By Mushtaque B Barq
Gorges generate echo, a profound appeal plentifully penetrating and promising. These chasms initially create insecurity, but with the passage of time, a much-protected couch to rely on. Death is simply a reality that one can never overlook. It leaves a gap, space and above all a heap of memories behind. The wind favourable or unfavorable stirs the lid and lures us to stand at the bay of the abyss to listen to the echo and retort. The sensitive ears do the needful and the rest just move and carry on. The resonance of the gulley undoubtedly carries us to the desk to put forth the reflections and we end up drafting a tribute. An artist who for eternity lives in such valleys to stimulate his co-workers and fans and more prominently the authors to redraft their contribution.
Artists like any human being cannot surpass death, but what makes an artist enjoy life even after his cremation or burial is his influence and that is sufficient to recall his artistic superiority through a tribute even after decades. One such artist who left us way back is yet seen on the stage of our cognizance. An artist who was known for his wit and ingenuity, who impressed art lovers is none other than Hriday Nath Gurtoo son of Nanak Chand Gurtoo. Hriday Nath was born in September 1934 at Kral Khud and lived there till exodus in 1990. He breathed his last at Udhumpur on 13th May 1991 at the age of 57. What makes an artist live even after his death is what all he has left for the others to follow. He is remembered for the role he had played in the promotion of art and his role in modifying never goes unnoticed. The artist rises with the rise of ‘Movement’ and falls with its fall, so rise and fall are two essential stages that not only create history but compel us to revive it in keeping the ‘Change’ into consideration. Humour which has always remained a powerful tool to puncture the balloon of pain and agony has played a serious and unforgettable role in polishing society. Actors who polish themselves with the dust of hard work and dedication only thrive life into the script, otherwise, the script is only a dead line on the skin, and it needs a performer to penetrate down the spine of the system to irritate the defaulter and to broadcast the agony of a common man who is otherwise ignored. So an artist is a mirror that shows the real face of the society only to rectify the loopholes which the satirist aims at. Hriday Nath Gurtoo as mentioned by his contemporaries was so much engrossed to perform such acts that would ensure better results.
His theatre story is itself history. He has seen the exposition and the growth of Theatre in Kashmir. He has lived with the rise of Theatre and carried forward what all he had learned and adopted both as an actor and a serious viewer. 1952 Prithwi Raj Kapoor laid a foundation stone for Natak Vibagh and Hriday Nath Gurtoo joined in. After that ‘Kashmir Hamara’, a socio-political play promoted him and he was able to showcase his acting talent in far-flung areas of the Valley. He was married in 1960 in Dhar family, the then landlords of Lar village of Ganderbal. He acted in some famous plays like Aaram Haram Hai, Uljhan, Tantkoar, Lool and Fun Te Funkaar. His love for radio was encouraged him to play a number of radio plays. His remarkable performances for Television are Dastar, Shabrang and Insaf. He also performed in telefilms like Muthi Bhar Khak, Heemal Nagray and Master Ji. He was also seen in Mehjoor, a film sponsored by the Children Film Society ‘Kashmira’
He was awarded the best actor award in 1974 by the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages for his outstanding role Tantkoar as Nand Ram. In 1975 he was adjudged as the best ‘Make up Hand’ for his performance in Be- Booj.
Dr. Sohan Koul describes Hriday Nath Gurtoo as a great artist. Dr. Koul informs that Gurtoo started his career on the stage and was the member of the oldest Theatre group of Kashmir ‘Kala Kendra’. Dr. Sohan further informs that he was the contemporary of Trilok Dass, Somnath Sumbli and Madhav Lal Ticku who all were considered as leading figures in Theatre world. Hriday Nath Gurtoo had gained popularity when he was featured in Dastaari by Hari Krishen Koul which was produced by Sh. Ashok Jailkhani. He became the household name for his famous dialogue ‘Rame Lagaie Chane Leelaye’. Dr. Koul adds that Hriday Nath Gurtoo performed a number of roles and had a tremendous edge on humour.
His Producer Sh. Ashok Jailkhani informs us that Hriday Nath Gurtoo was an iconic actor and will be remembered for his unique and distinct style of acting. As an actor, he was groomed very early at ‘Kala Kendra’, one of the earliest theatre groups of Kashmir located at Sheetal Nath, Srinagar. Ashok Jailkhani, Former Additional Director General, Doordarshan goes on to add that Hriday Nath Gurtoo during his acting peak career has worked with him in Shabrang and Dastaar. We are further informed that Hriday Nath Gurtoo’s role in Dastaar shall never fade from the minds of people. It is a known fact that his forte was comedy yet he was an actor of many dimensions. Cut out for visual media because of his very expressive eyes and restrained and controlled performances, never overdoing which many comic actors fall prey to. In real life too, he had a great sense of humour and could narrate fabulous jokes. He was a humble person without an iota of ego. His company was a treat as he would charge the atmosphere with his scintillating jokes. Alas, we lost him so soon. Ashok Jailkhani adds that Gurtoo was an accomplished makeup artist who would render his services in Theatre plays to deck up the actors with miraculous stage presence.
“H N Gurtoo is known to me since 1973. I have worked with him In Sode Te Bode and Alaav . Javid Iqbal’s Insaaf, his outstanding performance is yet fresh in my mind. It was a play of two families, Muslim and Hindu family and he played his part as the head of Hindu family with perfection. In that play he was his best, his eyes would speak, every gesture would compel you to watch him. He was a nice human being full of humour. He was sharp to react and would never spare a moment to engage you in laughter. ‘Mola’ was his standard dialect. His radio performances are equally important as his Theatre or Television performances.” Tariq Javid, an eminent actor- director.
Dr. Ayash Arif , a prominent actor-director informs us that Hriday Nath Gurtoo was an institution that would always volunteer to promote young artists. Dr. Ayash adds that Hriday Nath Gurtoo’s range of acting was immense especially in comedy. It was his artistic ability that would encourage writers to put forth satire which he would bring on the stage and Television with ease. He would add up his tincture to intensify satire and that was his quality. Dr. Ayash Arif further narrates that life is all about leaving some footprints behind and Hriday Nath Gurtoo too has left so much to be followed. There is a long list of comedians as for the Stage and Television history of Kashmir is concerned and Hriday Nath Gurtoo was one among them who has actually encouraged comedy to be staged even at the time when people were not much aware of the fact of this genre of acting. Dr. Ayash adds that Hriday Nath Gurtoo’s role is also significant because it was tough to face the audience with such kinds of performances which would bring concerned people on the toes to defend their positions. He considered Hriday Nath Gurtoo as a nice human being, gentle and generous.
“Hriday Nath Gurtoo was one of the most talented and versatile stage artists and a very distinct voice on the radio. He could change and mould his body action as well as voice quality according to the script. I must’ve seen and heard him in over a hundred performances that were successful just because he appeared in them.” Ratan Lal Shan, an eminent writer.
Kamal Razdan , a famous actor takes us back into era of the 70s when he was in college, his family had purchased a Weston company TV set and would watch a hilarious Kashmiri play- Dastar It was such a popular play that whenever he received a taunt from his father, he would start with a dialogue, ” Rame lagay chani lelaye”. Such was the impact of late Hriday Nath Gurtoo’s role in Dastar. During the mid-80s when the actor interacted with this legendary artist when he had started to perform in Doordarshan plays, late Hriday Nath Gurtoo would help juniors as a teacher. Kamal further informs us that the producers would book him for comic relief. Kamal declares late Hriday Nath Gurtoo as his teacher who taught him the sense of timing and other techniques required for an artist.
“Shri Gurtoo was among the second generation of artists if we draw a baseline from 1930 onwards. His seniors like Kashi Nath Bhan infused a spark of performing art among his juniors and Shri Gurtoo along with his contemporaries like late Trilok Dass, Late SN Sumbly, late Omkar Kazanchi, late OP Dhar and Shri ML Saraf and others continued the tradition, who would perform in ‘Sudhar Samiti’ plays at ‘Sheetal Nath’. In 1990 we all, unfortunately, had to migrate from Srinagar to Jammu, we heard that Shri Gurtoo is not keeping and is seriously ill at Udampur. We all migrant artists went to Udampur from Jammu to see him but to our shock, he had left this immortal world a day earlier, the moment of gloom still brings shock to our spines. Today when more than 30 years have passed, the artist still lives in our memories.” Kamal Razdan.
“Hriday Nath Gurtoo was a resident of Kral Khud near Sangeet Niketan. His elder brothers were working in the post office. He was full of life, he would laugh and made all follow the suit. He was equipped with a special quality that God had bestowed to him and that was his wit by virtue of which he would easily play a trick on others. He was the third brother who had actually created his own forte to carry on. He started with Kala Kendra, which is the first-ever theatre in Kashmir that was the center of attraction. He was actually inspired by the theatrical performances that steered him to acting and he was always ready to learn and perform that made him different from his contemporaries. His dialogues and gestures would go hand in hand and above all, he would create something out of nothing. His gestures were strong enough to add life to the scene. It is impossible unless the artist is blessed with natural instincts which he with the passage of time hones perfectly to make a name in the field of comedy. His way was different, at times he would create a punch on the stage even to shock the writer and the director. He was an approved radio artist.” Krishan Ji Langoo, a reputed Music composer.
“Hriday Nath Gurtoo was an inspiring performer and his role in the Theatre Movement of Kashmir is noticeable. He was well-versed with gestures that would in reciprocation aid his act. His style was apt to make comedy on the stage. He was reasonably calm and composed other than his performances wherein, he would create a situation that the audience would never like to miss. I have performed with him in Dastaar, though my role was small, yet I enjoyed his presence.” Mushtaq Bala, a filmmaker.
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