Contemporary Theatre of kashmir
Kashmir, which has a recorded history of about five thousand years back, had an age-old tradition of theatre which happened to be most rich in content and art. The history of Kashmiri drama viz-a-viz the theatre falls into three periods (1) Buddhist and Hindu period which lasted till early fourteenth century (2) The Muslim (Sultanate and Mughal) period which lasted for another five hundred years and (3) the contemporary period of the twentieth century.
The height of the popularity and public recognition of our theatre can be judged by the fact that every house patronized the performing arts – music, dance and drama as the young girls and boys were being trained by their talented mothers. There is a definite evidence to prove that in the days of Kshemendra, Kashmir had theatre of its own. A magnificent stage was erected for the royal court where famous dancers, musicians, and actors used to perform, which were highly applauded by the King and the people.
In Kashmir, according to Neelmat Purana, there were four most important occasions in a year when mostly these music, dance and drama activities were taking place i.e. (1) on religious festivals (2) on social occasions, (3) on agricultural festivals and (4) in winter on first snow fall occasion – so have the music, dance and drama of Kashmir taken the shape and form.
Historically the golden era of our music, dance and drama art forms – the richest performing art forms of Kashmir, was the 4rth to 7th century AD, when our music, dance and drama had reached to the zenith of its glory and every village had a stage of its own where music, dance and drama performances were held.
Kashmir has seen many a turbulent times after 12th century –viz- the invasions, attacks, floods, famines, raids, fires and epidemics from time to time and this has resulted in the loss of books, manuscripts and play-scripts. With the advent of foreign rule and invasions, decline in all forms of Kashmiri art and literature was quite an expected misfortune, consequently the folk taste survived in all its manifestations through Bhands of Kashmir in the shape of Bhand-Pather. Though the Kashmiri drama was banished from the royal court but back in the villages the class of artistes – folk-performers, continued to entertain the public in the popular folk-theatre-festivals knows as Bhand-Jashan. And Thus the theatre of Kashmir survived through the most powerful theatrical form, known as Bhand-Pather. Even during the Muslim rule, Bhands were the popular entertainers and used to cross Pir Panchal range and perform in Jammu, Himachal, Punjab and other areas entertaining people through their humorous plays.
With the advent of Muslim rule (14th Century) in Kashmir, The Kashmir theatre has received comparatively a great setback in urban community for lack of state patronage and public support for obvious reasons. However it did not disappear completely in Kashmir as the folk theatre form continued to receive applause in the remote and rural areas when they were performing in the folk-theatre-festival called Bhand-Jashan on one hand and entertaining the public on another. These Bhands almost played the role of good ambassadors of the public before the royal court as they had been advocating the popular plight by performing and enacting through satire and mimicry, the apathy and aggression of the rulers over the masses.
The time of Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin, aka Budshah (The Great King), (1420-70), when the stage enjoyed royal patronage, a Charita (Zaina Charith) in Kashmiri was written by Uttasom for performance. Shrivera in his Rajtarangini writes, "that Yodha (Bhoda) Bhat is a poet in the vernacular language –viz- Kashmiri, and composed drama, pure like a mirror called the Jain Prakasha (Zain-Villas) in which he gave an account of the King."
The popularity of music, dance and drama during his (Budshah’s) time has been mentioned in detail by two important contemporary historians – Jonaraja and Shrivar. While describing the yearly spring festival held at Bijbehara, they wrote: “A magnificient stage was erected for the royal court where the famous dancers – Tara and Ansu performed to the great applause of the King and the people”. Shrivar in his description has repeatedly used the word “actor”. And both the historians have dwelt at length on the 49 modes of dancing so skillfully and harmoniously as the musical cadence demanded, brought out by these actress-singer during the performances.” It continued flourishing till the fall of Chak dynasty (1586 AD).
Traditionally talking of our theatre, the oldest and the richest art form of our folk theatre is popularly known as “Bhand-Pather” which has preserved our theatre art form in all its manifestations. It has survived in all times only for its popular idiom, versatile metaphor and unique style in content, presentation and performance. These folk and wandering performs (popularly known as Bhands) are spread all-over Kashmir and have peculiar dress, improvising wit and humour in their acting, dancing and music – with the result it acquired the popular name of Bhand-Jashan – the performing occasion of Bhand-Pather, which later became the rocognised folk form of our theatre.
The Bhands of Kashmir used to perform from village to village while wandering and collecting food, money and cloths for themselves offered by the people, which was their only source of income and survival. They also happened to be invited on the marriage occasions of royals, rich and landlords to perform for days together – thus enjoyed a popular social recognition.
Almost all the Pathers (the folk plays) were played extempore. And the most popular Pathers happened to be the “Grees-Pather” (Pathers about Farmers), Watal-Pathers (Pather about cobblers), Darzi-Pather (Pather – portraying the tyranny of the Dards), Bakerwal-Pather (Pather about Bakerwals – a nomad tribe of Kashmir), Buhri-Pather (Pather about Bohris – the traders), Raze-Pather (Pather about the Rajas), Shikar-Gah (Pather about the animal kingdom and the human behaviour with animals), Gosani-Pather (Pather about Hindu-hermits), Angreez-Pather (Pather about the English), Armeen-Pather (Pather about the vegetable-growers) Hanz-Pather (Pather about Fishermen), Chakwal-Pather (Pather about Chakdars) and many more. To say there was hardly any cult, tribe, trade or community of which these Bhands didn’t make mimicry – thus is the Pather named about.
The Contemporary Theatre of Kashmir
With the splay of modern sensibility, education and political awareness in the early twentieth century, many socio-religious institutions came into being which started staging plays on special occasions, festival, ceremonies and celebrations but it was just a couple of times in a year.
It was during the celebration of coronation of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1924-25 that Elfred Theatre Company of
The Amateur Dramatic Company was dominated by Govt. officials. It was established by Ram Krishan, Hassan Shah, Ram Nath Purbi, Sham Lal Punjabi, Krishan Narayan Dhar and it produced many plays of Agha Hashar Kashmiri and Narayan Prasad Betab in Parsi style like Khoobsurat Bala, Chandra Wali, Safaid Khoon, Zehraila Sanph, Dil Farosh, Bewafa Qatil, Yahoodi Ki Ladki, Achhut Kanya, Patni-Pratap, etc.
(part-i – 1925-40)
In the beginning many socio-religious organizations like Sanatan Dharam Kalla Mandir, Rashtriya Kalla Mandir were established in Srinagar. These groups staged Dharmic plays based on religious mythological stories, on the eve of religious festivals. The first such play “Satich Kahwaet” (The Touch-Stone of Truth) was written by Sh. Nand Lal Koul (1877-1940) in 1929 and was produced the next year by Ragunath Mandir and played continuously from 1929 to 1932. It was based on the famous puranic tale of Satyavan Harish Chander. Later he wrote some other plays like Dayi Lol, Prahlad Bhagat, Ramun Raaj. Following the suit, the other most popular plays written during the decade of thirties of nineteenth century are Satich Wath (The Path of Truth), Premich Kahwaet (The Touch-Stone of Love) by Tara Chand Bismil (1904-48); Ram Awtar, Sopana Vasudutta by Neel Kantth Sharma (1888-) based on Bhasa’s Sanskrit play. The other popular plays written during the era are Aka-Nandun, Veer Abhimanyu, Krishan Sudhama, Raja Harish Chander, Krishan Janam, Shanker Parvati and many other plays. All these plays were staged at Raghunath Mandir, Fateh-Kadal and Shivalla Mandir Theatre, Chotta Bazar, Srinagar by many a groups for a long time as well as at all district headquarters especially the places where Hindu-centric festivals were held.
Some of the veteran artists of this era also managed to succeed in erecting a stage and a hall at Deewan Bagh now known as Karan Nagar, Srinagar though they could not build a strong theatre movement in Kashmir.
In the meanwhile Trilok Nath Veshnavi also wrote two Kashmiri plays with Hindi titles “Chitra” and “Samaj ki Bhool”. Vidwa was another play staged by Rashtriya Kalla Mandir and Directed by Moham Lal Aima.
The history of contemporary theatre of Kashmir can as such be considered from 1931 AD when Kashmiris also started to think and act in terms of new hopes, aspirations, concepts and democratic rights in the light of independence movement and new political beginnings in the Sub-Continent.
After 1931 the sentimentally charged political unrest in Kashmir and the growing democratic awareness exploded the suppressed mob mentality and public conscience. Serious attempts were made to create a Kashmiri theatre.
In the meanwhile, Gh. Nabi Dilsoz (1916-41) wrote many plays based on literary poetic masterpieces namely Laila-Majnoon, Shireen-Khusraw. These plays became so popular that the HMV Raj Pal Company of Lahore recorded these plays on gramophone and the people used to listen to these plays for years. It is argued that the veteran poet of Kashmir, G. A. Fazil Kashmiri (1916-2004) also wrote two plays – Kokri Ka Pakh and Shireen-Farhaad, which were also recorded by the HMV Rajpal Company of
It was late in 1938 when the first full-length modern Kashmiri play titled “Grees-Sund-Ghare” (Home of the Farmer) was written by Professor Mohiuddin Hajni (1917-1993). The play is about the plight of Kashmiri farmers.
During this era, S.
(Part-II - 1941-50)
Progressive Theatre ERA
In 1942 a play named Bat-e-Harh (quarrel of Rice – the most popular food of Kashmiris) was written by Prem Nath Pardesi. It is said that the play was not allowed to perform but censored by Maharaj Kishan Dhar, the Governor of Kashmir and later burned by the censor board but Mr. Amin Kamil – the veteran poet, research scholar and writer of Kashmiri literature has contested this in the book – Soan-Adab-1976, edited by him and published by J&K Cultural Academy).
In the decade of 1940 to 1950 many revolutionary and historical events took place in the sub-continent in general and in
With the advent of the popular Quit-Kashmir-Movement launched in 1946, “Kashmir Cultural Front” was formed in 1947 on Oct. 26 by the progressive nationalists of Kashmir under the inspiring leadership of G. M. Sadiq.. It started street theatre movement. Under its banner, it staged play “Shaheed Sheervani” by Prem Nath Pardesi, the songs of which were written by famous Kashmiri poet Mehjoor and play “Kashmir Yeh Hai” by Mehmood Hashmi. In 1948, when Kashmir saw the worst tribal-raid on its soil from Pakistani occupied
(PART-III – 1951-60)
Theatre of Propaganda - ERA
In 1947-48 Kashmir became the war-conflict zone and the State was actually partitioned. It turned into a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Kashmiri writers also fell into two camps separated by ideological differences and the detested cease-fire-line (now called the Line of Actual Control). Thus the dramatists, the theatres and the theatre activists were first converged on the exigencies of propaganda rather than on canons of art. And the rest is the history of theatre movement in Kashmir.
The nationally emancipated indigenous theatre movement of Kashmir turned into a sponsored propaganda theatre movement in 1953 when the “Kashmir Cultural Front” was dissolved and a new cultural outfit by the name of “Kashmir Cultural Congress” was formed to propagate, propel and prosper the new political ideology of socialism, secularism and democracy as put forward on national level.
In 1953, Kashmir politics faced unprecedented debacle, which entirely changed the universal evolutionary process of our cultural movement viz-a-viz the theatre. Hence after during the decade of fifties Kashmiri theatre prospered nothing but just as a propaganda theatre. It adopted the style of operatic theatre – music-dance-drama form. Dina Nath Nadim had visited China where he had witnessed a Chinese opera “White Hat Girls” depicting progressive and socialist thoughts and on his return he wrote the opera “Bombur-te-Yimberzol” in 1953, which was later presented in Hotel Nedos in 1955 in connection with the first Jashan-e-Kashmir (Kashmir Cultural Festival) and the opera was witnessed by the then USSR President Chrischove accompanied by Balganyan.
In 1955 a book titled “Kuni Kath” (The only Message) was published by Lala Rukh Publications, which included three plays: “Son Samsaar” (Our World) by N. M. Roshan; “Pagah Chhu Gashdar” (Tomorrow is Bright) by Amin Kamil and “Viz Chha Saenie” (This is our Turn) by A. M. Lone. Shri Pushkar Bhan wrote three plays “Ya Tan Ya Tarakh”, 3 / 4 and Dalar Sahib while Muzaffar Azim wrote San-31 (Year 1931). During this era some more significant operas were written and produced namely “Neek-te-Badi” by Dina Nath Nadim, “Himaal-te-Naigrai” by N. M. Roshan and “Bombur-te-Loler” by Amin Kamil.
In the meanwhile another counter-cultural outfit was floated by the name of “Kashmir Cultural Conference”. It first produced Ali Mohamad Lone’s play “Viz Chha Saenie” (The Time is Ours or This is Our Turn). It was under this banner that Amin Kamil’s opera “Bombur-te-Loler”, was also produced. On the other hand some theatre activists and artistes formed Kashmir National Theatre, headed by R. K. Braroo and patronised by Bakhshi Abdul Rashid, General Secretary of All J&K National Conference – the then ruling party of the State.
In 1956 the theatre groups came into competition with each other. Jashne-e-Kashmir (a cultural rendezvous), was organized by the Govt. patronized by Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, the then Prime Minister of J&K for which temporarily an open-air theatre was built at Hazuri Bagh (now the place of Youth Hostel). Kashmir National Theatre produced Habba-Khatoon written by Amin Kamil and directed by R. K. Braroo while as same play written by Master D. N. Koul (Madreir) was produced by Sudhar Samati Natak Vibagh which won first prize in the Jashan-e-Kashmir. In the mean time, on the other hand the Three Arts Club invited India’s renowned theatre director Habib Tanveer. He directed his Urdu play “Mirza Shuhrat”. After the production of Habba-Khatoon, Kashmir National Theatre heavily suffered financial crisis and was closed.
In 1958 the then Prime Minister of the J&K State, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad had a vision to establish J&K State Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, which became the basis for the new theatre movement in Kashmir. In 1959 Anjuman Taraqqi Pasand Theatre organised 32 shows in just five months.
After Kashmir National Theatre became almost non-functional when its assets were auctioned for financial crunch and many of its activists hence ceased to function for their own reasons, the Community Theatre of Sudhar Samati Natak Vibagh re-organised itself and renamed as Kashmir Kalla Kender. Under this title it had its first variegated cultural activity on Jan 25th, 1960 at Shivalla Mandir, Chotta Bazar, Srinagar, which included Mehfil-e-Mushaira, Music programme by veteran artistes and One-Act play production. The prominent activists of Kalla Kendre were Master Kashi Nath Bhan, Hasrat Khazanchi, S. N. Sumbli, Trilok Das, H. N. Gurtu, Prof. Zia Durani, M. L. Saraf and introduced the first female actress Chander Mohani followed later by Rita Lankar (Rita Jitender), Uma Khosla, Kumari Usha, Kumai Girja.
In 1960 under Tagore Centenary Celebrations by Govt, of
After the construction of Tagore Hall in
And from hereafter starts the Renaissance Period of Kashmiri Theatre.
(PART-IV – 1961-70)
Renaissance Period of Kashmiri Theatre
The decade of 1961-70 could be called the Renaissance Period of the contemporary Kashmiri theatre. With the construction of TAGORE HALL in Srinagar Kashmiri theatre was for the first time introduced to the modern techniques of the proscenium theatre in the concept of Lighting, Designing and Acting. It is from hence after that Five “R’s” of modern techniques and concepts of theatre were introduced to Kashmiri theatre. i.e. Raag (Music & Dance), Ras (words – The script), Rang (Acting & Direction). Roop (Costumes & Make-up), Roshni (Lighting).
Akhter Mohiuddin wrote four plays, which were performed in the Tagore Hall. These included Aapan Hor Jang (Mother Lost the Battle) in 1960 which was the first play to be staged in the Tagore Hall in 1961, Nasti-Hund-Sawal (The Question of Honour), Sheesh-te-Sangistan (Glass and Stone-world) in 1961; Yi Bozum-Ti-Boziv (What I heard Listen That) in 1962.
In connection of the Tagore Centenary Celebration in 1961-62, Tagore’s plays were translated into Kashmiri by the leading and renowned playwrights and scholars of Kashmir which included – three plays Qurbani, Malini, Chindal Kaet (Chander-Likha) translated by N. M. Roshan and published by Govt. Women’s College Srinagar in 1961; Vozil Gulab (Rakht Karobi) by N. M. Roshan, Mukt Dhara translated by Ali Mohammad Lone, Dak Ghar translated by Amin Kamil and all these three plays published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi in 1962 under the title of TRE-NATAK by Tagore; Raze-te-Rani translated by Amin Kamil and Sontuk Ate-Gath and Rita translated by Mirza Arif, both the plays have been published by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 1961 and 1962 respectively. These translations not only enriched the Kashmir theatre but also influenced the Kashmiri play-writing as well.
On March 26-27, 1961 World Theatre Day was celebrated in Vienna and it was in 1961 that Cultural Forum came into being under the President-ship of the then Prime Minister of J&K, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad and Akhter Mohiuddin was made its Secretary, which staged his play Sheesha-te-Sangistan.
To rejuvenate, explore and strengthen the folk and traditional theatre of Kashmir i.e. the Bhand-Pather, Kashmir Bhagat Theatre Akingam, Anantnag was established in 1961 by Mohammad Subhan Bhagat and later patronized by M. L. Kemmu, who had recently returned from
In streamlining this concept, the State organised 5th All India Welfare Exhibition and Cultural Meet from June 6-11, 1962, at the Open Air Theatre built at the place now known as Hazuri-Bagh,
In 1962 Kashmir National Theatre was again reactivated by some theatre activists viz. R. K. Braroo, D. N. Nadim and it produced the play “Ye Bozum Ti Boziv” written by Akhter Mohiuddin and directed by R. K. Braroo. It is to be noted that R. K. Braroo joined NSD later. In the mean time Kashmir passed through a great political change. Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad was technically dethroned and the reign of the government was given into the hands of the Indian National Congress Party, lead by G. M. Sadiq. This had a great impact on the theatre movement later.
In 1964 Ali Mohammad Lone wrote a historical full-length play “SUYA” which won J&K Academy Award and Sahitya Akademi Award for him, while M. L. Kemmu wrote three plays – TRUNOVE, MANGAI in folk form and Tschai – a historical tragedy. Till then the political situation had also come to a stand-still and the new regime of G. M. Sadiq fully patronized the cultural movement viz-a-viz the theatre movement of
In 1966 the State Cultural Academy started holding annual drama festivals, which gave birth to many amateur and folk theatre groups that boosted the theatre movement in Kashmir. The prominent theatre groups among them from Srinagar were Kalla Kendra, Kashmir National Theatre, Theatre Arts Seminary (established by S. L. Dhar – Bahar in 1965), Jawahar Dramatic Club (64), Navrang Dramatic Club (66), Darshak Dramatic Club (66), Himalaya Bhand Theatre (66), Sangam Theatre (67), Rang-Manch (67), Vasant Theatre (69), National Theatre Badgam (69), Kashmir Bhagat Theatre (1961) - Akingam, Anantnag. These groups performed many Kashmiri, Hindi, Urdu and English plays which gave a popular recognition to our Kashmiri theatre. Many playwrights, actors and theatre-activists got public and state recognition winning awards in play-writing, acting, direction, designing and stage crafts, which boosted their morale to carry on the theatre movement of
New experiments started in theatre movement of
In 1968, Ali Mohammad Lone wrote another thought provoking drama “Taqdeer Saaz” produced by Rangmunch and directed by M. L. Saraf. This drama created a demanding space for new intellectual theatre, while M. S. Bhagat wrote play TAQDEER (a play about social exploitation of poor class by Burjuas) both produced in the annual drama festival of J&K Cultural Academy in 1968.
The playwrights and serious theatre-activists, who got prominence during this decade, were M. L. Kemmu, Soom Nath Pardesi, S. N. Zutshi, Soom Nath Sadhu, Pushkar Bhan, Mohammad Subhan Baghat, D. N. Raina, G. N. Baba, Aziz Haroon, G. R. Santosh, D. N. Baqaya, A. K. Rehbar, Sajood Sailani, M. L. Saraf, Pran Kishore, H. N. Gurtoo, Virender Razdan, Piare Raina, Abdul Majeed Bhat, Noor Shah, Hafiza Kausar, Ratni Mattoo and Brij Kishori.
It was during this decade when Kashmiri theatre experienced professional expertise of S. L. Dhar (Bahar) & R. K. Braroo – the two NSD Alumnus of 1963 & 1965 batches who directed Antigone and The Lesson respectively just after completing their training/graduation from National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi. S. L. Dhar Bahar established Kashmir Art Seminary (
The English plays which were translated into Kashmiri during the decade of 1961-70 were: Thuj (Wild-Duck by Ibsen) translated by Soom Nath Zutshi and published by Sahitya Akademi in 1962; Julius Ceaser (Shakespeare) translated by Naji Munwar in 1964; The Lesson (Ionesco) translated by R. K. Braroo in 1965 and produced by Kashmir National Theatre; Antigone (Sophocles) translated by S. L. Dhar (Bahar) in 1965 and produced by Kashmir Art Seminary; Kanjoos (The Miser by Molier) produced by Regional Engineering College, Srinagar; Tschai (Ghost by Ibsen) translated by Akhter Mohiuddin; and Insaaf (Justice by Galez Worthy) translated by Akbar Ali Ansari.
Emergence of revived Folk Theatre of Kashmir:
There happened to be a number of Bhand families present all-over the Valley – especially in Akingam, Mohripora, Shangus, Gundpora in Anantnag District; Wathora, Ichhgam, Hanjigund, Soibug, Bambrooda-Beerwah in District Badgam; Thokerora, Balapora, Imam-Sahib, Wanpora, Rohmu in District Pulwama; Bomai-Sopore, Bandipora, Rihama, Tilgam, Palhalan, Lolpora in Baramulla District; and Kralpora, Gulgam, Karihama, Hatmulla, Drugmulla and Shumnag in District Kupwara.
In 1961, the first ever folk theatre group of Kashmir under the leadership of Mohd. Subhan Bhagat (playwright and director), was organized and registered by the name of Kashmir Bhagat Theatre Akingam-Anantnag. Mr Bhagat not only organised these Bhands in a repertory but consolidated the Bhand-Pathers and gave them a formal script shape in his book Bhand-Jashen, later published in 1984. Mr. Bhagat has been the leading light for the new generations of these Bhands who has won many laurels and honours on State and National level.
There are now almost over fifty registered folk theatre groups presently in Kashmir Valley. Among them the most popular and professional groups are Kashmir Bhagat Theater – Akingam, Anantnag; National Bhand Theatre – Wathora-Chadora, Badgam; Alamdar Bhagat Theatre, Mohripora-Anantnag; Wuller Folk Theatre, Zaingair-Baramulla; Gulmarg Luka Theatre, Palhalan-Pattan, Baramulla and Dilkash Folk Theatre, Hatmulla-Kupwara.
The tragic part of most of these folk theatre groups is the fact that they have turned to be the commercial performers of Bhand-Parties more than the traditional folk theatre groups by day and night defection in the run for money in the trading electronic-media world. This has badly diluted the artistic richness and traditional characteristics of our folk theatre.
(PART-V – 1971-80)
Theatre of Revolution - Era
After 1970, the contemporary Kashmiri theatre took the real flight of modern sensibility in the artistic and aesthetic concepts. This decade can be well termed as the revolutionary era of the Kashmir Theatre Movement. New experiments were being made in style and form of play-writing and presentation. Many young playwrights and leading theatre activists came to forefront. Among them included H. K. Koul, Farooq Masoodi, Sohan Lal Koul, H. K. Bharti, Bhushan Betab, M. R. Naushaad, Bashir Dada, B. B. Yasir, Nisar Naseem, Amin Bhat, Nazir Josh and many others.
The most prominent amateur theatre groups which emerged during 1971-80 decade were Art Theatre, Himalyan Theatre, Shah Dramatic Club, Navrattan Natsar, Abhinav Bharti Theatre, Kamal Theatre, Sangermaal Theatre, Shaheen Theatre, Kalidas Theatre, Kashmir Theatre in Srinagar; Manasbal Dramatics Safapora, Mehboob Cultural Society Baramula, Wahab Dramatic Club, Hajin, Yatri Theatre Budgam, Maqbool Theatre Kralwari-Budgam, Kanwal Theatre-Anantnag, Kashmir Vijay Theatre, Sagam-Kokernag. And the most prominent theatre organisation, which launched a concerted rural theatre movement in Southern Kashmir, was Maraaz Cultural & Art Centre Shahabad, founded by B. B. Yasir in 1977. This theatre organisation became an Icon in creating a great theatre awareness in rural audience and won many laurels for its productions before its founder joined NSD in 1984.
Kashmir Theatre Federation (KTF):
The 1974 Annual Drama Festival of J&K Cultural Academy, which happened to be the festival of the theatre groups of
The creation of KTF was an important milestone in the history of the theatre movement in
In the meanwhile Doordarshan Srinagar opened doors for them. They got allured by its name, fame and ‘game’ thus theatre activity for Srinagar-based theatre activists remained nothing but a mental luxury to participate in the festival once in a year. As such KTF could not help itself to survive for the reasons of interests-clashes.
On the other hand the President of KTF Sh. Pran Kishore had got involved with the production assignments of J&K Cultural Academy where he was going to Direct “Vitasta” Opera of Academy and as such had been giving more time to Academy assignments than to the job of KTF while others had shifted to take the Doordarshan assignments, with the result it got disintegrated and the history of KTF ended with this sad demise at the hands of its founders.
In routine of holding annual drama festivals, the J&K Cultural Academy produced four operas Vitesta, Himala Ke Cheshme, Piya Baaj Piyale and Tipu Sultan, all directed by Pran Kishore, which were a new experimental productions in music, dance and dramatic style. These productions gave a new sensibility of artistic, aesthetic and professional style to Kashmiri theatre.
Since most of the theatre activists, especially of Srinagar were now more attached to DD and gave less time to theatre movement hence after, no one could build its own metaphor, idiom & style of the theatre till 1980. The movement continued to be either community theatre, propaganda theatre, or alien adopted theatre. As such no strong socio-political, revolutionary, modern theatre movement could emerge in the Valley for obvious reasons.
During this era many playwrights & theatre activists came to the forefront and emerged as stalwarts of Kashmiri theatre. The plays written and presented on stage during this decade are Totat te Aeni (70), Lal Bo Drayes Lolarey-72, Haram Khanuk Aeni (74) (by M. L. Kemmu); Fundbaaz, Gash Tarukh, Taeint Korr, Ropyi Rood, Votre Bunuil, Kaej Raath (by Sajood Sailani); Taqdeer, Havas, Mantin Leji Panzu, Aka-Nandun, Yiti Chhu Banvun, Poz Apuz (by M. S. Bhagat who also published his Play collections: Bhand Jashn, Divyi Rang, Taqdeer); Talash-69, Ba Chhus Tsoor-70, Aulaad (71), Vol-Harish (72), Reh-te-Aab, Budshah-75 (by A. K. Rehber); Natak Kariv Bandh (75), Dastaar (79) by (Hari Kishan Koul); Kus Log Davas (71), Bus Akh Sham (73), Bari Gau Lol (75), Soroi Sapud Raath (76), Narkapuri (78) (by M. L. Saraf); Cactus (79), Local Taxes Extra (80), Lash Ghar (80) (by Sohan Lal Koul); College Pather (75) (by Fraooq Masoodi); Bar Gai Yimberzol, Bei Phati Baman, Lal Vum Amaar (by Bhushan Betaab); Vakhtich Trai, Modur Zahar 9by M. R. Naushad); Zalur, Yeli Sanger Pholi, Funkaar, Maya-Zaal (by Bashir Dada), Pot Aaluv, Tim Gore Gai, Adam, Loal, Pragash (by Nazir Josh) and many others.
During this decade many classic plays from English and Indian Literature were also translated & produced into Kashmiri. These translations and productions opened the vision of the new playwrights, directors and actors to explore theatre arts with modern sensibility. These translations included Waiting for Godot (by Krishen Baldev Nad), Three Sisters (Three Sisters as Tre Beni by R. L. Shant), End Game, Inspector General (as Hakim-e-Eala by S. N. Zutshi), Dr. Fausts (by M. L. Saraf), while the translations of Indian plays included Kalai Tasmay Namah (A Marathi play by C. T. Khanulkar), Hatya Eik Aaakar Ki (by Lalit Sehgal), Rakt Kamal (by L. N. Lal), and many other Telgu & Malyalam plays (all translated by Mohan Nirash). In addition many other Indian plays produced on stage in their original languages by Kashmiri theatre groups which included Suno Jan Maijay, Pati Patni, Pagal Kaun, Baqi Itihaas, Konark, Nadi Piyasi Thee, Ashaad Ka Eik Din, Evam Inderjeet, Aadhey Adhurey, Panchwa Suwar, Apradhi Kaun, Kisi Eik Phool Ka Naam Lo, Mitti Ki Khushbu, Giddh, Zamana, Nagpash, Singhasan Khali Hai, Panchhi Aeise Bhi Aatein Hain, Thank You Mr. Glad, Aandhi Aur Ghat, Andha Yug. Most among these Indian plays were produced by Vasant Theatre and Directed by Ashok Jailkhani.
(PART-VI – 1981-90)
The Golden Era of Kashmiri Theatre
The Decade of 1980-90 could be considered as the Golden Period of contemporary Kashmiri Theatre. It was in 1980 when J&K Academy of Art Cultural & Languages, the only pioneering and patronizing institution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir working for the promotion of Kashmiri theatre, started holding District Drama Festivals in all districts of J&K. In
A Galaxy of new theatre groups and theatre activists emerged in rural areas of Kashmir. The prominent groups which sustained their existence were Gulshan Dramatic Club, Chrari Sharif-Budgam; Samad Theatre, Now Pora Chadora-Budgam; Young Welfare Culture Forum, Tangmarg-Baramulla; Razaq Dramatic Club, Shopian-Pulwama; Bazm-e-Saqafat, Shopina-Pulwama; Zaffar Dramatic Club, Keller-Pulwama; Alankaar Theatre, Srinagar; Kashmir Kalla Manch, Srinagar; Indian Theatre Alliance, Srinagar; Azad Dramatic Club, Ganderbal-Srinagar.
During this decade some young theatre activists, came into fore-front who were playwrights and directors simultaneously and lead a strong rural theatre movement in Kashmir. These included Bashir Dada, B. B. Yasir (aka Yasir Kashmiri who wrote plays - Amaneth, Pagal Kus, Modur Mas, Tekhleeq, Masoom Yateem Lalo, Aka-Nandun, Vothu Lalo Nindrey, Par-Daruk), Amin Shakir (Play – Tasruf), Shams-ud-din Shameem (Plays - Begur Bane, Atschun Safar), Aziz Hajni (Play – Arman, Tamhas Tawan, Mazar-e-Shora, Pather Chhu Jari), Nisar Naseem (Palys - Sarfa Yagyi, Pagah Sholi Duniya, Ba Chhus Yithai Badnam, Wo-Badur, Tschali-Koot, Ba –te- Maein Daed, Rani Dida, Aes Chhi Timai, Raze Reshi Vanuk), M. Amin Bhat (Plays – Rum, Myoon Kyah Soonchvu, Yas Yi Hajath Tas ti Rawa).
In 1987, a new mile stone was laid down in the theatre movement of Kashmir when Bhawani Bashir Yasir, after completing his Degree in Dramatic from National School of Drama, New Delhi; established a theatre repertory by the Name of KALAKAAR REPERTORY CIRCLE, DORU-SHAHABAD-Anantnag. Almost 20 artistes who were affiliated and active with Maraaz Cultural & Art Centre Shahabad-Doru-Anantnag, were appointed properly as the Apprentice Fellow of the Repertory for two years in the first instance. The Repertory made a good head way when it participated with its production of play AKA-NANDUN in the North Zone Theatre Festival of Sangeet Natak Akademi held at Simla in Sept. 1988.
It was the result of a concerted efforts of B. B. Yasir and despite the explosion of militant uprising in Kashmir which was spear-heading all socio-cultural activities in the Valley that Maraaz Cultural and Art Centre Shahabad, Doru-Anantnag-Kashmir, organized a three days’ STATE THEATRE CONFERENCE at Tagore Hall Srinagar in Sept. 1989. This was first of its Kind in the history of the theatre movement of Kashmir, attended by almost 150 delegated from Kashmir belonging to 35 theatre groups in addition of the other theatre experts, observers, paper readers invited to the Conference.
On the occasion of the State Theatre Conference, a festival of nine plays was also organized by the name of BUDSHAH DRAMA FESTIVAL and three plays were staged daily and witnessed by the participating delegates. This festival helped the participating theatre activists to experience a wide range of contemporary theatre experiments.
It would be worth to mention here that in 1988 B. B. Yasir, with the cooperation of Ab. Lateef Khatana (NSD Alumni) and Gulzar Ganaie – the prominent professional theatre activists of Kashmir, tried to create a joint platform for the rural theatre activists of Kashmir Valley so that they could share their experiences and experiments in theatre of Kashmir and pave way for exploration, growth and joint efforts. His efforts received a very warm response and in July 1989, Ensemble Kashmir Theatre Activists (EKTA) came into being. And to give it a big boost and public recognition, the Budshah Drama Festival was attributed to EKTA, organized along with the State Theatre Conference in Sept. 1989 at Tagore Hall Srinagar.
Many other Indian plays which were also produced in their original language on stage by Kashmir theatre groups during this decade included Dulari Bhai, Eik Aur Dronacharya, Suryi Ki Antim Kiran Se Suryi Ki Pehli Kiran Tak, Juloos, Sari Raat, Bakri, Faisla, Santola, Bhooma, Ameobha, Good Bye Swami, Ant Nahien; while as the English plays translated and presented in Kashmiri included All My Sons, The Just (both Directed by Gulzar Ganaie) and King Oedipus produced by Maraaz Cultural & Art cCentre Shahabad-Doru and translated and directed by B. B. Yasir, which won all the prestigious seven awards in the Annual Drama Festival of the J&K Cultural Academy of Kashmir in 1987.
SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI – NEW DELHI
Its Role and Contribution to boost Kashmiri Theatre.
Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), the national academy of music, drama and dance, had had, by all means, played its serious and due role to promote, boost and strengthen Kashmiri theatre.
Apart from providing financial assistance to prominent music, dance and drama groups of the State, it had been holding theatre workshops for Kashmiri theatre activists in collaboration with the J&K Academy as well.
Under its scheme of promoting young theatre directors and helping them to explore indigenous folk and traditional performing art genres of their regional theatre in the contemporary context, applications, innovations, significance and treatment. It organized zonal Theatre Festivals.
Under this scheme, introduced in 1985, from J&K State, three young directors viz Ravi Kemmu (NSD Alumni) directed Gosaeni Pather with National Bhand Theatre, Wathora-Chadora, Budgam; Nisar Naseem directed Rani Dada & Sarf-Yagyi with Mansbal Dramatics Safapora-Baramulla and Bhawani Bashir Yasir (NSD Alumni) directed play Aka-Nandun with Kalakkar Repertory Circle, Doru-Anantnag; and participated in the North Zone Theatre Festivals held at Luckhnow, Kurukshetra, Jammu and Simla in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 respectively.
Besides Sangeet Natak Akademi has had awarded two theatre personalities of
It has been inviting the theatre groups, mostly the folk theatre groups, from the Valley to participate in its national theatre festival held in the country under its aegis.
Role of National School of Drama – New Delhi.
its contribution in contemporary Kashmiri theatre.
National School of Drama, the prime institute of Asia to provide professional training in theatre arts, has had played a modest role in promoting theatre aesthetics of Kashmir by conducting a couple of workshops in Kashmir.
The first such Workshop was conducted in 1970 at Ghandi Bhawan, Jammu, Directed by Ebrahim Alkazi, in which 36 students from the Valley participated including Trilok Das, M. L. Sadhu, Zahid Nashad, Gh. Hassan Rather, S. N. Sumbali, H. N. Gurtoo, Farooq Masoodi, M. L. Saraf. The workshop-production play Aadhey Adhure written by Mohan Rakesh was staged on the concluding day.
The second such theatre-workshop by NSD was organised in
Apart from these workshops, eleven persons from 1960 to 1987, from the Valley of Kashmir could qualify to join NSD to seek professional training but most of them did not return back to the Valley to contribute their part to build, rejuvenate and boost the professional theatre in Kashmir. Instead they preferred to stay in
The NSD Alumnus from the Valley of Kashmir are:
1. Sham Lal Dhar (Bahar) Budgam/Srinagar 1963 joined Education Deptt.
2. R. K. Braroo
3. M. K. Raina
4. Bansi Koul Srinagar 1973 based in Bhopal, MP
5. K. K. Raina
6. C. S. Raina
7. Virender Razdan
8. Miss Raj Kiran Koul
9. R. S. Keemu
10. Ab. Lateef Khatana Kupwara 1986 joined NSD, TIE
11. Bhawani Bashir Yasir Doru-Anantnag 1987 Returned back to
After 1987 till 2005 none of the theatre activist based in Kashmir Valley could make its entry to join NSD for many obvious reasons.
It may be apt to note here that NSD has not so far performed in the Valley that could also have forced the theatre activists of
Needless to mention in 2002 to 2006, under its extension programme, NSD had conducted continuously five theatre workshops in Srinagar, Directed by M. K. Raina in which about ninety students in total got trained in theatre arts but only a couple of them have seriously taken to theatre profession. And that paved a way for entry of new enthusiasm and spirit into the erstwhile dead theatre movement of Kashmir.
J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages
(Its role in the theater movement of Kashmir)
Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages, which was declared an autonomous body in 1963, was constituted in 1958 by the then Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Late Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad and has been the only indigenous pioneering organisation of the State to preserve and promote Art, Culture and Languages in Jammu and Kashmir and has been, as such, the central force to strengthen, rejuvenate and boost the theatre movement in Kashmir as well.
2- Providing Financial Aid to Theatre Groups:
The Academy had been granting financial assistance to the theatre groups, registered under J&K Societies Act. This encouraged the theatre groups to survive and sustain on one hand and allured them to preserve theatre-arts on the other hand.
3- Holding Annual Drama Festivals and awarding Prizes:
The Academy had been holding the Annual Drama Festival right from 1961 firstly in
In these festivals, the Academy awarded prizes for Best Production, Sets, Costumes, Music, Direction and Acting (Male and Female). Though the amount of award happened to be a mere sum but it gave recognition and boost to the theatre activists which helped to most of them to have employment in Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar.
4- Holding Playwright and Theatre Workshops:
The Academy has, more often than not, been conducting Playwright workshops and Theatre workshops in Kashmiri. This encouraged new promising talent in Kashmiri theatre. It has also been collaborating with Sangeet Natak Akademi and National School of Drama,
5- Holding Rural District Drama Festivals at District level.:
6- Awarding Prizes and Subsidy for Play Scripts/Publications:
The Academy, more often than not, has had been holding the play-script competitions and awarding prizes for the best script. Not only this, it had been giving subsidy to playwrights for publishing their plays. This has been the main source of boosting play writing and publications. Needless to mention that almost all the plays published in Kashmiri are because of this support. In addition, it had published special editions of its quarterly journal “SHEERAZA” in which plays of young and senior playwrights were published, besides publishing in it the articles by Kashmiri theatre stalwarts on Kashmiri drama from time to time.
7- Producing Plays and Operas:
Besides producing plays – especially to mention a few like Jheel Bulla Rahi Hai, (Lone) directd by Pran Kishore, Khamosh Adalat Jari Hai, Spartacus, Jaloos, Thank You Mr. Glad – directed by Kavi Rattan Sharma; the Academy, occasionally under its Repertory scheme, has been producing operas on its own in mid seventies. During that decade it produced four operas – Vitasta, Himala Ke Cheshme, Piya Baaj Piyala and Tipu Sultan, which traveled almost whole of India carrying the message of love and national integration and to win many laurels for the Academy. These operas not only developed a new professional, artistic and aesthetic sensibility among the theatre activists but also created a good theatre audience as well.
8. SPECIAL MENTION:
I feel it my moral duty to specially mention the names of Sh. M. Y. Teing (Rtd. Secretary Academy), Lt Ali Mohammad Lone, (Rtd. Dy. Secretary
9. A HEART-BREAKING REMARK:
Unfortunately the Central Secretariat of the Academy at Lal Mandi, Srinagar got fire in 1999 and, with the result; besides the assets of the Academy in the shape of books, manuscripts, paintings and artifacts etc; most of the records, documentation and published material in the shape of Annual Reports, gramophone recordings of Academy regarding their activities in the field of Art and Culture in general and the brochures, cards, photographs of their theatre activities in particular were destroyed as well– really a great loss that could not be recovered.
(PART-VII – 1991-2000)
The Black Era of Kashmiri Theatre
The Decade of 1990-2000 would be remembered as the blackest era of contemporary Kashmiri Theatre. It was in 1988 when militancy exploded in the Valley for the cherished goal of national emancipation. The mass-mentality took a great turn. The popularly supported militancy started dictating the terms. The mass-exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 changed the color of Kashmiri cultural ethos. Hence under the threat of militancy rather mass reaction all the socio-cultural and theatre activities came to a stand-still.
In 1990 The central place of theatre activities – viz Tagore Hall Srinagar was burnt, Director Radio Kashmir Mr. Lassa Koul was killed, Secretary J&K Cultural Academy, Mr. M. Y. Teing received a life threat – thus not only the theatre movement of Kashmir but the entire cultural ethos of the Valley was almost under threat. And not only the cultural institutions, organizations, societies, dramatic clubs became irrelevant even the
With the mass-exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, the theatre in Srinagar City almost died because most of the theatre groups were run by Kashmir Pandits exclusively. Not only this, the most tragic part of the era is that with the closure of these theatre groups we have lost the documentation treasure of the theatre of Kashmir as well. All these Kashmiri Pandit theatre activists are presently scattered all-over
And from this date the theatre of Kashmir went into coma.
REVIVAL OF THE THEATRE MOVEMENT IN KASHMIR
(A New beginning)
After a big gap of almost about twelve long years, with the supportive and encouraging initiative of Bhawani Bashir Yasir, who came to the forefront after he had returned from his self exile after ten years from Pakistan in 2000, the J&K Academy of Art Culture & Languages organized a theatre festival of six plays in 2002 at Tagore Hall Srinagar in which almost all the productions were the repeat performances of the mid- nineties era. Nevertheless this encouraged the theatre activists to rejuvenate the theatre movement of Kashmir. And from this date Bhawani Bashir Yasir took many initiatives in that direction which helped him rather forced him to take the lead in rejuvenating and institutionalising the theatre movement of Kashmir.
After the most commendable big event of the State Theatre Conference held at Tagore Hall Srinagar in 1989 under the patronage of Bhawani Bashir Yasir, Kashmir Cultural Society, Srinagar took a great initiative to hold a one day seminar on the eve of World Theatre Day on March 27, 2004 at Tagore Hall Srinagar.
In this seminar the eminent theatre personalities were invited which included M. L. Kemmu, Bhawani Bashir Yasir, Shabbir Mujahid, Gulzar Ganaie, Krishan Langoo, Sajjad Hussain and Dr. Ali Nishter; besides a big number of the theatre activists of the Valley who participated in the Seminar.
It was in this seminar that Bhawani Bashir Yasir wowed to establish a theatre academy and a drama school in
And from here started a new beginning of the theatre movement of Kashmir. After a series of meetings with Mr. Gulzar Ganaie, M. L. Kemmu, Sajood Sailani, Ab. Lateef Khatana, Ensemble Kashmir Theatre Akademi – EKTA was formed in October 2004 by Bhawani Bashir Yasir with the encouraging gesture from National School of Drama to provide all possible support.
After preliminary establishment of EKTA, B. B. Yasir instituted EKTA School of Drama-cum-Repertory in 2005 and conducted, in the first preference, Children’s folk theatre workshop, the participants of which later participated in Bal-Sangam of NSD. It was in 2006 that admission to regular classes of Children Theatre Workshop, Sunday Theatre Workshop, Theatre-in-Education Workshops and Certificate Diploma Course in dramatic arts were conducted. And this laid a sound foundation for institutionalization and revival of Kashmiri theatre.
Last but not the least, in 2005 Doordarshan organized a theatre festival of selected plays, not inviting entries by wide publicity, which later proved a big event as covered by Doordarshan in its half hour daily programme on the theatre festival. The prize distribution function was equally a big event that boosted the morale of the theatre activists.
Bhawani Bashir Yasir