Atamjit’s play Come back from the War (Murh aa Lama Ton) is a very uniquetext in many ways. Perhaps the first play in Punjabi language that deals with war – the First World War – as the title itself indicates, it is a multi-layered text that unfolds against the backdrop of the din and chaos of the First World War being fought around Ypres, the war theatre in West Flanders, Belgium. Anchored as it is in the specific historical situation of the Great War, it undoubtedly foregrounds the barbarity, violence, atrocity and futility of the War. However, through its complex structure, use of the technique of montage, deft intermingling of the real and the surreal, and self-conscious intertextuality, it transcends its limited situation to bring into sharp focus many other themes which are of eternal significance to humanity. In fact, because of its polyphonic and multilogic structure, it is difficult to place this text under the disciplinary economy of a particular type or genre. As it is, the fact is that each literary text, with its irrepressible recalcitrance and excess, overruns all limits and boundaries assigned to it. The labels are like nets we cast over the play of difference in plural to master differences and to control them. Come back from the Waris a text that, in very stubbornly tending to breach all borders, asserts its uniqueness in its difference from others. Heinz Kosok in his book The Theatre of War The First World War in British and Irish Drama published in 2007, which is a study of two hundred plays dealing with the First world War, suggests that judging war plays is a particularly difficult task because the literary evaluation competes, and more often than not comes into conflict with, the evaluation of the historical event which forms their subject matter, the War itself. All wars undergo a series of highly divergent evaluations by historians who differ on the justification of the war and its conduct by the military leadership. But still, if we have to think of some criteria of judging a war play then he suggests that there are six such criteria: originality, authenticity, universality, actuality, complexity and homogeneity. Atamjit’s play passes all these criteria very successfully. And in the present circumstances when any minor skirmish between the nuclear weapons equipped nations can lead to a conflagration which may engulf the entire plant earth, Come Back from the War is a play that does make positive gestures towards a better future by awakening readers and audiences to the futility of war.
Having authored 34 plays, Atamjit is one of the leading Indian playwrights who has been active in Punjabi literary and artistic milieu for more than four decades, both as a playwright and as theatre director. Respected by scholars and society alike, his immense contribution has been acknowledged, apart from many others, by Sahitya Academy and Sangeet Natak Academy of India. Atamjit's plays have been prescribed in the curricula of different courses of more than a dozen universities. Atamjit has produced and presented his work, apart from many Indian cities, at places like Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Kitchener and Sacramento. The playwright is also well-known for giving spellbinding solo dramatic recitals of his plays. In addition to the above venues and all the cities of Punjab, he has also given these recitals at places like London, Nottingham, Cambridge (Canada), Nairobi, Kolhapur, Delhi. Mumbai, Guwahati, Shimla etc. No wonder he was honoured as ‘Living Legend' of Indian drama by the National School of Drama, New Delhi, during the 8th Theatre Olympiad held in 2018 in India. With an immense range and variety in his work he touches upon several topics and themes in different plays that add depth and layers to all his dramas. He is also known for his flight of imagination that has no boundaries of time and space, thus writing plays on Punjabis living or struggling in East Africa, North America and Europe. Not only limited to themes and topics, the unparalleled diversity of his vision shines through his knowledge and use of his craft. Despite this diversity, his characters are well fleshed out, their existentials clear, their actions multifaceted and complex. Pakistani writer Fakhar Zaman sums him up in these words: “His dramas are singularly individual. have the stamp of ATAMJIT. A genuine writer to me should be adorned with three qualities: integrity, commitment, and ideology and Atamjit is blessed with the trio. A writer, again, should protest, desist, resist, and question the ugliness of things around him, the decadence, the degeneration, and the inhumanity. Atamjit represents the rare breed of such literati, and that’s why he is different and a writer par excellence.”