Reviving theatre in the Kashmir valley
SRINAGAR, Nov 8: News on the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir may have gagged headlines for years, but it was for the first time this year that the real reflections of the conflict were depicted through its theatre.
A collage of 13 plays staged this Thursday at S.P College, Srinagar, provided a nostalgic sight of Kashmir post 1947 and until 2010.
The plays were staged during the two-day-long National Theatre Seminar, ‘Koshur Theatre’ organised by India’s Sahitya Academy in collaboration with the Kashmir Theatre Federation.
The stage was designed to depict Kashmir during times of conflict with a clock tower overlooking the bunkers of Lal Chowk along with barbed wires, stone pelting and a hanging noose setting the scene for the performances.
The plays that staged were Ek Potli Armaano Ki, depicting the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Maya Zaal, showing the elements of corruption in public life, Phritey Muth conveying lawlessness in dealing with ordinary incidents of theft, Watch Thavun Chu Zaroor, depicting political gimmicks, Musafir, showing a rat being elevated by the support of strangers to a lion’s position, Trunove, identifying the crisis in Kashmir, Brunz Brunz Qayamat, showing the suffering of the Kashmiris as a result of the conflict, Iteqaam, revolving around the killings that took place in Kashmir during the conflict and Watte Paed, which reflected on the killings during the mass unrest in 2010.
It was for the first time that such an event was held in Kashmir. It was attended by renowned artists, singers, directors and writers from the valley. Internationally acclaimed actor, theatre artist and writer, M K Raina, was the chief guest on the occasion.
Speaking during the theatre seminar, Raina stressed on the need to portray the conflict and what was happening in Kashmir through theatre and drama.
“We cannot shut our eyes to what Kashmir has been through. We have to have a tug of war with history. We have to raise questions,” Raina emphasised.
He said that Band Pather (folk theatre of Kashmir) was unique in its form and structure, making it multi-dimensional.
“Band Pather never died. We only have to give it a contemporary touch while keeping its traditional feel. We have no dearth of spectators and artists, only efforts have to be made.”
Raina elaborated that theatre had to go back to the people, to talk about their pain through songs and stories which were all relatable to them.
“We have to deconstruct it and then reconstruct it with traditional novelty,” said Raina.
For the audience, the event was a real treat.
“I have never seen such an event here. It feels great to see cultural activities revived in Kashmir,” said Naimaan Khan, a college student.
However, theatre still has a long way to go in Kashmir.
Theatre artist, Motilal Khemu said facilities needed to be provided to promote theatre and drama in Kashmir.
“We do not have drama or theatre schools in Kashmir. We have just two theatre auditoriums which have been under construction for a long time now. We need better platforms for theatre to flourish,” Khemu said.
He added that theatre was a part of a society’s cultural identity and needed sustenance.
Theatre has traditionally been a major source of entertainment in Kashmir. Band Pather, the traditional folk theatre of Kashmir has been the most popular form of theatre here. However, with the start of turmoil in the valley, theatre suffered a setback.
Since, negligible theatre and stage dramas were organised for years in Kashmir, it was up to independent theatre groups to revive the form. Thus Band Pather, has been making a comeback thanks to these independent groups and the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.
Throwing light on the history of Kashmir’s theatre, the valley’s renowned theatre artist and actor Makhanlal Saraf also demanded a new direction for theatre in the region.
“We need people to take theatre to new heights. We want someone to kick start the new waves of theatre. More than funds or other assistance, we need serious efforts to promote theatre.”