Ufaq Fatima

Theatre for the absurd, theater for the oppressed!

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The theatre in Kashmir, which was once the sole source of entertainment, information and, sometimes propaganda as well, in the region, is struggling with declining audiences and changing social priorities even as its revivalist are trying to choreograph a comeback for it in Kashmir after curtains were drawn over it following eruption of militancy. It is still unable to reconnect with the people, especially youth.

“After the eruption of militancy, carrying out the contemporary reality issue involved risk of life, both for artists and public. Being a conflict region, theatre here became a soft target and the performance side of theatre got affected at large,” said Mohammad Amin Bhat, a renowned playwright.

Bhat, who has directed plays like ‘Tchal’, ‘White Paper’, and ‘Identity Card’, added  that “I have been closely associated with Kashmir’s theatre, have done many plays and dramas and have experienced that this art not only develops one intellectually but artistically as well.”

Till 1970s theatre in Kashmir was the sole source of entertainment and was ruling the minds and hearts of masses and had assumed an important part of Kashmiri culture as it carried the contemporary issues that were performed creatively in many art forms like ‘Band pather’ etc.

The final blow to the theatre in the region was with the closure of Tagore Hall, which was the sole platform for artists here.

After the reopening of Tagore Hall over a decade later, this art was reborn in Kashmir and this strong institution of expression which was now short of artists most of whom preferred electronic media for better income, security and sustenance. This again made theatre more vulnerable and its revival a daunting task.

Bhat, who has been awarded National Academy Award for his play ‘Tchal’, said the young generation of Kashmir was not inclined towards this form of art as “they lack sense of pride towards their own culture and tradition and feel apologetic towards it”.

Bhat elaborated that theatre had to go back to people to talk about relevant issues for its survival. “An intellectual mindset of performing this art and to appreciate it, is yet to be achieved in Kashmir,” he said.

Adding to this, Bashir Bawani, Director of EKTA School of Drama and Repertory, Srinagar, said that all the attempts that were being made to revive the ‘tremendously rich’ theatre culture here were failing owing to the lack of participation of the masses.  “Art makes a nation wise and vibrant and dying of art means dying of minds. The theatre represents the minds of people and reflects the intellectual class of society” Bawani said.

Stating that the theatre in Kashmir needed intervention of Cultural Academy , Non government organizations (NGOs) and the government that should work together to provide it with new technology and better equipments, Prominent artist, Ayash Arif is of the opinion that “Theatre in Kashmir is the only platform where we can promote our dying culture and language and this can be achieved by the collective effort of representatives of theatre, also by giving better opportunity to the new talent that is coming forward from different regions of Kashmir,” Arif said.

Initiative regarding the development of theatre in Kashmir is being made by the Cultural Academy of Kashmir, the government department for promoting art and culture, which involves many schemes and workshops.

Mohammad Ashraf Tak, Chief Editor at the Cultural Academy Kashmir, stressed on schemes for the “promotion of folk and ancient theatre”.  “Theatre is the rich part of our culture and we are working for encouraging it more and more. We recently organised a festival this month at Tagore hall. Cultural academy is committed to work on the revival of traditional theatre in Kashmir and such events boost the revival process,” Tak added.

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