BY MUSHTAQUE B BARQ
From academics to theatre artist Ayash Arif is one such actor who created a world of his own wherein he bedecked academics, film making, Journalism, acting and editing under one roof. With almost forty years of experience on his back, the actor-director honed his skills through Theatre Repertory Course in 1973-74. He joined Doordarshan in 1974 as an actor and played leading roles in teleplay, series and films. It was during these years that the actor-director earned much fame, this motivated him to direct and produce programmes for Doordarshan both commissioned and in-house in the form of telefilms and documentaries, in addition to entertainment programmes for National and Regional channels. Ayash Arif directed a number of Stage Plays and was elected as a director for Kalidas Theatres, Srinagar and Festivals for J&K Filmmakers and Artists Cooperative Limited. He also worked as a Media Consultant for the Women and Child Welfare Institute of J&K. Ayash is a visiting faculty of Meewar University Rajasthan. His academic excellence found him at prestigious places as Chief Editor at ‘The Daily Kashmiriyat’ and Sub-editor at ‘The Daily Afaaq’ and Executive Producer for M/S Indian Peoples Television. By towering caliber and perseverance he was selected as a Member of the General Counsel/ Central Committee of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, and Languages.
Apart from acting, Ayash Arif has written many screenplays for tele- serial for Doordarshan like Nove Te Vow, School for Wives, Midnight Dreams, Guli and Widow besides many short stories, the prominent ones are Reah (The Flame) Wache Taluk Vopur Tcaie (The Alien Shadow within) Krehnis Shahras Menz ( In the Dark City), Yalie Gaye Daier (Thus the window opens) Friend Request, Krehein Gulab ( Black Rose), Naseif Raatch Huind Khab ( Mid Night Dream) and Hundeir Ehsaas ( Frozen Sense).
In 1970 Ayash Arif joined the active Theatre Movement in Kashmir and from that platform, the actor-director came out triumphantly by directing and acting in many stage plays like Khamosh Adalat Jari Hein, Shakespeare, Seagull, Lash Ghar, Cactus, The Bed Room, Yeh Jam Who Jam, Beghar Bane, Tasruf, Local Tax Extra, Call Girl, Be Wane Pouz, Majboor, Shaitan Ka Isteefa and Marun Chue Behtar.
Ayash Arif was awarded Best Stage Director in the Annual Youth Drama Festival in 1979 for Tasruf. The story does end here; the director-actor was also honored by the J &K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 1985 and 1986 as Best Actor Award. Chari Truch and Ghulam Begum Badshah were considered as landmarks in his direction career. He was awarded Best Director Award in 2001- 2002. His telefilm Habba Khatoon in 2009 proved him as a suitable candidate for winning Best Director Award in 2009 followed by Best Achievement Award in 2010 for another telefilm Athwas. The actor-director has till date produced more than 30 documentary films in addition to TV Films and Tele- serials, Musical programmes, Operas, etc. Ayash has not only attracted the attention of TV audience but has also earned a well-deserved reputation through Radio and has anchored a number of musical programmes for Radio Kashmir Srinagar like Mehrab, Gazal, Aap Ki Farmayesh.
“Ayash Arif is one such actor who is able to transform into a given character. He has acted in some of the productions which I directed at DD Srinagar like Hissar and Shabrang. I have observed him more through the eyes of a viewer than a director and I can vouch that he has tremendous artistic sensitivity and human sensibilities. He is not caught up in ego or technicalities, but he focuses on whomsoever he is acting with. Apart from intense actor, he has emerged as a capable and sensible director both for TV and Theatre, showing complete dedication and diligence. I remember an incident when he was to perform Solo as actor and director in 2015 in a sensitive stage play Mourtch Gor based on my short story, he got a message about the ailment of his daughter. He completed the performance and kept the shown on, later on we all accompanied him to the hospital. Apart from being capable artist, dear Ayash is a refined human being in the truest sense.” Rajesh Koul, Former Director Doordarshan and Media Educator.
“Ayash Arif is one of the finest artists of contemporary times. He performed in some of the remarkable plays and telefilms of Doordarshan. His was at his best in Imandaar against Sh. Pran Kishore. His artistic excellence was felt when he performed in the tele serial Zaal and Insaaf . I know Ayash Arif since 1974 and both of us got connected to Kalidas Theatre, where I could feel his artistic range and merit aong with late Shadi Koul. Ayash has worked seamlessly for the upliftment of Theatre and revived its tradition after 1990 when Theatre was the worst hit because of political conditions.” Dr. Sohan Lal Koul.
“Ayash Arif is totally devoted and dedicated artist. He made a mark for himself as an actor and director for TV. He is a natural performer. I have seen him growing as a matured artist and director. He is a mild mannered, cool person with a very broad vision. He has inquisitive mind aided with refine intellect.” Ashok Jailkhani.
“Ayash Arif is versatile actor, a director and producer. As an actor he is natural and as director he is perfectionist. He is a multidimensional person who kept the Theatre Movement alive and will be remembered for his contribution.” Shabir Mujahid.
“Formally I met Ayash in 1985 on the sets of Insaaf , I found him matchless for the reason he was a trained theatre artist, there was much to learn from him and I enjoyed my role with him. He is cooperative and noble soul besides an energetic actor.” Tariq Javid.
Q :-You are a multidimensional personality, you are a writer, a journalist and an actor. What has inspired you to stay in completion in these fields?
First of all, I thank Allah for his bounties. Wisdom and intellect are God-given gifts, and I applied all I have been granted by the divinity. I started writing which till date is my passion. When you write, you are an inborn actor as well, what all matters is to recognize yourself and I think I was not late to do so. Every word needs a performance to be staged and I realised that words best serve when performed and this was the kind of verve in me that I brought it before the audience and they accepted it wholeheartedly. It was the encouragement that wheeled by little ferry. As an actor, I always tried to do justice with the script that was one driving force to attract the attention of directors and the audience. Being a Journalist, my role was to maintain transparency to the extent of being close to whatever passed through my watchful eye. The biggest inspiration for any person is his requirement coupled with the intense inspection. My biggest inspiration so far has been my needs for the reason needs stimulate in you a kind of exploration and then you start following many such persons whom you find apt to fit in your attire. As for staying in completion is concerned, I believe that completion is the pulse that keeps you alive. One has to survive and for survival nothing but competition keeps one going one and creates a kind of one’s own niche. Staying in completion requires constant improvements, frequent analysis and above all to be equipped with the latest trends and techniques and I am always open to learn that is the biggest success I take pleasure in.
Q :-Training is an integral part of any creative work—where have you been trained and how have your skills been honed?
To be honest, no one has ever touched the peaks of excellence without formal training and I belong to the era when training was considered the basic building block of your career. In 1973-74 I did a Stage Repertory Course organized by the J &K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages sponsored by the National School of Drama. In 1976 I attended the Threatre Workshop conducted by the J &K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages and attended many training sessions and Seminars and Workshops for theatre, TV and the radio both at the state and national level. Apart from these formal training, I trained myself both according to the needs of the director and the script. It is by virtue of these training programmes I emerged as a leading actor for both TV and the radio. I firmly believe that in every field of life training enriches the talent and carries it to the next level; it is a cycle that goes on and on. The day you stop to train yourself, you are no more in the field for competitors are always there to score over you, so to keep the show on; one must keep training till the last drop of life.
Q :- As researcher Ayash Arif is a prominent name, kindly share with us about your publications and literary contribution.
In most of my research papers, I have to great extent tried to focus on theatre. My prominent papers are: Element of theatre in Dastan Goie, Relevance of Folk Theatre in Contemporary Society, Interpreting Sufism through Folk Form, Architecture Essence of Kashmir Valley, I have also written a research article of Hanji’s of Kashmir. Apart from these, I have written many short stories like: Vaile Gaie Dair (Kashmiri), Gruhun (Kashmiri), Naar (Kashmiri), and I have written screenplay and dialogues in the Kashmiri language for Bagu Bahar, a serial based on Mir Ahmad Dehalvi’s Chahar Darvish. These are a few of my works which not only became popular but also many scholars at the university level found these works beneficial. As a writer, I have contributed a lot to newspapers and literary magazines.
Q :-When you were introduced to TV and the radio, things might have been different than what they are now, how difficult was it to work under such limitations?
I think I have witnessed two different eras in Doordarshan Srinagar and Radio. When I was introduced it was a black and white epoch, a lot of conventions were in vogue. It was of 60 mm Black and White films. It was indeed the toughest time I have experienced because the scene was recorded in one go within the studio, it was called VTR. It was a real TV for the reason the producer had to handle many elements like music, caption change, recording. The scene was made with such intricacies that it would be ready to telecast the next moment, unlike modern scene production. With the advent of colour films, things all of a sudden changed, technology took over and lots of gadgets were used on the set. Working under those limitations was the real test of your ability. Nowadays an outburst of technology especially mobile phones, shooting and editing have turned to be fun for the kids. But I admit that with the advancement of technology, art has suffered. Contemporary film making is based on technology and software support, it is not real art but truly a mere display of machine-made film, where everything is supported by backups and software. We have lost the essential component of film making, i.e., content, for the reason we are blindly following the technological dictate and in this rat race, we have lost real acting. I see myself as a product of evolution. From low and to digital recording, things changed before my eyes and I like my colleagues adopted the changes and that is our success story.
Q :- Like other TV actors you have the privilege of earning a screen name, how has this attributed in your acting career.
Every actor is known for the character he plays and diffuses in society. I am lucky enough to earn many screen names like Akhtar, Engineer Jameel, Majeed, etc. Many people till date know me by the name of Akhtar or Engineer Jameel. I earned the name Akhtar from the drama Imandar. Insaf gave me another screen name Engineer Jameel and from Begur Bane, Majeed was added to my list. Throughout my acting career, I was always ready to learn and experiment and this inclination helped me to heal the wounds of people of the Valley when trauma has taken over and entertainment was lost in thin airs. I worked hard to reach the much-depressed minds of the people by producing two famous serials: Ghulam Begam Badshan and Chari Truch. The experiment worked and I could festoon the faces of people that were buried under the debris of unvarying melancholy. I believe that every actor has to play a positive role in imbibing hope among the general masses and he has equally a different role to perform through his acting by addressing the latent gloom of his audience. Entertainment was missing from our homes, I tried to address the masses through entertainment by aforesaid serials and the credit of reaching to the people and involving them to enjoy and rejoice goes to my friend Shadi Lal Koul popularly known as Shamus –ud- din who played his role sincerely and added grace to the above-mentioned dramas by his humor and wit. I played my part in restoring the lost smile and hope that I shall keep the show on as long as God wills.
Q :-What suggestions you would like to give you to the youngsters who are keen to take up film making as their career?
The only important message I want to give to them is to work hard and stay updated. I have learned from my mistakes and I would like to appreciate them all if they keep this spirit up and never surrender before challenges. Mistakes are our true guides, learn from them and move on. One more important recommendation on my part would be to earn honestly and learn wholeheartedly. Luck favours the brave, do take risks and keep experimenting because for any artist survival depends upon conducting experiments and carry them on for the next generation. A filmmaker must have a vision because a visionary filmmaker can only survive in this cutthroat competitive world. I would like to thank those who are determined to carry on despite hardships. I would like to pass on this message to all the youngsters that life is never a bed of roses, it is full of thorns, but the one who knows how to stand and deliver survives.
Mushtaq B.Barq is a Columnist, Poet and Fiction Writer. He is the author of “Feeble prisoner, “ Wings of Love” and many translation works are credited to the author like “ Verses Of Wahab Khar” and “ Songs Of Sochkral”