I had seen him performing at Tagore hall Srinagar. He also came to our bank once to meet my colleague and close friend Raj Kumar Sharma . Raj was a close friend of his son who is an engineer and currently lives in Delhi. And then one day I met him in a Restaurant and listened to him for more than two hours . That day , he was lively , entertaining , in a good mood and accompanied by his friend and writer Prof. Sattar Ahmed Shahid . As many guest in the restaurant pulled chairs close to him, He kept singing Ghalib’s Popular Gazal
“ DARD MINNAT KASH E DAWA NA HUVAA
MEIN NA ACHHAA HUVAA BURAA NA HUVAA “
I saw him performing many times . He was a remarkable stage actor who carried a cinematic style in dialogue delivery and body movements. Tall, well built , and well dressed , you could not ignore his presence on stage or otherwise . And beneath that robust frame , lay a simple and affectionate man, always ready to help others . Quite often at his own time and cost. He was Triloke Dass , the forgotten stage actor of Kashmir.
Credit goes to his father Shri Madhav Dass for developing young Triloke’s interest in fine Arts . I am informed that Pandit Madhav Dass was also a poet and connoisseur of fine Arts, literature and a Drama artist . My maternal Grandfather ‘s family ( Pt. Gopi Nath Tikko of Zaina kadal Gaada Kochaa )and this Dass family were neighbours in Jammu sometime close to 1947 .I can not recall the year but my mother would often make mention of Shri Madhav Dass as an energetic man who knew so many things like cooking dishes , washing and ironing clothes , and even hair cutting apart from writing kashmiri poetry especially Leelas . Lines from a Shiv leela composed by late Madhav Dass were often recited by her.
At the age of 18, young Triloke went to Calcutta to get some training in Theatre and cinema acting . From Calcutta he moved to Chennai and joined Gemini Studios and acted in some films produced by this production company .Family compulsions and an emotional letter from his father brought him back to Kashmir and he took up a regular government Job in J&K Government .He retired as Assistant Director Statistics J&K Government .
Veteran Theatre personality Shri Makhan Lal saraf recently informed me as under ,
“ Triloke Dass was the most talented Artist who remained under exposed in Kashmir. He was most suitable for cinema , a bigger medium .He was a great friend and for friendship , time was not constraint with him. Never in hurry , he dealt with time in a very casual manner. Sometimes I tended to believe that he probably had won over time. But that could never be so. We acted together and were close to each other . He worked in his own style , dressed well and was too affectionate a man . I still remember his stylish and most impressive role in “ DADA ”, a play on Beggars staged at Tagore Hall Srinagar. He also did superb acting in “ MANGOO “,a play done for Field Publicity Division. ZEB was another play that he did wherein Sh Bal Krishen Qasba did a lady’s role.
I would often see him with his close friend , Mr Shogu , a Muslim from his locality /Mohalla ( Zaindaar Mohalla Srinagar) .He was much above caste creed and religious divide . Autar Ji , At this time , my mind is flooded with memories of old theatre comrades and stalwarts who were dedicated people and pioneers or trend setters . How many should I name and how many can you record ? So many names most of whom have left for their heavenly abodes . Peace be to their souls . We even had master Zinda kaul ji’s ( Kashmiri Poet ) son who would come to act during a time when theatre actors were treated shabbily by the society and nicknamed as Raas-kath . They never thought about anything in return from Theatre . Triloke also set up a Theatre group in Jammu much before 1990 that came to be known asPeoples Theatre Jammu .”
After his return from Chennai , Theatre continued to remain a high priority for him and along with Chaman lal Chrungoo, Suraj Narain Tiku, O N Khazanchi , M L Saraf and some other Artists , he founded his own theatre that came to be known as KALA KENDRA . For the first time in the history of theatre in Kashmir , Prithvi Raj Kapoor came all the way from Mumbai to inaugurate a professional Drama group at Shivala In Srinagar city .
KALA KENDRA was set up inside Shivala Mandir Near Chotta Bazaar / Neelam Cinema in Srinagar city. It was from this Shivala premises only that first professional Drama club known as SUDHAAR SAMITI NATAK VIBHAAG was set up in 1952 .Prior to that there existed IPTA theatre group in Kashmir that worked under the banner of Quomi Cultural front .
Though unwell at that point of time , Triloke Dass also acted in Bashir Budgami’s award winning Tele film “ Habba Khatoon”. He had already done a theatre version of a play on life and works of Habba Khatoon that was written by Dina Nath Madhreir ( Sugar ) .He did remarkable roles in some other plays like Mangoo, Paagal Graduate , Aaraam Haraam Hai and Baadshaah .
Theatre personality Shakeel Rehman informs me ,
“ He was a great actor . A friend ,philosopher and a guide. I worked with him in Bashir Budgami’s Film Habba Khatoon. We were together when we formed Casual Artists association for Radio and TV of which Sudhama ji koul was president and Triloke ji was vice president .He was brave , outspoken and a real Human being “
Sh Bansi Raina adds,
“Kala Kendra had a talented and wonderful team.Trilok Dass…Suraj Narayan Tikoo….Chaman Lal Charangu…Ibne Adam….Omkar Khazanchi….LAxmi RAFNarayan Koul ….Kishen Langu….Hirday Nath Gurtu….Som Nath Sumbli….ML SaRAF(initially) …Piyare Lal Razdan…..MK Raina….Bansi Koul and others.Papa Trilok Dass was the director.He was a very talented actor / director .Even though he carried a big moustache and had ROBDAAR personality , he was a gentle and a very decent human being.I was inspired by him. Though he came to Radio plays much later ,yet his presence on TV and Stage dwarfed every one. A great human being, a great actor who should have been on the forefront of any theatre history of the state. Biggest tragedy of theatre in the state has been that real people and contributors have been sidelined in theatre history compilations.”
Adds Farooq Nazki,
“ Papa or Triloke Dass was the most dignified , soft spoken, talented and affectionate Artist .He had his own style .He had a rich voice that came very close to the legendry Prithivi Raj Kapoor . “
Adds Bashir Budgami ,
“Das sahib, besides being an excellent actor was kind hearted, loving and affectionate. I have many memories of him and i would write in detail about him someday.”
Some years back when I met Playwright sajood sailani , he also made specific mention about acting talent of Triloke Dass. Triloke ji had acted in his play TAAENT KORR written by Sajood Sailani that was staged by KALA KENDRA . The play had a theme based on national integration and was successfully staged in Tagore hall in Kashmir.
I believe anything written on him shall be incomplete unless one makes some mention of his helping attitude and teacher cum trainer like qualities. These qualities and attitude made him to provide a platform and some initial training to M K Raina ( well Known theatre personality of the country who later graduated from NSD ), Bansi Koul and Upinder Khashoo . Even Musician Kishan Ji Langoo also remained associated with KALA KENDRA . Well known theatre artists namely Laxmi Narayan Kaul and Som Nath sumbly were also associated with KALA KENDRA .
Adds well known theatre actor shadi lal Kaul,
“ Triloke Dass shall always remain on the high pedestal of theatre in Kashmir. Any body writing on history of Theatre movement in Kashmir cannot ignore him. What a great actor he was ? I did a play “ WAQTUKK- CHAKKRA ” with him for Door Darshan . He was a very senior artist and out of affection and regard , we would call him Paa’pa or Paapa ji . “
Another couplet of Ghalib that he recited one day in a marriage gathering (where i was also present) , probably meant a humble self estimation in his unique style …..i quote
Hum kahaan ke daana thhay Kis hunar mein yakta thhay,
Be-sabab huvaa Ghalib Dushman aasmaan apnaa
Autar Mota is a translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.