The origin of street theatre in India can be traced back to the mid nineteenth century. Although there is no proper information, it is said that the street theatre started in the 1940s in India. Again, according to another source of history, when the 7th century AD Muslims invaded India, they did not like the theatre. But to keep the local sentiment intact, the theatre changed its form to street theater, which could not be performed in the Maharaja's palaces. This form was known as 'Rahs' in Punjabi. In Uttar Pradesh, it is known as 'Nautanki' and in Bengal, it is popular as 'Jatra'. The playing of 'dholak' in street theatre attracts the people.
In India, Safdar Hashmi made the base of the theatre strong. He used theatre as a medium of public participation. Safdar Hashmi was born on April 12, 1954 in Delhi. His father was Haneef Hashmi and mother Qamar Azad. He passed his childhood days in Aligarh and finished his schooling in Delhi. He has done his MA in English literature from Delhi University. Safdar Hashmi took the teaching job in the University of Garhwal, Kashmir and Delhi for a short period. Then he worked in the Press Institute of India and then joined as the Press Information Officer of the Govt. of West Bengal in Delhi. He left this job too in 1984 and started working as a fulltime political cultural activist. Safdar Hashmi was a playwright, lyricist, actor, teacher, member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, and journalist.
Safdar Hashmi was the founder member of his troupe 'Jana Natya Manch', 'Janam', which was formed in 1973. He has lots of contribution in the development of the street theatre in India. The Calcutta University honoured him with the D. Litt degree in 1989. Safdar Hashmi is one of the pioneers, who kept alive the ideals of a secular, patriotic and developing nation. He has enacted many plays to create public awareness on various political and social issues in a very creative format.
Safdar Hashmi along with his troupe was performing a play named 'Halla Bol' (Raise Hell!) in Jhandapur, Sahibabad on the outskirts of Delhi. It was in support of the workers' demands led by the Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). All the people from all classes and groups came out in his support. This play was about the government's role in the suppression of the workers' organs fro the economic struggle. During the show, the Congress workers arrived at the scene and attacked him with guns and other arms. This led to the death of Safdar Hashmi. He got injured in his skull and various other places. Thus his death gave birth of the Safdar Hashmi memorial trust (SAHMAT), which works for productive values and raises voice against the social inequalities in India. He has given over 4000 performances in the street theatres till his death.
Safdar Hashmi died for a good cause of the society. He used the popular tool like street theatre as a creative medium. He described the value of May Day to the common people of India through his street theatre performances. As a journalist Safdar Hashmi worked for Press Trust of India and The Economic Times.
A recent Hindi film named "Halla Bol" was made by Rajkumar Santoshi based on the life of Safdar Hashmi. But the real life of Safdar was quite far from the film. He inspired and educated people through his visionary street plays or theatres. He raised the issues like allowing the women workers in factory and labour sites and also to allow them to bring their children to look after. Therefore, to continue with his high spirit, only after 48 hours of his death, his wife and companion Moloyashree completed the disrupted performance of "Halla Bol" along with the actors of 'Jana Natya Mancha'. So, as long as the street theatre exists, the name of Safdar Hashmi will be remembered with great respect
(Last Updated on : 22-12-2008)
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