New Theater Play about 1984 Sikh Genocide

A recent play seems to have caught my attention. I provide the description here in length:

dangalnama.jpgDangalnama is a gripping account of sectarian rioting in India since the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. It is also the story of a younger generation making sense of their history.

Through the voices and personal testimonies of Indian journalists, students, artists and politicians, director Prasad Vanarase presents survival stories, which shed light on the current social, economic and political climate in India today and the wide disparity between the poor-rural and modern-urban population. Performed in five languages (Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, English and Kannada), this eye-opening and satirical take on Indians recent past also looks forward to a more unified future.

Dangalnama boasts a cast of 14 drawn from across India. Using satire and comedy, Dangalnama shows us the human side of Indias complex and often hidden issues in this powerful 90min production followed by a lively 30min discussion with the cast and director. [link]

Dangalnama A Flame Production directed by Prasad Vanarase
A Lift commission / UK Premiere
Fri 13 – Wed 18 June 13, 14, 15, 16, 17: 7.30pm – 9.30pm
15, 18: 2.00pm – 4.00pm

An immediate observation leaps out at me from the description. It is striking though that the play in being performed in five languages, yet the main language of the victims of the genocide, Punjabi, is left out. I wonder why?

One theater reviewer in her recommendation states:

Dangalnama, about sectarian rioting in India, asks why a secular state founded on pacifism should have suffered such violence over the last 20 years. [link]

I guess I would answer that this is a serious misreading of Indian history. Although western audiences are enamored by the myth of Gandhi, especially the propaganda piece funded by Indira Gandhi’s government, Richard Attenboroughs classic Gandhi (1982) film starring Ben Kingsley. Many minority groups on the Indian nation-states periphery would hardly describe India as secular or especially not a state founded on pacifism.

One article that does provide a history of the production states:

Born out of improvisation exercises held from October 2007 at FLAME School Of Liberal Education, the impromptu short skits assigned to the student theatre artistes, which saw the students penning their own stories within a short span of 30 minutes and then later on acting them out sans any orchestration, were put together into a final theatrical piece called Dangalnama.

“The idea behind the play was to put together the survival stories of riot victims and our way of conducting the play, employing the technique of improvisation, gave a realistic edge with each actor living the moments and through the trauma one might have suffered,” Varanase says.

And when one overlooks the tags of religion and other discriminative epithets, it boils down to a squabble of human versus human. [link]

I think the last sentence troubles me, because I see the genocide as not of a squabble of human versus human, but rather of the states machinery in 1984 being mobilized to send a signal through death, carnage, and destruction highlighting the insecurity of Sikhs within India. This was not some random act of people acting out against others. This was the ruling party busing people, providing kerosene, and holding back the army, while the Delhi police colluded in the pogroms against Sikhs. All the while, the government attempted to use the funeral of Indira Gandhi as a backdrop to absolve its active collusion.

Regardless it is interesting that even mainstream Indian artists are beginning to look at the genocide of 1984. The film Amu immediately comes to mind. (Let alone Sikh productions such as the Widow Colony or even Immortal Shaheedi albums.

I hope our UK langar-ites can tell us about the play and regardless of its representation and politics (again I have no idea how it will be presented), I hope the Sikh community has learned lessons from the Behzti fiasco. I hope stupidity is avoided and the community never repeats past mistakes.


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11 Responses to “New Theater Play about 1984 Sikh Genocide”

  1. Jaspreet Singh says:

    It is a commendable initiative that needs lots of support and encouragement of the Sikhs around the area this play is being staged. Can I request (rather encourage) Sikh members attending the play to record a video and upload the same on videos sharing sites so that the truth is spread far and wide and not just limited to audiences choosing to attend the play

    Guru Fateh

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    Jaspreet, you can suggest it, but I have a feeling that the theatre company may not appreciate it. If you appreciate the play's reviews (or maybe even if you don't), why not invite the company to your locale?

  3. Jaspreet Singh says:

    It is a commendable initiative that needs lots of support and encouragement of the Sikhs around the area this play is being staged. Can I request (rather encourage) Sikh members attending the play to record a video and upload the same on videos sharing sites so that the truth is spread far and wide and not just limited to audiences choosing to attend the play

    Guru Fateh

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Jaspreet, you can suggest it, but I have a feeling that the theatre company may not appreciate it. If you appreciate the play’s reviews (or maybe even if you don’t), why not invite the company to your locale?

  5. Jaspreet Singh says:

    [quote comment="2649"]Jaspreet, you can suggest it, but I have a feeling that the theatre company may not appreciate it. If you appreciate the play's reviews (or maybe even if you don't), why not invite the company to your locale?[/quote]

    Dear Mewa Singh Ji,

    I appreaciate your point of view. The theatre companies concerns as pointed out are also well founded. However, on video sharing sites like youtube, there is a provision to restrict the access of content to certain countries and prohibit access in others. This group seems to me localized theatre group (maybe i am wrong). If there is a official recording of the play and hosted by the group themselves with access provided only to countries where they are not performing, that would be great.

    This would spread the message of the play far and wide and serve the purpose well.

    Hope this thought goes down well

    Bhul Chuk di maafi

    Guru Fateh

  6. Jaspreet Singh says:

    [quote comment=”2649″]Jaspreet, you can suggest it, but I have a feeling that the theatre company may not appreciate it. If you appreciate the play’s reviews (or maybe even if you don’t), why not invite the company to your locale?[/quote]

    Dear Mewa Singh Ji,
    I appreaciate your point of view. The theatre companies concerns as pointed out are also well founded. However, on video sharing sites like youtube, there is a provision to restrict the access of content to certain countries and prohibit access in others. This group seems to me localized theatre group (maybe i am wrong). If there is a official recording of the play and hosted by the group themselves with access provided only to countries where they are not performing, that would be great.
    This would spread the message of the play far and wide and serve the purpose well.
    Hope this thought goes down well
    Bhul Chuk di maafi

    Guru Fateh

  7. Bobby says:

    Jaspreet Singh

    You can't just start video recording a theatre production. It's not the done thing to do that without the permission of the performers, who might be distracted by it. And the picture and sound quality would be of a low standard anyway. If you wanted to be involved in something like that you could contact the theatre company directly and ask them if they would like to produce a video of their play, and do it professionally.

  8. Bobby says:

    Jaspreet Singh

    You can’t just start video recording a theatre production. It’s not the done thing to do that without the permission of the performers, who might be distracted by it. And the picture and sound quality would be of a low standard anyway. If you wanted to be involved in something like that you could contact the theatre company directly and ask them if they would like to produce a video of their play, and do it professionally.

  9. Jaspreet Singh says:

    [quote comment="2808"]Jaspreet Singh

    You can't just start video recording a theatre production. It's not the done thing to do that without the permission of the performers, who might be distracted by it. And the picture and sound quality would be of a low standard anyway. If you wanted to be involved in something like that you could contact the theatre company directly and ask them if they would like to produce a video of their play, and do it professionally.[/quote]

    Excellent

    Thats the best we can and should do

  10. Jaspreet Singh says:

    [quote comment=”2808″]Jaspreet Singh

    You can’t just start video recording a theatre production. It’s not the done thing to do that without the permission of the performers, who might be distracted by it. And the picture and sound quality would be of a low standard anyway. If you wanted to be involved in something like that you could contact the theatre company directly and ask them if they would like to produce a video of their play, and do it professionally.[/quote]

    Excellent
    Thats the best we can and should do

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