A report on Shakespeare, a Kashmiri drama by Dr. Sohan Lal Koul, directed by Altaf Hussain.
By Mushtaque B Barq
Drama is a proclivity of a profound mind. Initially, ancient Greek and Roman dramas were aimed at promoting religious ceremonials which lead to the progress of drama. Going back to Bible, it was almost impossible for the general gender to penetrate through the Latin biblical language and to come up with something for clergy was a challenge and luckily the stage was set and drama served the purpose. Theater eternalizes the script of a drama and diffuses the messages deep down the spine of the society. Keeping the vehemence alive and active in Kashmir, a drama festival at Tagore hall was organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. It started on 15th March 2021 and ended on 27th March 2021. During these thirteen days, thirteen plays were staged that include Wutre Boneul performed by Mehak Dramatic Club, Srinagar, Artche Kaal by Yemberzal Youth Club, Srinagar, Vath by Azad Dramatic Club, Ganderbal, Tika Lal by Kashmir Cultural Society, Srinagar, Confession by Firdous Dramatic Club, Srinagar, Boche by Wahab Cultural Society, Bandipora, Ser Peth by Jhelum Valley Cultural Forum, Bandipora, Sarkaar by Curtain Call Theatre, Srinagar, Pagah Shole Duniya by Dilshad Cultural Forum, Bandipora, Secret Plan by Kashmir Valley Theatre, Srinagar, Ropyi Rood, by SR Theatre, Ganderbal, Shakespeare by Young Dramatic Society, Srinagar and Hathe Handole by Kashmir Performers Collective, Srinagar.
I watched Shakespeare by Dr. Sohal Lal Koul on the stage for the first time in the Kashmiri language directed by a young director Altaf Husain. Dr. Sohan Lal Koul in this play has not only unveiled his writing skills by taking the themes of the Bard. His in-depth study about Shakespeare and his characters was well presented on the stage to respond to so many impending queries that a sensitive writer like Dr. Koul had in the back of his mind. In this play, Dr. Koul has put forth a brilliant experiment by infusing a contemporary theme into the main plot. The experiment of the stage appeared acceptable for the reason that a minor line of action supported the main subject of the plot. Dr. Koul has raised many brows on one hand and on the other he has stirred subtle attention as well to attract the attention of the viewers and the rest of the drama writers. This blend of conventional Shakespeare’s tragic heroes and the plight of a common man living in the conflict zone has encouraged writers to hunt for such experiments. The director too had played a sincere role to bring on the stage what was aimed at by the writer.
Altaf Hussain our young director had under limitations tried to justify the presentation. It is itself a challenge to direct a foreign theme on the native stage with accuracy, but Altaf Hussain seemed to have done a lot of homework to make the characters deliver aptly. His capability as a director to stage such a serious play as well on the stage as all the characters (it seemed) had understood the mind behind their movement on the stage. I believe that set designing was apt initially but it must have been changed according to the situations on the stage. It might be the limitation of the stage otherwise there was a scope of using varied background settings.
The characters who played this wonderful play namely M. Ashraf Mir as Shakespeare in the main plot and Rashid in the subplot impressed one and all. His dialogue delivery, body language and expressions were delights to watch. His flow was an additional value to see him performing a double role as Shakespeare and Rashid. Nisar Ahmad Rather who played Hamlet for the main plot and Javid in the subplot to a large extent justified his role. His dialogue delivery and the kind of expressions need to play Hamlet on the native stage were inexplicable. His acting on the live performance was matchless. Gulzar A Nazki was on for Othello and Irfan. His style and eloquence were unique in the play, dressed in a typical Othellian attire in the main plot was an added feature to his grace. He impressed one and all by virtue of his voice quality and controlled anger.
Intikahb Alam who was on for Mechbeth and Umer adjusted himself well among the co-artists. His role as Mechbeth seemed a bit underestimated for the reason Hamlet and Othello were all over the stage. His role must have been a bit of thought. The most striking feature of the play was the role played by Ms. Abida Haroon as Desdemona and Najma. Her presence on the stage was impressive. She had adopted both a refined heroine of the Bard and a typical lady of a dramatic society. She tried her best to deliver the dialogues in Kashmir language, yet more efforts must have been put to use in correcting her pronunciation. It was a challenging job to perform Desdemona. She was the only female actress in the play to manage herself to adjust to other characters. A tough call for her but to a large extent she justified the job that was assigned to her.
Most of the important things that happen behind the curtain remain hidden but it is their vitality that brings the show on the stage. The backstage Panel Director and stage management by Mr. Mushtaq Baqal and play designer Mr. Javid Gilani and background music effects by Prof. Muzafar A Bhat cannot be ignored.
Overall the play was remarkable both in terms of script, direction and set design. Festivals of this kind must be organised periodically to promote theatre culture which in this hi-tech world has been ignored. Multimedia and the latest lighting techniques must be installed in the halls where the drams are staged to attract the attention of the general masses. And apart from it, dramas on sensitive issues must be staged to make a common man feel that his voice is being registered and recognized.
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