ISLAMABAD, May 1: A creative diorama depicting the indigenous folk theatre has been redesigned and presented in a three-dimensional form at Lok Virsa Heritage Museum.

Talking to this reporter, executive director Lok Virsa Khalid Javaid said: “This has been done in connection with the ongoing efforts of Lok Virsa to improve and expand the museum displays under joint institutional cooperation between Pakistan and Norway.”

The display revolves around two legendary theatre artists of Pakistan: Bali Jatti and Alam Lohar, who sacrificed their entire lives for the promotion of folk theatre in Punjab.

Alam Lohar is seen singing a folk song with his chimta (traditional Punjabi percussion musical instrument), whereas Bali Jatti looks standing with him while dancing and singing in her unique style. The mannequins (statues) wearing beautiful traditional costumes show a great resemblance with the actual faces of the artists.

One can also see here different props used in folk theatre, including backdrop presenting a village scene using gaudy colours, and bamboo structure of a typical Punjabi folk theatre in action.

Explaining the background, Mr Javaid said Lok theatre or folk entertainment aimed primarily at the rural areas of Pakistan with the glamour of its bright lights, loud music and heavily made-up women. In modern age, this tradition is on the decline, he added.

Besides, Lok Virsa also plans to revive folk theatre in its original form. In this regard, a proposal is under consideration to launch a series of theatre performances involving those people who were once an important part of folk theatre in Pakistan.If we go to the past, we find that the Lok theatre was organised annually and called ‘mela’.

The farmers had been benefiting in great deal with such events from entertainment to their professional activities. The Lok theatre had its own stars for different segments to entertain people. The centre of attraction used to be performing women or sometimes men dressed as women. Both performers and audience belonged to minor occupational groups. The performers played their part in signing, dancing and live performances of comedy skits, etc. The impact of Lok theatre on Punjabi cinema was so strong that early films were modelled much on the same lines as a play.

Many notable TV and film artists rose to fame from these folk theatres. Among them were Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Alam Lohar, Bali Jatti, Khurshid Kuku, Tufail Niazi and several others.

Unfortunately, the tradition of folk theatre is gradually dying out due to modernisation, economy, popularity of cinema, TV and video. Most of the theatre companies are either completely vanished or have been merged with circuses giving a pale shadow of its past.

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