History of Punjabi Theatre, in its early days was rhetorical, with emotions and sentiments having great importance. Theatre activity in Punjab was triggered by militancy. Most of the theatre groups concentrated on the Punjab problem and churned out scripts and staged plays on this problem. Hence, Punjabi theatre remained a localized affair with no distinctive character of its own.
Gursharan Singh, the most notable of the artists, took his message-oriented plays from village to village and warned the masses of the dangers of religious fundamentalism. His plays written and enacted during this period were repeatedly applauded and enjoyed by the common people.
Punjabi Theatre Between 1931 and 1947
Punjabi theatre between 1931 and 1947 was mainly dominated by playwrights of the modern Punjabi theatre. The writers have brought vigour and freshness to Punjabi theatre and with them began the trend of progressive writing.
Punjabi Theatre Between 1947 and1980
In this period, Punjabi Theatre incorporated playwrights of the pre-independence period who continued writing after independence. They wrote plays on the problems of rehabilitation of refugees during the Partition of India which introduced a new themes and techniques in their plays.
Punjabi Drama and Theatre from 1980 Onward
From 1980, Punjabi theatre passed through most difficult times. In this period, the people of Punjab suffered the most painful conditions of reckless killings and tensions between the two major religious groups of Punjab, Hindus and Sikhs. There was an atmosphere of total darkness and dissolution, with ever-increasing terrorist activity of looting and killings and fake police encounters, with women widowed and children orphaned.
Following the partition, the theatre settled in areas like Shimla, Jalandhar, Patiala, Amritsar, Delhi and later, Chandigarh. Nowhere could it make its presence felt. When Punjabi theatre came into contact with the theatre of other regions of India it found a new direction in Punjab, Delhi and Mumbai. The establishment of the departments of Indian drama and Asian theatre at Punjab University, Chandigarh, and speech and drama at Punjab University, Patiala, under the guidance of two theatre stalwarts, Balwant Gargi and Surjit Singh Sethi, respectively, has led to some bold experiments in theatre.