Balwant Thakur conferred with Nation’s one of the much coveted highest civilian honor ‘PADMASHREE’ today by the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi for his life-time contribution in the field of Art and Culture, particularly to the enrichment to Indian Theatre. Amidst thunderous applause, the award of Padamshree was presented to Balwant Thakur in presence of Prime Minister of India, Home Minister, Chairperson UPA Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and many top dignitaries of the country. Born in 1960, Balwant Thakur is one of the most creative theatre directors of the country who have given a new identity to Indian theatre with their highly innovative theatre productions.
Decorated with the highest Indian honor in performing arts i.e, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Direction in theatre, Balwant Thakur is credited for being the youngest theatre director of India who has participated over two hundred National Theatre Festivals as director, which is a record in the country. Known as a magic man of theatre, his outstanding visual poetics on stage like ‘Ghumayee’ ‘BawaJitto’ ‘Suno Eh Kahani’ ‘Chauraha’ and ‘Mahabhoj’ have vibrated the theatre scene of North India. Credited for bringing Dogri theatre to the National and International limelight, he has been highly instrumental in creating a new cultural renaissance in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
He started theatre with a big bang and his maiden entry in the State Academy theatre Festival won the State Academy Award for best production in 1983 and continued this tradition of winning State Academy Awards for best productions in 1984, 1985, and till he left participating the festival in 1986. He represented the State of Jammu & Kashmir twice in the North Zone theatre festival organized by SangeetNatakAkademi, New Delhi and toped twice and later won top honors at the National level in the year 1987 and 1990.
Recognizing his outstanding contribution in Indian theatre, the Department of Culture, Govt. of India Awarded him the National Senior fellowship for three years to do research on the performing modes of Jammu. In 1992 he was decorated with yet another prestigious award of the country i.e, ‘Sanskriti Award’ for direction in theatre, which is given once in three years to a theatre person. Same year he got The Ford Foundation (USA) Grant Award for his research project ‘Search for a New Theatre Language’. This gave a new flip to his creative endeavours and he won the rarest honors like ‘AbhinayakSamman’ ‘SaptrishiSamman’ ‘NakshaSamman’ and ‘Kala NidhiPurskar’
In Children’s theatre, Balwant Thakur is one among the very few theatre directors of the country who have revolutionized the theatre scene and have evolved a new dramaturgy for children. His plays like ‘Mere Hisse Ki DhoopKahanHai’ ‘AapHamareHainKaun’ ‘Hum HainNaa’ and ‘Bhag Beta Bhag’ are being credited as the most demanded children productions which have been featured in almost all the major theatre events in India.
As playwright he has twelve original plays to his credit which are considered as one of the significant contribution to Indian Theatre in the post India Independence period. His most regarded initiative ‘Theatre for a Social change’ under which he conducted five hundred shows in the remote villages of J&K brought a revolutionary change in the mindset of the rural folk of the Indo-Pak border villages from Nagri (Kathua) to Kupwara (Kashmir)Back home he was honored by Dogri Sanstha, Jammu Citizen Council, Chamber of Commerce, Amar Rajput Sabha, BrahaminPrathinidhiSabha, J&K Fine Arts Society, Zorawar Singh Memorial Committee, Laddakh Theatre Organisation and Bakshi Memorial Committee, Manch Rangmanch, Punjab Naatshalla, Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi, Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi, Abhinaya Kala Mandir, Naksha Gobardanga (West Bengal) and Punjab Arts Council. He has also been honored with the title ‘Duggar Rattan’.
In 2005 he won the best Director Award in the Ist Doordarshan Theatre Festival. In 2011 he was honored by the Royal Award ‘Maharaja Gulab Singh Memorial Award-2011’, and World Theatre Day Honor of UNESCO (Paris) for the year 2013.He worked as Secretary J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages for eight years. Among many accomplishments, under his creative guidance the State of J&K won Best tableaux Award for the first time in 1997 and continued the tradition of winning Best Awards in 1999 and 2001.He also served on the Boards of prestigious Institutions of the country including, Department of Culture, Govt. of India, SangeetNatakAkademi, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, North Zone Cultural Centre, Council for Promotion of Urdu Language and as an expert for National School of Drama, Department of Culture, M.P., Department of Language & Culture, H.P. and Association of Indian Universities.Widely traveled Balwant Thakur held his presentations in Bangkok (Thailand) Singapore, London, Oxford, Brighton, Stratford, Berlin, Frankfurt, (Germany), Rome (Italy) Moscow, Yoroslov, Belgrade, St. Petersburg, Turkey, Almaty, Bishkek, Denmark, Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhaabi, and Dhaka.Currently working as Regional Director-cum-consultant in Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.