Khyber Pakhtunkhwa directorate of culture is working on several projects to revive the once-thriving live theatre of South Asia in the early 20th century that had produced a large number of legendary Bollywood film actors and performers.

The Peshawar mobile theatre, according to officials, was once the most thriving live theatre and played pivotal role in promoting the cause of art and culture in the region. The live theatre would be used to promote peace narrative and educate people on pressing social issues, they said.

Official sources told this scribe that young aspirants of live performance would be selected through a media advertisement and seasoned theatre experts would be hired to impart training to them on the art of theatrics to further chisel their latent talent. They said that the master trainers’ group of performers would multiply their skills at divisional and district level for the revival of theatrical activities.

Ajab Gul, noted film star and expert on theatre, told this scribe that the significance of live theatre was huge when it came to its impact. He said that despite modern technological advancement, theatre still had stood in the West and Europe for the last over 300 years and a single play in a London theatre could fascinate audience for continuous 34 years.

He said that the old Peshawar theatre could be revived if sincere efforts were put in by real stakeholders.

“I offer my services to contribute to the said project. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has no dearth of talent. Before launching live theatre, it is also important to start teaching ‘art’ as subject at our colleges and universities,” said Mr Gul.

He said that unless people knew the significance of art education, live theatre would remain no more than just a show without substance. He said that theatre being a powerful medium could help in building a peace narrative and bringing about a substantive change at mass level.

Shahbaz Khan, culture deputy director, said that government approved important projects that would be executed next month. He said that the approved projects included a daylong help desk on craftsmanship and creative entrepreneurs, maximising the artisans’ potential for a sustainable growth, two- day seminar on intangible cultural folk heritage, centennial celebration of Pashto fiction (short story) and revival of glazed pottery.

He said that culture directorate had already set up different units including research and documentation, visual arts and craft, creative economy, languages and literature and new media and information technology to enhance the capacity building of the newly appointed specialists and strengthen their respective units for a purposeful execution of the projects.

Mr Khan said that documentation and profiling would help in cultural mapping. He said that their research and documentation unit started work on collecting important data on artists, poets, writers, artisans, scholars and academics while language and literature unit already launched a multilingual e-magazine ‘Yoon’ that earned appreciation from online readers.

Talking about promotion of art, the official said that an art academy was being set up while a library and an art gallery were also part of the project.

He said that ameliorating the plight of the artists and literati of the province was top priority of the government to further the cause of peace and show the real soft image of local people to the world.

Originally published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017