Theatre a Dying Art in Kashmir

Theatre a Dying Art in Kashmir 
Mir Sabeen Gulrez

Srinagar: “Theatre is a voyage into the archives of the human imagination.”– Natasha Tsakos
Artists from valley have given their life for theatre. In 1990’s when there was political turmoil , people used to stay back indoors to save their lives while they(artists) used to serve in theatres , without caring about  their lives. It’s not only that they should care about their lives it’s about they were very passionate about their art. They used to love their work most importantly they used to respect their people not even caring about their caste , creed ,color or religion . Everyone was used to serve under one roof. Artists in Kashmir have seen everything from rise to fall. But it was only artist who remained consistent whatever the condition was .But with passage of time the  artists during pandemic went through a dark phase, not only artist but everyone. Still they continued and emerged as winners.During 1990’s people used to watch DD Kashmir, Doordarshan with their families with fevor as they used to love to watch but with the advancement of social media influence people used to neglect these things intentionally or unintentionally. One time was  when people used to love the characters and used to be like them now the scenario has changed even our kids don’t know the life their parents have lived while watching the characters like Ahadraaz, Johny etc etc.What is a theatre?Collaborative form of performing art where usually actors and actresses perform live shows, to present the experience of a real or imagined  event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage . With combination of gestures , speech songs, music and dance the performers may communicate this    experience to the audience. The elements used for art such as   Painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enchance the physicality ,presence and immediacy of the artists.Who is an artist?An actor who uses the stage for performance based on a real or fictional story in front of a live audience in one take is known as Theatre Artist. Theatre artist is different from TV or movie actors as they do not get second chance to perform. They use songs, musicals, poems, drama, dance, speech to exhibit their art. As theatre artist never uses in their plays a cut which is usually seen in movies.Origin of theatre in ancient:The origins of theatre in ancient Greece, according to Aristotle (384–322 BCE), the first theoretician of theatre, are to be found in the festivals that honoured Dionysus. The performances were given in semi-circular auditoria cut into hillsides, capable of seating 10,000–20,000 people. The stage consisted of a dancing floor (orchestra), dressing room and scene-building area (skene). Since the words were the most important part, good acoustics and clear delivery were paramount. The actors (always men) wore masks appropriate to the characters they represented, and each might play several parts.(Source Internet).Origin of Indian Theatre.Indian theatre dates back around 5000 years. The earliest form of Indian theatre was Sanskrit theatre that emerged sometime around the 2nd century BC. It then flourished between the 1st and 11th centuries. Soon after, due to the Islamic conquests, theatre was banned and forbidden. Later, village theatre was encouraged across the subcontinent in an attempt to reassert indigenous values and ideas, developing in a large number of regional languages from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Modern Indian theatre developed during the period of British rule. Indian theatre has three specific periods: the classical period, the traditional period, and the modern period.In early forms, theatre performances were often narrative and included recitation, singing, and dancing. The earliest contribution to the Indian theatre came from Bharata Muni, who wrote the 36 books of the Natyashastra. (Source Internet).
Origin of Kashmiri Theatre:The roots of Kashmiri  and Indian folk and modern theatre are rooted in three thousand years before the birth of the Christ. Linking with the Mohanjodaro and Harappa civilization, since the periods of Ved and Purans and during Sanskrit and Prakrit era, the elements of music , dance and theatre were there in the form of oral traditions of communication through Bards (Male Singers) and Ministrals (Male Singers).The folk theatre movement in Kashmir is usually said that the findings  the Terrokota art and mentioned in the Neelmat Puran and Kalhan’s Rajtrangani the folk theatre in Kashmir started growing gradually and Abhinav Gupta, Madridutta, Bhat Tola, Shamimdra, Somdev,Ragavbhat contributed for the folk theatre movement  and cultural tradition in Kashmir. Its believed  that during the Dogra rule under the dynamic rule of Dogra King Maharaja Hari Singh, Kashmiri literature, culture and folk got open sky to breath freely and establish its existence among the masses. While speaking about the folk theatre and modern theatre of 20th  century, he declared the period of 1966 to 1977 as the Golden period in the history of Kashmiri folk and modern theatre and in this period painters, writers, artists, singers also appreciated the folk and modern theatre in Kashmir. He also applauded the role of Mohan Lal Aima, Dina Nath Nadim, Pran Lal Kishore and also placed on record the contribution of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar and J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar.While talking to News Kashmir Dr Mirza Farooq Anwaar Chief Editor (Pahari) . Office Incharge Div.Office Kashmir JKAACL said that,” when kashmir had a political turmoil in 1990’s,Yes everything got shattered ,not only theatre but also other artists also suffered a huge loss .Cultural Academy always tried to help these artists from their end . As we after two three years of shut down managed to have festivals but even in far flung areas we also continued the activities.There is gap and we(academy) are trying to fulfill that gap. We are giving them chance for new set ups in form of festivals.

While talking to News Kashmir Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan , renowned  and award winning actor,director,broadcaster ,theatre,practitioner told that,”its very difficult to survive whether he/she has earned in lakhs or in crores, no matter but the present income of everybody rich or poor big or small is in very difficult situation including me. No doubt my financial status must be better from many people but the survival in these things radio, television, stage had a big effect in Kashmir, only passion remained. Simply it’s an addiction, it’s an hobby, and there is a passion in what we are doing. If the intellect is used, the work will not be done; no one will do this work. If this hardwork, then I will use this understanding in some other work or business definitely I will earn more in this date. But what satisfies me internally is the way when I see my theatre is getting coverage by leading newspapers, channels and even social media is playing vital roles in this. Right now I am managing seven days theatre festival in which twenty three (23) groups are participating in these twenty three groups five(5) groups are from Jammu, ten(10) groups are from Kashmir and rest of the groups are from colleges ,schools of Kashmir, so its managed, coordinated by me single handed. I never switch off my cell phone even I at times put it on silent mode but never off it.Because once this number is switched off everything is gonna be shut like anything. If I start dealing in land property  by same passion I will become a multi millionaire in just one year.But the passion is so much that I have spend my life on this and this passion doesn’t go away.Man is lost in it and this passion doesn’t go away. While I was doing a job I left it even my junior retired as director . Even I saw many people working . working only for money their passion is just to earn money that’s it. They (people) multiply their business while as what multiplies in me is my pages in the bio data. Today briefly my bio data is of seventeen (17) pages. In last four years if I see the coverage’s in the newspaper they are more than five hundred(500). This thing I took as my profit and this is my earning. I don’t earn in money, yes I can proudly say you can Google my name and see what my achievements are done for this theatre. Do I stand somewhere? That’s my property that’s my profit. We hardly sleep because of our passion.Whenever I finishe my program my first thought is that whether this Press Release have been reached to the concerned authorities or not. Even being a liable person I usually call them whether they have received my mail or not? I usually take conformations regarding my mails whether they have  received or not?Even I have my vehicle, my house, even some of our artists don’t have these kind of facilities but what is same inside their passion about their work.My journey started in 1974 , I was just thirteen (13)years old, I started working in Doordarshan as a child artist. But I was studying. Even after schooling, went to college, then university. Even my parents especially my mother didn’t allow me to do all these things unless I complete my studies , till my mother actually wanted me to finish it of. I completed my post graduation after that she said to me ,”now you can do anything, now your have completed your education ,you can do whatever you want”. Then I started theatre , till that moment I even haven’t done thaetre.Even I worked in Radio also in the year 1975,76.In 1981 I entered fully in theatre. After that no one from my home asked me anything regarding this. I started my career with just one dialogue it was a hindi play ,”Nadi piyasi thi “play, I don’t remember the writer and the dialogue was ,”Bahu Jee Is Bar Phir Bhad Aye Ghei,Aur Hosakta hai Dhubnai Walae Mai Mera Beta Hi Kyun Na Hoo….Hahahahah”. For this dialogue I was so excited that I am gonna perform on stage . Gosh, I cant explain my feeling of joy at that time . After that I did many lead roles but at that satisfaction was there. Upto 1989 theatre was going ok here in Kashmir . last festival I did was 1987 in which in three plays I work as a leading artist . After that festivals were not celebrated here because of the turmoils and all that.Then I again started in 2005 when Doordarshan did festival.Some two three years back I was working as a consultant head north zone cultural academy centre that had a branch somehow at Srinagar  so we used to assign some programs to groups of Bandhpathir  and groups of Folk music , in a year we used to do these kind of programs twice or thrice now this time my number is saved with those persons till date they used to call me , when I asked them yes please go ahead they said we wanted to know hope you are doing good . And I know how much I get hurt because of that as I know what message they wanted to give me. I know I cant help them  as they are expecting something from me. Once they got program from my side and they knew this thing that he (mushtaq sahib) is gonna give us work . I am not any authority but I always wanted to try for them. Government has helped but not upto the mark because the demands are not fulfilled you know how much they get paid per day Rs 800/= and the booking come maximum twice or thrice a month .Labour earns better. Same is the condition with contemporary theatre.
While talking to News Kashmir Kashmir’s famous artist Nazir Josh aka Ahadraaz said that,:
In 1970 I started from my early school life Higher secondary school Budgam. I started from school life in the year 1970 Higher secondary school budgamThere I used to perform short dramas. Prem Nath Premi was teacher and he was poet and performed short  dramas and I worked with him. Then I completed my higher secondary school. At that time, in 1972 in budgam National theatre bugam came into being. I used to do serious roles, I was a serious  actor then I kept going on. I completed my BA. Why comedian? How was your journey from nazir josh to ahedraz? Personally I am very shy, but coming to the dramas my body language, expression, dialogue delivery was altogether different. There was a comedian those days, he dictated me terms but he used to take fees, that was very I high, that  was not possible for me to pay. Then my director told me to try Alibaqal. I tried in 2,3 shows and it was famous among people and people were happy. I was appreciated by director about my dialogue delivery and as a good character. From there I started as a  comedian. When did you gave your audition for TV? In November 1972 . There was festival at that time it was on valley level cultural academy. Today it is district level. In1973 there was a festival in Tagore hall Srinagar’s there was TV and theater in was a mesmerizing festival. Many popular shows were performed in Tagore hall at that time like, RANGMUNSH, KALAKINDER, NAVRAN, KAMESHVAR KENDER, VASANT THEATRE etc etc  . These Indian dramas were also played. We also played and I wrote the script myself and in that year 1973 I also became a writer. My first script was TEMI GAURI GAYI, which is actually a proverb,That time in that very festival makhanlal. Saraf, etc also participated. Padamshri Sinths drama “Nav Nosh” also was played. Three 3 dramas got best award. They were shuturmurgh, our drama “tem gaurigayi”, and “rang munch”, “Nav Nosh”. After receiving award I was encouraged and I moved forward in my field. I was not performing leading roles till then. But my character was both serious and numerous.. Then Farooq nazki was producer doordarshan at that time. He was send to Germany for further training for 1 year and  6 months . Then after coming back he searched for script and he came to my home in budgam and told me to write the  script  as he knew my potential.. I took 5,6 days and wrote concept BALAY TAUTMA  tautma is a character and balay was act of speaking in a very different way.. We shot the serial and it was a  blockbuster and went viral. That time in this serial I was registered as leading role. Slow motion in this was for first time. In 85 I gave this concept.. He encouraged me to write more. Then I wrote HAZAR DASTAN. After 3,4,5 episodes, it went so viral that it overtook all the leading serials of that time including pakistans top drama andherayujalay. All used to watch hazardastan popularly known by people as ahedraaz. It was such a blockbuster that people sold land, jewellery to buy tv sets and watch aheddraaz. Today much has changed, how do you see it as changed political era as it is social media influence everywhere? I used to perform double role, tripplerole.In 89 it was continued by private producers. Then I also became  a producer in doordarshan. For One serial I used to get some 40 or 50 lakh. In a year I took up almost 3 dramas. Doordarshan benefitted all including hoteliars houseboat owners directly or indirectly.. After 2003 , Government closed funds for doordarshan then the work stopped and never restored. Today it is social media, at that time we used to hier cameramen, technology, lighting, which required lot money. As production needs money kashir channel was also shut. All actors including leading ones were idol. Except those having talent and potential. I recently started laughter therapy on social media which got over 5 lakh views. I upload the old ones also.  

While talking to News Kashmir Hassan Javeed told that, “You are talking about my life, I am starting at my career in 1990, although I have approach Television in 1989, JLNL academy has been awarded as best ACTOR by that time there was some sport programme going on named as “Khel and Khiladi” which was been anchored by Dear Roshan Khayal, where I asked them to visualise 2 sportsperson among them , initially I have started with an article for news magazine “Nawaz Ali” ,then having curiosity in TV since childhood, I went for Acting but because of having unsmoothen condition it was difficult for me to travel each day using pass since I was into cricket as well. Then after 2.5 month of struggle someone sent me pass I got a chance to act as “Deputy Nazeer” , it was an role of an a foreigner’ Servant by that time I was 17yr old, Then no growth of mustache and beard and I want too lean and I played those side roles till 1998, then Mr Mujahid , the director has given a a chase to feature me as a main character known as “Dadgah”, which was been writer by Dr Nazer. Then DADASAH has been offered to me as well which was of 400 episode, and I got established then.
But sooner I realised that, Being in lobby was important and Only the actors from lobby get further offer so sooner in 2000, I started my own production house which was named as “BAHAR Films” , And in 2002 I have emerged as director and made series even after criticism , I continued as serial direct and 450 episode, and majors serials got great hit. E.g- Dasha, Shortcut and I even gained more popularity after the commercial film- “DUS numbari”, that gave a name of “JONNY” and I have been started getting recognized as that name which was written by “shahzad SHABBIR” , After that I get a phone call from police station as I have featured one of the police role in that commercial as funny so they get offended and when I entered police station, IO was very serious but when I have praised him as AMITABH BAcchan, he laugh out lauder.
While Atal Bihari Bhajpyee was prime minister and they has allotted a channel for kashmir, which scheme was on 15k which then get shut after 15 years. Then we switched to private sector and then You tube as well for quality episodes under which we tried to only show the family scenes.
Then in 2010, after invention of mobile, thing started vanishing from TV, and article 370 was on air and we get deteriorated by 100 years. By that time we were expecting daughter, there my wife got amazed wha scene she saw after entering hospital as I have been call as “KASHMIR k Shahrukh Khan”.
Since that time I have been earning by only one medium where as government employed have been earning by 2- 3 medium and pled government for help and they did, but for once only they help all the artist with rupees 9000/- in 2020 and has never took any update. In sopour event, I have given a female artist rs 2000/- but then she replied with big sparkling eye and hopes as she thanks for that amount as it was really miserable condition.
We did a many protests against the government of India, still they were not releasing there amount and there was so much corruption, also there has been no action taken from the government.
Now a days artist are only getting mere wages of 2k to 5k rupees, also for voice over they only get 300 rupees, so I am seeing career of actor, voice artist and drama artist no where in kashmir and there is no money and profit in this sector in KASHMIR.
EVEN we want to more to small job in any private company to earn livelihood.
Message from our valleys renowned artist Nazir Josh aka Ahadraaz to youth is that,” Here, talent is awesome, rabab players, musicians,  better than old but they lack proper  script and concept. Need is to consult the writer who knows formulas, dialogues. Join workshops, and not write by themselves as such. Go through proper guidance and training. Do not make this as your profession till it becomes the proper industry here in Kashmir”.