The choice might have been partly a pragmatic one because the narratives from the past provided a structure of shared beliefs; yet it was also a conscious attempt to infuse the country with cultural vitality and to awaken the national spirit. The past was invoked to portray models of endurance, self-sacrifice, courage, and undaunted resistance in the characters of Sita, Savitri, Abhimanyu, Maharana Pratap, Rani Padmini, and others to inspire the writers' countrymen to fight against oppression and colonial rule. The return to the past was inevitably characterised by reformed romanticism which countered the colonizer's image of the inferior, the barbaric and the uncivilized of the colonized. However, in the post-colonial phase, the use of myth, legend, or history is problematic and multidimensional; in addition to using the past to clarify and comment on the present, playwrights (particularly from the sixties onwards) present a critique of their own cultural traditions which they confront, question, subvert, and at times even reject.
Punjabi Theatre and Its Present Position
The early Punjabi theatre catered primarily to the urban middle class, and its intent was to bring about social reform. Whatever the conflicts presented, these plays focused on the domestic and the romantic. The characters were generally stock types, and the denouement proceeded on familiar lines. According to Sant Singh Sekhon, Punjabi theatre in its early days was rhetorical, with emotions and sentiments having great importance.
During the 1940s, there emerged a significant Punjabi theatre in Lahore. But the partition of the country was responsible for checking its growth. Uprooted from its nuclear cultural centre of Lahore, theatre activity received a serious setback when it dispersed to Shimla, Jalandhar, Patiala, Amritsar, Delhi, and later, Chandigarh. Nowhere could it make its presence felt. In all these places, Punjabi theatre remained a localized affair with no distinctive character of its own.