BY MUSHTAQUE B BARQ
Life is a choice, different are its colours, diverse are its customs, but common is its stage where it is performed. May it be an agony to broadcast one’s pain or a comedy to reconstruct a child otherwise latent under the debris of errands? Acting is an art of making the script to talk through body language and voice modulation, but when an actor trains his facial musculature to the extent that his gesture turns to be a symbolic sign of a scene, one must bear in mind we are defining an artist who knows the art. For such an actor even dialogues and narrations become subsidiary because he attracts the attention of the audience by virtue of his control over eyes, eyebrows, facial movements, lips and then his tongue follows his own rhythm that matches with what he is playing. For a versatile actor to bring his natural comedian out is a herculean task, but those who can are flocked around by his admirers. One such ambidextrous actor of our Valley is Nazir Josh, born in Budgam in 1955. He has acquired the legacy of acting from his family and he started his acting career in 1967 from a local school and later joined the National Theatre Budgam. He performed a lead role at the age of 19 on stage for the first time at Tagore Hall, Srinagar in a folk play in 1974. His first hit was Totma followed by Hazar Dastan, Jumma German, Raza Honz, Vazvaan, Poshe Phate and Shehrang. He is popularly known as Ahad Raza, a name he earned out of his unique acting coupled with his exceptional role play that befits satire. The accent of his dialogues matches with his movements, his requirements in the frame and above all his satirical setting provided to him. The most popular political satire was Hazar Dastan and this serial became a prototype of his character as a matured comedian. He created situations throughout the serial that tickled many ribs and stretched numerous muscles of the faces that were watching him in the super hit TV serial. From Ahad Raza to Jumma German his journey as a well-grown actor can never be ignored for the reason he created his own image and space in the public domains. He has also written and performed in Intezaar and Adam. Zoolaan, Toseh Maidanich Lai, Mati Aab, Waw Lun, Nouroz, Pamposh and Jandeh Saib and many other entries have proved his grit as an actor to peep down the spine of a society that was not much open to admit satire on the stage. In Nazir Josh Show, Adhi Kak, Badhi Kakh and Saqraat , he not only gained popularity but inspired others to follow in his footsteps. He performed in What an Idea Sir Ji, as an actor in Comedy Film in the year 2011 was enough rich in acting that he lured many reputed directors of Bollywood. Nazir Josh has not only attracted the attention of viewers but also the experts and art lover. Nazir Josh has usually been projected as a stock character, a fixed set of personality traits as was a fashion with Shakespeare’s Fools. It remained to be seen how Nazir Josh will be projected in Masque or Farce in Kashmiri plays and theatrical performances.
He has won many laurels and awards like The Best Comedian-cum-Actor Award presented by His Excellency the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir State on 1998. Blot Humorous Actor Award presented by Jehlum Art Media, Srinagar, Kashmir in 1999. Certificate of Merit awarded by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar, in 2004. Best Tele-Film Maker Award, presented by Kashmir Welfare Award in 1999. Best Award for Contribution to the Electronic Media in Kashmir Valley presented by Radio Kashmir, Srinagar in 1997. Certificate of Honour (Jashn-e-Jamhoor), awarded by the directorate of information & Public Relations, J&K. Felicitated as “Khilat-e-Mehjoor” by Cultural Educational and Environmental Organization in 2012.
“Nazir Josh understood the trait of comedy and created a mid-path by way of creating a caricature and dialogue delivery in a different tone and style with motley costumes and gait of walk that became success mantra for both much-talked-about series Hazar Dastan and Jume German. Nazir started his acting as an amateur with ‘National Theatre Badgam’ by performing plays in and around Badgam district. He started with serious roles in theatre festivals organized by the J &K Academy of Art Culture and Languages. With the opening of the Television center Srinagar (1972), he too cleared the drama audition. Initially, he started to write and act in skits and short enactments for children in program BAMAN being produced by Late Shri M K Swaminatri and subsequently accepted roles whichever came his way in plays produced by Late Shri C L Hackoo and a popular series SODHE TE BODHE produced by Shri Farooq Nazki. It was Shri Bashir Badgami who recognized his hold and potential in caricaturing. Thus, Hazar Dastan a comic political satire came into existence followed by Jume German. Both were written by him. Nazir Josh is able to capture the essence of his viewers by the power of his unique style of presentation and performance.” Rajesh Kaul, Ex-Director and Head of Dept. Media Centre Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts.
“Nazir Josh is not only a TV actor but a complete theatrist. He has a superb control over his eyes and body. His body language is as accurate as any Bollywood comedian. I believe he has all the qualities of special performer who converses through his gestures and timing. When I saw him for the first time in Totma, I was mesmerized about his acting and believe me I thought he was a Hollywood actor. He had all the traits of a genuine actor. I remember a scene when in my play he was on for a dead man’s scene. I directed him to perform a death scene but cautions him to keep his eyes open. When he dropped himself down, his eyes were still for a pretty good time, there was hardly a blink. I personally have one regret about his acting and that is a serious issue which has irritated and annoyed me i.e. he was never tried for negative role which he would have performed with sheer perfection. He is a humorous poet, but in real life he is introvert, down to earth man and sincere. His fan following is tremendous. I remember once during shooting the police had to intervene to keep public in order for they were mad to see him. I wish someday I shall sign him for a negative role. His dialogue delivery, his limb movements, gestures especially eye ball control is mysterious.” Bashir Dada, Director, Producer, actor and writer.
“Nazir Josh is known to me since 1973. Almost half a century has passed, but Josh has remained there to entertain millions of Kashmiris. He has a unique style of performing satire. His performances have always been typical and worth watching. His humourous poems and subtle humour has won him a great place among the clan of humorists. But alas, we have always neglected our talented lot. Nazir Josh is always full of energy and meaningful content. Nazir Josh emerged as a household name as Ahad Raza. It was political satire with a subtle pinch of humour. His satirical poetic compositions used to be an additional pinch to his comic enactments of different characters. His talent was not given a proper platform that could have enabled him to contribute more. However, his contribution is enough to place him at a place befitting his great stature as a class humourist.” Bashir Arif, Dy. Director General (Retd) Radio Kashmir.
“Nazir Josh is household name and every Kashmiri loves him for the role he has played in Hazar Dastan. People would wait for the day to see him playing Ahad Raza and would discuss him role. He is a flexible actor, he can play any role, may it be serious or comedian. I am not satisfied by the authorities for ignoring his talent. He should have been awarded much earlier but then such tags hardly matter when an actor lives in the pulse of his admirers. He is a tremendous poet especially he writes satire. When I was the President of Adbi Markaz Kamraz I took him to attend some literary functions out of state, he fascinated one and all by his satirical poems. I don’t admire him much as an actor as I love his sense of fellow feeling and sincerity. He has no self-assertiveness, he is devoid of all complexes and formalities.” Dr. Aziz Hajni, Kashmiri writer, poet, critic and Convenor of Sahitya Akademi.
“Nazir Josh has created a niche of own. He has a potential to attract the attention of the people. His style is unique. I have worked with him both on theatre and outdoors. In one tele film we were playing our respective roles, I was as usual playing antagonist and he was on for comedy. The experience was wonderful. He is lively and knows how to add feature in the scene by virtue of his wit” Tariq Javid, a senior TV artist.
Q:-Tell us something about your background.
I was born in Budgam town of district Budgam. Budgam as we know is famous for having produced the highly revered saint Hazrat Sheikul Noorudin Noorani (RA) who is also known as Nund Resh. Budgam is a land of poets and thinkers of the highest order. The king of mysticism Shamus Faqir was also born in the same district. Besides, numerous others, the revolutionary poet Abdul Ahad Azad too were born in Budgam only. I have inherited the legacy of Art, Culture, literature, and mysticism from my family where this tradition is yet alive. It was my cousin Bashir Badgami, a filmmaker who first of all explored my potential as a comedian and signed me to play the lead role in Hazar Dastan.
Q:-What are the requirements of a Comedian?
A comedian must have control of language for the reason he has to pronounce words in a unique way to create an impact of a joke. His weapons are control over gestures and words. He must be crafty as well. You need to have thick skin to combat with the crowd who take you lightly for they believe that comedy is a natural flow of voice and whirls but believe me it requires a lot of practice and perfection. It is as challenging as playing a lead role or a negative role. And most importantly you must have your own style to perform. Your style must have universal appeal and acceptance and to maintain it you need to look at things in your own way that suits both your personality and the script. The secret of being a comedian is to be shameless, spontaneous, and skillful.
Q:-It is believed that Hazar Dastan quavered many skeletons what is your take?
It is absolutely true that a few political leaders came heavily over my performance. It was said that this serial had maligned their political career. It was an unavoidable satire on the political setup, well aimed at and generated. The then Prime Minister of India intervened and appreciated my role. My role brought a shiver down the spines of many politicians and people loved and admired me for playing the role so accurately and boldly. Every time people would find me walking through the streets of Srinagar, they would stop me to pay their respect and regards. I was able to create a unique space in their hearts. When you are appreciated by the masses, it is the highest award because people are the real judge, so I never aimed to work for awards presented by any institution. When you generate a ripple among the masses, you live by them and that is all an actor needs.
Q:-What is the role of a comedian in a conflict zone?
In conflict ridden region, the mental health of people is the worst hit. Laughter creates a kind of sensation that triggers merriment. Laughter is a non- pharmacological alternative to combat with depression and other mental health issues. As a comedian I have tried my level best to restore the mental health of my admirers. In conflict areas where entertainment seems a far distant dream, the role of a comedian becomes necessary and I have tried to come up the expectations of the people of my land. Let me tell you honestly that it is too difficult to make people laugh because you need to forget your own anxieties and troubles. Mera Naam Joker is one such remarkable film that has actually depicted the plight of a joker. I still believe that laughter is a strong medicine that cures all diseases except death. I would like to mention that laughter is our birthright and we must not waste the allotted days in wasteful ways. If you can make someone laugh, you have earned much. A good laugh lightens mental load and brings positive energy to fight against despair. I have preferred to play this role for a purpose and thank God till date people know me as an essential component ‘Comic Relief’ amidst of their hard times.
Q:-Do you think there are other players in the field who are keen to keep the shown on as comedians?
Yes, of course, there are so many who are on to shape themselves as comedians. All I need to suggest is to keep working hard to improve. Every comedian must make it natural, comedy requires a natural flow of dialogues coupled with gestures. The upcoming artists must read more about comedy and keep performing on stage. To make someone laugh is as difficult as making him forget the death of a lifelong friend, so it requires a lot of passion and penetration. I wish and pray the character of a comedian in any film or play to be secured not only to benefit the producer but to entertain the masses. One important thing that I would like to mention is that nothing comes in free in life, one has to earn his place, and therefore, one must be determined to deliver at his best both on and off the stage.
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”