BY MUSHTAQUE B BARQ
Life is a mystery and to live it means to be mystic. Scratch the soil you may find a treasure if not at least you leave a mark of your own. From forensic expert to sketch artist and from the impression on paper to the screen, the wonderful journey of Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan is itself an apt script for a film. Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan is the founder of the International Film Festival by the name and style of Kashmir World Film Festival and many Cultural cum literary clubs of Kashmir. PG in Geography from Kashmir University to film making, transition to many gives the impression of a fairy tale but true to the core for Mushtaaque Ali. Secretary of Cultural Club (of Kashmir University), Chairman of ACT (Actor’s Creative Theatre) and a prominent TV actor has created a niche of his own in the field of Acting, Direction, Cultural Activism and set designing. The actor became part and parcel of Doordashan, Srinagar, when there was a galaxy of players around, but Mushtaaque Ali ran off with attention and impressed one and all with pure art, dynamism and above all by his unique style of dialogue delivery. From minor roles to leading roles, the actor director’s evolution as a star is a breathtaking story. From forensic laboratories to film sets, from arms to ‘takes’ and from latitudes and longitudes to dialogue making Mushtaaque Ali managed to turn mega cameras at him. From his old love for arms and ammunitions, the actor opted for negative roles which he played with utmost accuracy. His stature and style helped him to perform on the screen as a villain. Despite limitation at the sets and lack of editing equipment, to play a villain under such circumstances was the real test of wits and guts, but to the one enshrined with potential and passion challenges bow and create a way for the generations to follow. Mushtaaque Ali not only attracted the attention of his admirers but his magnetic personality turned many filmmakers towards him and he was offered roles in Bollywood films that could not materialize for some family reasons. Starting from DAV school and ended at Kashmir University, the actor was fond of music and in the mirror of life, he would look at himself as a police cop. Like others, the classroom was never his area, but at Kashmir University his metamorphosis was on cards for the reason he turned to be politically active student that in reciprocation landed him in jail when he was arrested in 1981 for 8 days. After his release, he continued where he had left. Owing to his outspoken abilities he was elected President of the Geography Department and later he also became Secretary of the Cultural Club of Kashmir University. His acting career has been full of jubilations; the actor was felicitated by the organisation SARHAD, a Pune-based organization in 2019 for his outstanding contribution in organizing Film Festivals in Kashmir. Chinar Art Foundation in 2018 awarded the actor for his contribution in luring people towards Theatre. Infotel Award in 2017, Award of Honour by All Artists Welfare Association Jammu. For directing Sula Mout, Mushtaque Ali was awarded by the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 2015. He was appreciated and later awarded for his films like Ek Afsana Chaman Ka and Tresh Ta Tarpan. For the Stage play, Taqdeer Saaz Mushtaaque Ali emerged as a set designer and was awarded for his outstanding innovations in direction and art designing. His set designing was also appreciated in Ek Potli Armanoun Ki, Jheel Bula Rahi Hai and was awarded as Best Set Designer. Mushtaque Ali was adjudged Best Director and was honored with Shakir and Aslam Memorial Award by Jhelum Art Media for directing Tele-film Phirsaal. The actor also won the Best Award and Special Award respectively for plays Bhoma and Juloos.
“Deep down the memory lane, almost 40-45 years back a group of young artists in the age of 10-14 years was being booked by me for dramatisation of the series from Indian and western classics. Mushtaaque Ali Khan was one of the main artists who participated in these series. Mushtaaque was too promising in the making of a fine actor in the future times to come. Due to his good physique and husky voice he got preference over others for the lead roles. While recollecting the memories of those days, young Mushtaaque was always obedient, disciplined, and punctual and had the gift of God to act impromptu whenever there was a need.” SAROJNI RAINA (Former Dy. Director, Doordarshan, Bangalore)
“I know him now for many decades and had the honour of working with him too. I first saw him on stage years back in a Hindi play in Tagore Hall, Srinagar. I was amazed at the dynamic portrayal of the character he was playing, delivering long passages of the dialogue in chaste Hindi without any blemish. Since then, I have been following his emergence as an actor, a director and a producer in theatre, broadcasting, and television and even in films. What a multifaceted powerhouse of talent!. His contribution in these fields is very valuable but he will be remembered for the crusader’s job he had undertaken to organize film festivals in Kashmir at a time when the valley was almost burning and such activities were forbidden and continue to organize them even now. Mushtaque, as I lovingly call him has earned many honours and feathers for his cap but above all that, he has earned peoples’ love because he is extremely noble, soft-spoken and humble – A real good human being.” PRAN KISHORE (Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi Awardee – Author, Playwright and Director, Pune)
“First when I saw him appearing on TV, my mind suddenly went to an actor a celebrity of yesteryears, Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s younger brother Trilok Kapoor. He had a personality dominating everything, dominating the scene also. Mushtaaque Ali somehow reminded me of his personality, his height, his gestures, his hair, his sharp features, his bold and beautiful eyes and his manner of dialogue which is totally different from others. Mushtaaque Ali has a matchless sense of timing in his dialogue delivery. There are so many good actors but Mushtaaque Ali is totally different from them, number one. Number two his accent in Kashmiri is purely Kashmiri and his accent in Urdu is purely Urdu. Mushtaaque Ali is a committed friend also. He is a superclass human being.” FAROOQ NAZKI (Poet, Writer and Former Director, Doordarshan)
“Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan is a very dedicated Theatre Practitioner and an Ace Filmmaker. I have seen him always busy in doing Theatre, making Films, holding stage shows and organizing Theatre & Film Festivals. He is a committed Cultural Activist. I appreciate all his initiatives in Kashmir, especially the ‘Kashmir World Film Festival’.” ZAFAR IQBAL MANHAS (Former Secretary and Vice President of J&K Academy of Art Culture & Languages)
“Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad is an affectionate and lovable son of the soil. He has dedicated his talent to promote the art and culture of Kashmir through the medium of theatre, television and other avenues of media. In his selective field of activities, Mushtaaque Sahib has developed a deep passion for carrying forward a great message of the richness of some fine arts to the world successfully.” GHULAM NABI KHAYAL (Renowned Writer and Journalist)
“It was a strange coincidence that I met Mushtaaque Ali sometime in the late 1980s at Doordarshan Delhi. I was impressed with his bubbling enthusiasm to promote the picture of his state and the community for the craft and arts they possessed. He wanted the entire country to know about it. Later, during my assignment as Senior Director, DD Kashir I found him much matured and trained to transport the goodness of his state from various portals in media. He did some meritorious productions. He is a committed professional, a diehard theatre activist and someone who likes to promote the flavour of his region. Mushtaaque Ali to me is sort of a cultural ambassador of the state and has a long way to go and stamp his virtuosity.” VINOD KAPOOR (Former Senior Director, Doordarshan, Delhi)
“I admire his strength of character, the trust he invokes and the integrity he brings to his craft. He also stands out like a beacon in these challenging times. His Endeavour to reignite creativity through the Kashmir World Film Festival is part of his drive. To be sure, Mushtaaque has strong interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, empathy, ability to engage, and the drive to ensure that the festival ties into the longer-term vision of the state.” ASHOK KAUL TIKU (Film Writer, Director and Producer, Mumbai)
“He is an amazing actor and a very beautiful human being. When I was making Movie Tahaan, he helped me quite a bit. He is a very passionate film person. He is the main man responsible for starting the ‘Kashmir World Film Festival’, which is getting prominence. Overall he is really a passionate film lover and a fantastic actor.” SANTOSH SIVAN (ASC ISC, Director and Director of Photography)
“Until a few years ago, I knew Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan as a notable drama and film artist, a theatre personality of J&K and beyond. But I discovered in him also a good human being, warm-hearted and affectionate person when we spent a great time together in the UAE in 2017. As we shared a hotel room in Dubai, I watched him closely, wearing his life on his sleeve. Talking about his contribution in promoting theatre, film and other performing arts, he is a pioneer in his own right. He played a dominant rather gigantic role in reviving performing arts in J&K in the past few decades by himself organizing or being in the forefront of holding festivals, seminars, workshops and other events, showcasing his talent and expertise in each such activity.” YUSUF JAMEEL (Journalist)
“Mushtaaque Ali is one of the talented actors of J&K, who started acting from a very young age. Not only talented but almighty has blessed him with the best features, smartness and a dream to gain heights in the entertainment world. Despite all odds, Mushtaaque has tried hard to make his niche in this limited world that was earlier confined to Radio and Television and now is making his own existence beyond the borders of the state. His skills in the film production are unmatchable.” NAYEEMA MAHJOOR (Journalist and Penguin Author, London)
“Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan is among those in Kashmir whose heart beats for theatre and cinema. The credit for organizing several editions of Kashmir World Film Festival which brought reputed filmmakers and film educationists besides award-winning films to a place where cinema halls had closed down 30 years ago, goes to Mushtaaque Ali. He tirelessly works to encourage young Kashmiris to think of making a career in cinema and to promote film education.
I’m sure his work will bear results and someday soon Kashmir valley will produce great actors, screenwriters and technicians.” BHUPINDER KAINTHOLA (Director, FTII, Pune)
“Mushtaaque is known to me since his very early days in theatre and Television. There are actors and artists whose goal is fame and quick recognition and there are some for whom artistic pursuits are a part of their life and being. He belongs to the latter category. A full-timer dedicated himself to theatre and TV. A seasoned actor has given some very good performances both on stage and TV. His passion for theatre and other creative arts is admirable.” ASHOK JAILKHANI, Former Additional Director General Doordarshan and Author)
“We have an association of over 40 years. We have been classmates at the University. He was a stormy petrel as a student and stood for students’ welfare and rights. Later as a professional, he always dreamt big and wasn’t afraid to tread the unknown path even if thorny. I have often quoted that “You need to have certain kind of madness to think of hosting a Film Festival in Kashmir.” He made it happen because of unflinching self-belief and great organisational skills. On many an occasion, he has changed the discourse for others to follow. He has a great ability to nurture and promote youth. Mushtaaque Ali has put together a team of youngsters who are willing to give their right arm for him. I admire his enthusiasm, commitment and vision.”
SAYYED HUMAYUN QAISAR (Broadcaster, Media Trainer and Counsellor)
“Mushtaque’s association with me is now more than 4 decades old. Though we worked in Theatre and TV together and before that he also happened to be classmates in Amar Singh College, Srinagar. I remember he had a spark of performing arts during those days also. After college he got Govt. Job in Forensic Laboratory but always remained in a fix about the time management, finally his artistic passion won, he resigned from the job and devoted himself fully to the performing art. His dialogue “Surekh Karey” in the Serial Imandar made him immensely popular and he is still called “Surekh karey”. He started a film Festival at Srinagar, which is an activity done for the first time in Kashmir. This activity is a solid platform for the filmmakers of J&K, which could get possible only due to Mushtaque’s tireless efforts. He is also a well-defined Producer & Director and has done numerous productions for DD.” KAMAL RAZDAN (Actor, Director and Writer)
“The most versatile actor, director, filmmaker, I have had the privilege of knowing Mushtaaque Ali closely. He broke new grounds with the thought-provoking serials and films he has made. His contribution to the theatre is exemplary and a source of inspiration for the newcomers in the field. Apart from being a stylish and superb actor and director, he is a great human being as well. He is always there to help people, even the unknown ones who are in dire need. Mushtaaque Ahmed Ali Khan I should say is a perfect combination of a great artist and a superb human being.” RAJESH RAINA (Senior Journalist)
“Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan is synonymous with the true spirit of performing artistry in contemporary Kashmir. From theatre to television and also in the audio medium, he is a celebrated artist. His charm as a performer has not faded away with the time but excelled instead. He has created an aura of inspiration for young artists over time. His strength and dedication to his art is praiseworthy.” DR. DARAKHSHAN ANDRABI (Writer, Poet and Social Activist)
Q:-How from Geography, you ended at Acting and Directing?
Well! There was a kind of pulse within me that I never let go of. It was to present myself before the audience through acting or performing at Theatre. Basically, I started as a singer and started learning from Pt. Shambhu Nath Sopori and Sh. Kaka Ji Safaya, even at University I performed as a singer in many Cultural shows. Geography was my second love, I still believe that acting and direction have given me a name that I cherish. From the earth to ether, the transition witnessed a lot of impediments which I by the grace of Allah managed to tackle. My interest in acting kept me searching for the right kind of platform which finally I found in the form of Theatre, TV and Radio. I consider myself a true music lover because music runs through my nerves. I feel the vibrations all over me whenever music echoes around. Music has widened my horizon, my cosmos and above all, it has multiplied my requirements. It was both my keen concern and appreciation by friends, colleagues, admirers and above all by mentors that guided me through and emerged as an actor/director. Everyone is an actor I believe, we all have a sort of acting within us that we perform but fail to bring it out and nurse it, I was fast to recognize it and without any further delay I started to feed the seedling of acting within me and that helped. It is very important to grab the opportunity whenever it is available. I have read somewhere that opportunity is like a bottle with a long neck, if you hold it at right time it easily comes under the grip but once you let it go then you need a lot of efforts to hold for the reason its belly keep increasing with the passage of time and once it moves out of your control you have nothing with you save lamentations.
Q:-How difficult it was for you to create a space in the field of acting?
It is true that once you start a career, things are not there to welcome you with open arms, the same is true to me. Initially, it was too tough a job; I at times had a second opinion knocking at my doors vigorously, but then one who is mad to follow his passion, every other thing seems insignificant. I kept my cool and that worked. After initial hiccups and battering, my determination and willpower I should say it proudly came in handy and carved the artist out of the rough stone with odd edges. With time rough edges were polished, sharpness and smartness integrated and above all my incessant hard work aided my talent. One thing I have learned seriously: that hard work has no substitute. One can explore unimaginable depths and heights if one is ready to sweat to make his life sweet. I started acting in skits for the children programme of Doordarshan, Srinagar, when I was just thirteen years old and worked for two / three years for Doordarshan and then joined ‘Yuvavani’ Services of the then Radio Kashmir Srinagar as an anchor. Like all other struggling artists, I too faced a kind of hostile atmosphere at home for my mother never encouraged me for the reason not to compromise the studies. It was how with the passage of time I grew as a mature actor and created a room of my own in the hall of actors, especially in Kashmir. I have in my credit a few basic courses like Film Appreciation Course from FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) besides Basic Videography Courses from the aforesaid institute. You always have to start with the letter ‘A’ and keep on learning till you find yourself apt to write freely, the same is true to acting. One has to measure his world and act on the responses. I listened to my demands and followed them like a fallen star and finally placed myself in the inn of achievers.
Q:-You have Produced and Directed documentaries for AVRC (Audio Visual Research Centre) University of Kashmir and J&K Tourism Deptt, How different and difficult was this experience?
Working within your own limitations if on one hand is an uphill task but on the other hand limitations teach you more than lavishness. The projects were challenging and tough but then if you know the art of bringing at fore the best of you, difficulties drive you to unknown planes and enrich you to the extent of ending at something hitherto unknown or unheard and the same is true with me. In 1993 I Directed and Produced The Dying Dal Lake and in the same year The Working Children of Kashmir. These projects were really challenging for the reason the atmosphere was hostile and on the other hand, people were in a shell. It was hard to bring them out to face the camera when they were living under a constant psychological trauma. In 1994 Bhand-e-Pather, Kashmiri Music, Sarang, Surnai, Rabab, Kashmir – The Land of Shrines, and Kashmir Ki Ziarat Gahain, were some of the documentaries that I directed and Produced for AVRC (Kashmir University) and J&K Tourism. Apart from these documentaries and short films I Directed and Produced a number of serials and films for DD-Kashir like Phirsaal, Gate, Gaash –e- Tarakh, Ek Afsana Chaman Ka, Tresh Ta Tarpan and Lamhoon Ki Khata. In addition to it, I have in my credit the projects like Power Projects of J&K, Samba Prints, Hindu Temples of Srinagar and a short film on Drug Abuse.
Q:-What has been your dream Project so for?
As a Director and Producer, the most enjoyable and remarkable project was a thirteen episode on Ghalib under the title Na Hota Main To Kya Hota for DD Urdu. A 90-minute telefilm on Ghalib titled Tasawwur E Janaan was produced out of the footage of the foresaid serial. Working on such projects is really a challenge for you have to display a legend before the audience in a way you think of him. You have to prove yourself and for that research work must be accurate. These were research-based projects and to maintain the originality of script and narration I met a lot of people who had read and understood Ghalib and tried my best to bring the best out of my research. It was only after such an honest research I was able to do justice to the themes. After thorough research and several recces in states of Dehli, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP were visited to suit the location and demand of the script and finally few Palaces were shortlisted in a small town of Western UP known as Amroha, for shooting. At Amroha besides Palaces and narrow lanes, I also got appropriate properties and costumes for the said production.
In 1985, I got a chance to work in a Kashmiri serial Imandar written by Bashir Dada and Directed by Shabir Mujahid. I played a naughty student’s role, who later turns into an honest police officer. I played the Protagonist Javaid Khan’s role. This drama gave me my screen name Javaid Khan and I am still often addressed as Javaid Khan and people would often ask me to repeat the famous dialogue: “Surikh karay Surikh”.
Q:-You have been actively involved in ‘Kashmir World Film Festival’, how has it helped the local film makers?
The objective of the International Film Festival was to screen ‘Kashmiri-based Films’ as well as the selected films from the rest of India and other countries around the globe, under the slogan “Show must go on” to draw together the indigenous filmmakers under one umbrella to provide them International exposure. The last Film Festival till date received 460 films from 15 countries and 111 films from different states were screened and 25 from other countries. 136 films were screened and 30 films were awarded out of which 23 from India and 7 from other countries. 672 students from Kashmir participated in the workshops. Almost 200 delegates graced the occasion besides 15,500 film lovers. I am hopeful that Kashmir World Film Festival (KWFF) shall remain the center of attraction for filmmakers that may in reciprocity encourage tourism to a great extent. No film since 1989 has been screened in the Valley-based Cinema halls and as such, the cinema culture in Valley is history now. To uplift the actors, directors, producers, artists of the Valley KWFF was aimed to encourage them and to address their problems.
Q:-Who honed your skills and abilities as actor director?
It is a difficult question; still, I will try to answer it sincerely. For Television I was brushed up by Sarojini Raina, Basheer Badgami, Jai Kishan Zutshi, Shabbeer Mujahid, Khurshid Masoodi, and for the Radio people who promoted me are Nahida Taj Quraishi, Pran Kishore and Noor Mohammad Lala. The people who always backed up me supported me and boosted me are late Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri, late Jenab Ali Mohammad Lone, late Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani, late Jenab Qaiser Qalander, late Jenab Ashraf Sahil, Late Jenab Riyaz Geelani, Jenab Mohammad Yousuf Taing, Prof Ab. Ghani Madhosh, Jenab Farooq Nazki, Shri. Vinod Kapoor, Shri. Ajay Mittal, Shri. Kamal Razdan, and Dr. Sohal Lal Koul. I consider myself a product of the above-mentioned galaxy of experts. I have no objection in declaring that they have crafted my personality which I used to put before the audience in whatever role I was offered. The above-mentioned legends have in addition to acting / directing, guided me in all phases of life. Gurus are saints and saints are respected everywhere. I salute all these legends who taught me how to tread on pathways and hilly roads and on wet and dry planes. Whatever I am today I owe and dedicate it to them all. A student must sincerely agree that he is the product of teachers, trainers and critics.
I am highly thankful to Santosh Sivan, Ashok Jialkhani, Farooq Fayyaz, Humayun Qaiser and Ashok Kaul , Kavi Rattan, M L Kemmu and Abdul Ghani for their valuable and value-based suggestion.
Q:-What is the future of upcoming actors of the Valley?
To be honest, I don’t see any hope for some genuine reasons: Lack of infrastructure, lack of trainers and above all lack of interest, but there is always the other side of the coin. Half a cup of water to an optimist tells a different tale than the pessimist. For an upcoming actor, it is really difficult under the prevailing circumstance to survive. But having said this I have a strong gut feeling that people may recognize the artist and watch him performing on stage and on both mini and mega screen. There are so many dramatic clubs and societies wherein, an upcoming actor must get an apt environment to groom his potential and personality because there is a thumb role in acting: “Practice under the guidance of Gurus and Perform before the audience”. I wish and pray for the young generation to move on despite all odds.
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”