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Now back to stage in the Valley


After a long gap, theatre made a stirring comeback to Kashmir recently.

THE RETURN OF THEATRE The Jammu and Kashmir theatre. festival impressed one and all Photo: Nissar AhmAd

Against the backdrop of recent spurt in violent incidents, it may not sound logical to say that normalcy has returned to Kashmir. But it did see the grand return of theatre in Kashmir through the first Theatre Festival in the last 15 years. The festival was organised by Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar. This 10-day event received overwhelming public response. The plays were the boldest reflection onthe sufferings of Valley's people over the past decade-and-a-half.

"One could not even talk about such situations within the four walls of the house. The way these artists are exposing politicians, bureaucrats and both state and non-state actors of violence, is really a big change in the themes shown in theatres," says Tarique Bhat, a media professional.

With a large number of theatre lovers converging each evening to watch plays, the festival, Doordarshan officials say, was a grand success. "People have identified themselves with these plays. The language also has played an important role," says Mehmood Ahmed, a student.

A few faces were regularly seen occupying front rows. Abdur Rasheed Kabli, a well-known mainstream politician was never absent. So was the case with Bashir Bhawani known by his nom de guerre Haider Hijazi. Himself a former theatre professional, he is a separatist politician associated with Amanullah Khan's Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Ali Mohammad Baqal, a well-known veteran artiste would come two hours in advance. "I am so happy that theatre has been revived so nicely," he beams."It is thinking theatre and I feel proud of seeing the kind of adaptations taking place now. Techniques and blending of folk and modern plays is amazing," says K.K. Raina, famous theatre personality who was present at the shows. He even knelt down before the cast of Naad (the call) a play staged by Mehboob Cultural Society and directed by Amin Bhat. "I am watching masterpieces," he remarked.

Except two plays, one in Urdu and another in Ladakhi, the focus of the plays wasthe ongoing turmoil. And the way the writers brought home a point was amazing. For instance, "Brunz Brunz Qayamat" (It is a doomsday on each step), a play by Kashmir Cultural Society was a bold depiction of the miseries of people. Ghulam Hassan Rather, a well-known artist also made a comeback after three decades with a splendid performance.

"It is certainly a rebirth for me," he chuckles. "Su Yee", an adaptation of Waiting for Godot by Arshid Mushtaq left its own impression. It touched upon the "disappearances" of hundreds of youth in last 15 years.

With this festival, the first part of which was organised in April in Jammu this year, talent hunt became a bit easier for Doordarshan and others looking for Kashmiri actors. The festival director Shehzadi Simon won laurels for this event. "With the success of this festival Doordarshan is inspired to do better drama productions," says Simon. Illa Arun, singer and choreographer was the special guest on the occasion along with Raina and Faisal Al Qazi. "Even Mumbai has not produced such great plays. I could understand their pain. Kashmir has such a great talent," says Illa.

On the day of grand finale Governor S.K. Sinha presented awards to Ladakhi play Nangsa Otbum which bagged the Best Play Award and the second best prize was given to Naad. In Jammu festival "Medea" was adjudged the Best Play while "Jheel Bula Rahee Hai" got three awards for Best Set, Best Actor and Best Music category. The Best Actress awards for Jammu and Srinagar went to Gurmeet Jamwal and Parveena.

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