week. All across the world, Balwant Thakur is known for his plays called Baba Jitto and Ghumayee which were first staged about 20 years ago and is still running on various platforms. In this interview with The News Now, Balwant shared the various aspects of his life and his journey as an internationally acclaimed artist of Jammu. Here are the excerpts:

TNN: How has been your life before coming to theatre and what brought you to this field?

Balwant: Frankly, I believe that I had no life before coming to theatre. I was always an artist since my childhood. The place where I brought up was a living museum, I spent my childhood reciting folk songs and doing folk dances. I had just completed my primary education when I formed a theatre group with my other five friends. I got more exposure during my LLB days at Jammu University. Here me and my friends started doing plays at zonal and national level.

TNN: When did you establish Natrang and what was the reason of its establishment?

Balwant: It was the year 1983 and the reason was to form a creative liberty in Jammu for theatre artist. I am glad that the idea worked.

TNN: Tell us all about your internationally famous play “Bwa Jitoo”?

Balwant: I was attracted to one of our tales, called “Baba Jitto.” It was a narrative basically. Professor Ram Nath Shastri [a litterateur who played a pivotal role in the revival of Dogra culture] scripted the play and I started creating the performance. I personally feel that theatre should not merely be a a verbal exercise. It should acquire a language and it should speak across it.

It took me almost two years to create this play. I came out with this performance in 1985. From 1985 to now, it has been 31 years, and it is still going strong. It has been performed all over the length and breadth of the country. I discovered another folk tale named Ghumayee. I tried to experiment with not only the content, but the form of the play.

TNN: What are your other favourite plays apart from Bawa Jitoo and Ghumayee?

Balwant: Well, It is hard to name a few but Aap Hamare Hain Kaun, Mere Hisse Ki Dhoop Kahan Hai, Suno Eh Kahani, Mahabhoj, Rangla Jammu are some of my most favourite ones.

TNN: What is the status of theatre in Jammu?

Balwant: Here in Jammu, there is complete mismatch of theatre forms going on. We have some real good theatre groups here but they still struggling because of the lack of exposure. I believe theatre should be promoted at school level and that is why we started doing children’s theatre with Natrang. Since 2000, we have been conducting a regular workshop for children. I am very keen that [theatre] be taken up as a subject. I don’t know why the CBSE [Central Board of Secondary Education] is so reluctant. I find that schools are only into business. They are not interested in the overall total development of the children. Parents are also not involved in this total development; they only look at report cards.

TNN: What is your dream project?

Balwant: I want to create a multiplex for theatre in Jammu. I am working towards it.

TNN: Your message for the aspiring artists?

Balwant: Attaining success as theatre artist is Jammu is hard. If you want to do it, do it with determination, give your 100%. If a person like me coming from a village of Reasi can achieve heights as a theatre artist, you can too. All the best !

By Akanksha and Amit Gupta

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