Rashmi Talwar

Magic of “THREE” and Gurez

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Sharda Peeth: Photo/Prof Aqeel Kasmi of National College of Arts, Lahore Pakistan during a study tour with students of NCA to the historic site.

Gurez showered a rare clairvoyance. How was I to know that I would roll into its folds and venture into the Magic tunnel of “Three”? As I glided across the unbelievable beauty of Gurez, I picked up gems that surprisingly added up to the enchanting number – “Three”. This fascination kept gathering steam, irrespective of conforming to the exact figures or facts, nevertheless, near truthful.

Before I proceed and lay bare the instinctual collection, it befits to explain what exactly is the Magic of “Three”, in the drama of the vast Universe.

For the uninitiated the rule of “Three” is a grouping of “Three” that could be “Three” – words, “Three” – objects, “Three” – times, etc that has a repetitive element or a common thread running through them to complete the tiara of beauty. The Rule of “Three” – is often used in designing, verse, poetry, paintings, dimensions, films, songs, and touch. The effect of “Three”, plays beautifully on the sensory instincts and gives it a grand finish of a powerful impact or a sensation of beauty.

 “Three” is not only appealing and easier to remember but our brains are pattern-seeking machines, constantly looking for relationships and meaning and connecting the world around us. “Three” is the smallest number we need to create a pattern, the perfect combination of brevity and rhythm. The rhythmor  echoes of “Three” creates strong impact! Similarly, any multiple of “Three” will enlarge the effect of impact on the human eye, human mind, and human memory. I attempted to piece together this magic of “Three” for the enchanting Land of Gurez.

“Three” point someone – Gurez: Gurez has a multi-dimensional past and present.

  • It was a robust trade point that connected to neighboring and far-off developed world.
  • At present Gurez is a Border area with Pakistan.
  • Gurez is a fascinating Literary hub of a rare Shina-speaking Dard tribe, a guardian of its culture and lifestyle

Gurez, an ancient gateway: Gurez was a gateway for South Asian trade and travel. It sits on the crux of the age-old Silk Route and connects it to “Three” regions, which are:

  • The Gilgit Baltistan section in Pakistan
  • The Kashgar in China is called the ‘oasis city’ in Tarim basin connected to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. It was a robust trade route that saw many a precious sparkling gem, silks, crafts, jewelry, fruit and food, and much more travel to and fro the faraway lands.
  • And, from there onwards to Europe.

Gurez, a literary hub of Dards

Gurez is the ‘third’ pillar as a guardian and literary hub of Shina language, Dard culture, traditions, and rituals. These “Three” areas include:

  • Gilgit Baltistan (Pakistan),
  • Gurez and (Jammu and Kashmir)
  • Kargil (Ladakh)

All “Three” regions collectively speak the Shina language and in these times of nano speed of internet have Whatsapp groups for cultural exchange too, that additionally laments their separation and painful parting through borderlines between India and Pakistan. One such group I was made a member of is “Hum sab Kab Milangay” admin is Musa bringing together lost tribes of a region partitioned.

Three” personalities are recorded as prominent visitors to Gurez

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt before being crowned the 32nd US President.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru- First Prime Minister of India, along with his family including the first and only lady PM of India- Indira Gandhi.
  • Walter R Lawrence – The author who served in the Indian civil services in British India during which he was the first Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir and in 1895 published a seminal book – “The valley of Kashmir” mentioning Gurez.

How the native Kashmiri language won over Urdu

One couldn’t imagine a unique subject or storyline of a Queen poetess, rising from humble roots from the saffron fields of Pampore, emerging as an exalted figure, with a life gone bitterly tragic and dying with the pain of parting. How could that story of love, passion, romance, poetry, royalty, and intrigue not catch the imagination of the medium of cinematic art? It did. Top filmmakers of the time dreamed about making a celluloid marvel with the pivotal story of Habba Khatoon enchantingly woven with the silken threads of her poetry.

Over the years, “Three” renowned filmmakers conceived the subject of the nightingale of Kashmir- a sobriquet for Habba Khatoon, to present it on the silver screen in Urdu/ Hindi, a language of Indian cinema. Could they bring their dream projects to fruition?

Three” filmmakers dreamed of Habba Khatoon

  • In the year 1960, a fascinated Mehboob Khan, with the dramatic story of Habba Khatoon determined to make a film starring SairaBanu in the lead as Habba. In an interview, decades later, SairaBano, revealed that Dilip Kumar was to star opposite her as Yusuf Shah Chak- the King of Kashmir and Habba’s husband. This was before Dilip and Saira were married. Filmmaker Mehboob’s death in 1964 led to the shelving of the film.
  • In 1980, BR Chopra attempted to bring Habba Khatoon alive with Zeenat Aman and Sanjay Khan in lead roles with music by Naushad. A Ghazal ‘Jis Raat Ke Khawab Aaye’ by Naushad was recorded with the inimitable Mohammed Rafi, who couldn’t control his tears on first hearing the words woven in the Ghazal, then again during its recording. Later Mohammed Rafi refused to be paid a paisa for the Ghazal. But Rafi died soon after, on July 31, 1980, and the Ghazal of Habba Khatoon remained the renowned singer’s swan song. The heartbroken filmmaker couldn’t bring himself to restart the subject with another singer and shelved it.
  • In late 1988, a third attempt at immortalizing Habba on the silver screen came from Muzaffer Ali with his film ‘Zooni’- the Moon, starring Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna in lead roles. A dream project, Ali conceived a palette jeweled with colors merging in the flavors of Kashmir’s varied seasons to depict Habba’s saga.   Music, with songs in the Kashmiri language by Mohan Lal Aima, lyrics by Shahryar, and music by Khayyam. The mega period film was to be filmed in both Hindi and English. Hence the English version was in the hands of a Japanese Oscar winner Riyuchi Sakamoto famous for lending music to masterpiece films such as -‘The last Emperor’ and ‘The Revenant’.

Illustrious American fashion designer, Mary McFadden was roped in to design period costumes when the Moghul Empire had not influenced Kashmiri attire. Antique fabrics were acquired and curated from private collections. A film set of two villages was constructed near Srinagar. Half of the film was shot in 1989 incorporating two seasons. Then insurgency struck the charming Kashmir valley and ‘Zooni’ to be released in 1990 too slept the forever slumber and the film remained in the cans never to see daylight again. But the dream of Habba Khatoon did not die; in a recent interview, Muzaffar Ali expressed his enthusiasm for remaking ‘Zooni’ the story of Habba Khatoon, with Aalia Bhatt.

The alluring story of Habba Khatoon, despite magnum attempts, to the extent of parts of music, Ghazals, songs, and shooting recorded, to create cinematic history with Habba’s poetry, remained mystifyingly incomplete. Not one, out of “Three” major film attempts, blazed a trail on the cinematic screen by Bollywood- one of the biggest film industries in the World. Each attempt came to naught. This drew the belief in Bollywood circles; of the subject of Habba Khatoon being jinxed.

Home Turf wins with “Three” part series

Alternately the Idiot Box stole the show with – a “Three” Part– Telefim in ‘Kashmiri language’ of Habba Khatoon. They won hands down, against Burley-Bollywood’s Urdu/Hindi cinema. The story of Habba Khatoon was successfully broadcast on home TV screens across Jammu & Kashmir, in the local Kashmiri dialect, winning fond adulation along with acclaim from the home state and its people.

 In the year 1970, BasheerBadgami, a Kashmiri filmmaker created a “Three” -Part tele film Series ‘Habba Khatoon’ for Doordarshan. The Tele film saw the light of day with Rita Razdan and Ghani Khan as lead actors playing the roles of Habba and King Yusuf Shah, respectively. It became the most popular Kashmiri Tele film of all time. Songs of the film were sung by famed Kashmiri singer Shameema Dev Azad, wife of Parliamentarian and former Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir – Ghulam Nabi Azad. The film to date is regarded as a befitting tribute to Habba Khatoon’s chequered life. (To be concluded)

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