Dr.Shiben Krishen Raina

Pushkar Bhan: The Maestro of Satirical Brilliance

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Pushkar Bhan, the maestro of Kashmiri humor and satire, was a renowned playwright, dramatist, and theater personality. With his unique blend of satire sprawled in his ever-best literary creations, Bhan Sahib’s legacy will be cherished for years to come. His Machama Series resonated deeply with the hearts of those who listened to his plays on Radio Kashmir-Srinagar during the 1960s and 1970s. In recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Kashmiri language and literature, he was honored with the Padma Shri award. I had the privilege of translating his play Machama into Hindi for my book “Pratinidhi Sankalan: Kashmiri,” which was published by Bhartiya Gnyan Pith, New Delhi, way back in 1972. Bhan Sahib’s mastery over creating and innovating humor and satire was truly remarkable.

Pushkar Bhan was born in Srinagar (Kashmir) in 1925. From a young age, he displayed an extraordinary interest in becoming a playwright and actor. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in 1947, the year of India’s independence, Pushkar Bhan joined the Cultural Forum of the National Cultural Front, where he gained unprecedented acclaim under the guidance of Dinanath Nadim, a leading figure in promoting new cultural awareness in Kashmir. Bhan’s plays, ‘Lalkar’ in Urdu and ‘Ya Tan, Ya Tadakh’, garnered widespread public attention. His performances in Nadim’s Bombur Yamburzal, Shahid Sherwani, and Yeh Kashmir Hai received high praise and recognition.

Bhan collaborated with Som Nath Sadhu, yet another gifted artist,  on three plays: Grand Rehearsal in 1967, Chapath or ‘Slap’ in 1973, and Nav Nosh or ‘New Bride’ in 1975. These plays were staged many times, with Bhan playing pivotal roles in all three. His play Machama (1970), which he successfully produced on stage and later adapted as a serialized radio drama, remains the most renowned Kashmiri play, renowned for its melodramatic brilliance to this day. Bhan also launched the first daily radio feature in Kashmiri, ‘Zoon Dab,’ on Radio Kashmir, which earned him the Padma Shri Award in 1974. The immensely popular radio show ‘Zoon-Dab’ was broadcast daily at 11:00 a.m. for six days a week, running for a remarkable eight years. This serial garnered worldwide recognition as an exceptional production, addressing various social and economic issues of its time.

Pushkar Bhan, a renowned artist, has received a number of prestigious awards throughout his illustrious career. Apart from the Padma Shri, he has been honored with the Sahitya Academy Award in 1976 and the Jammu and Kashmir State’s Academy Award, among others. His exceptional talent as an actor and playwright was acknowledged with the Sadiq Memorial Award for Best Actor and Best Playwright.

Pushkar Bhan’s indelible fame can be attributed to his remarkable performances in notable productions such as “Myanzirath” and “Shayire-Azam Mahjoor.” He had the privilege of collaborating with acclaimed Indian actors like Balraj Sahani and Parikshit Sahani. The film based on the life of the Kashmiri poet, Mahjoor, even secured the President of India’s Gold Medal for its excellence.

Pushkar Bhan garnered immense popularity with the advent of the first television broadcasting channel in Srinagar. His laughter-satire series, “Doctor Zero,” captivated viewers and further solidified his status as a beloved entertainer. Additionally, his play “Inklab” received critical acclaim when it was televised by the Patna Channel.

An extraordinary moment in Pushkar Bhan’s career came when he played the lead role in Dina Nath Nadim’s opera, “Bombar Yamberzal.” This captivating performance took place at Srinagar’s Nidos Hotel, with none other than the then Premier of Russia, N. Khrushchev, as the special guest. Pushkar Bhan’s portrayal of the lead character, Harud (Sharat), was so mesmerizing that Khrushchev himself stepped onto the stage to offer his personal greetings to the talented artist.

Earlier in his career, Pushkar Bhan faced financial hardships in 1949, which led him to move to Mumbai in search of employment. Despite working at Modern Mills Limited during the day, he remained devoted to his true passion for acting. He became associated with the Indian People’s Theater Association (I.P.T.A) and was elected as the representative of the Urdu section within two months. However, due to domestic troubles back home, he had to return to Srinagar in 1953.

Upon his return, Pushkar Bhan found employment at the Akashvani Station of Kashmir, Srinagar, earning a daily wage of Rs. 2.50. Rather than considering this setback as a curse, he perceived it as a gift or challenge. Pushkar Bhan’s unwavering determination propelled him forward, never allowing him to dwell in the past. His relentless pursuit of excellence led to his well-deserved promotion to the esteemed position of Senior Producer by 1985. Recognizing his remarkable accomplishments and triumphant career, he was honored as the esteemed Producer Emeritus from 1988 to 1991.

Following his departure from Srinagar, Kashmir, Pushkar Bhan lived with his son in Patna, Bihar. Exiled due to the mass exodus of Pandits from the valley, he channelized his creative spirit and penned over 30 captivating episodes of “Rangan Hyendi Rang” (The Color of Many Colors). This riveting serial drama was broadcasted by the Srinagar Channel, captivating audiences with its compelling narrative.

The country mourned the loss of the extraordinary theater luminary, Pushkar Bhan, as he passed away in October 2008 at the age of 83. His departure left behind an indelible legacy, adorned with the brilliance of his timeless satirical genius.

The writer is former Fellow,IIAS,Rashtrapati Nivas,Shimla,

Ex-Member,Hindi Salahkar Samiti,Ministry of Law & Justice

(Govt. of India), Senior fellow,Ministry of culture (GOVT.OF INDIA).

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