BY MUSHTAQUE B BARQ
Merriment under its own gown fosters melancholy, but an entertainer overlooks his anguish to deck up the faces of his admirers. Acting is one such skill that ensures entertainment when performed by a comedian whose intentions are but devoid of subjectivity. Behind that attire his own suffering suffers silently for the world only knows how to laugh, but never unfolds the mystery of merriment that is truly based on the repercussions of hard realities of life. As Charlie Chaplain says: Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long- shot. An indigenous comedian Late Shadi Lal Koul popularly known as Shamas-ud-din was an institution in himself, a complete package of wit and humour. He performed in more than 100 Kashmiri serials and plays and ruled the heads and hearts of his fans. He was inspired by the Theatre Movement in Kashmir that led him to join Kalidass Theatre, the oldest theatre group of Kashmir. The actor- producer has acted in 40 plays and by virtue of his flexibility and solemnity, his every role was better than his prior enactments. He would create a scene even without a script because of his mock – making expertise and gestures. His body language was so authoritative that his onset on the screen would giggle the audience under their ribs to make them mark his presence. He became a household name through a popular Kashmiri TV serial Shabrang ( 1981 to 1983) that not only earned him his TV name Shamas-ud-din, but he was also able to hit the bullseye by pulling the curtains of the conventional roleplay module down and lifting himself up to bring on the screen Satire and Humour in his own version. His popular hits as actor – producer are: Gurbuth written by Girish Karnad , an Indian actor, film director, Kannada writer, and a Rhodes Scholar, who mostly worked in South Indian Cinema and Bollywood. Machama by Pushkar Bhan, Trate Buzun by late Sajood Sailani, Cactus by Dr. Sohan Lal Koul,Be Wane Pouz by MakhanLal Saraf, Local Tax Extra by Dr. Sohal Lal Koul, Manzil Nika by Moti Lal Kemu, Dastar by Prof. Harikrishan Koul, Zalur by Bashir Dada, Tasruff by Amin Shakir, Ye Zaman Su Zaman by S L Byrappa, Majboor by Amin Shakir, Date of Expiry and Shukriya by Dr. Sohan Lal Koul, Gruhun by D K Ganju, Premnath vs Premnath , Rath Wanday Malinoo and Nov Gash by Makhan Lal Saraf. His other notable Kashmiri TV serials were: Houseboat, Adamzaad, Amar, Bechhada Ne, Gaash Inas Tam, Kati Kati Aachur, Tijartuk Asaan Tarike, Pazar Yeli Mood, Pagah Sholi Dunniya, Dewan Khane, Chahh, Wavlun, Rangan Hend Rang, Intiqaam, Anjaam, Ghulam Begum Badshah, Cheri Truch, Rustam Gota, Wakur Bane, Vobale Jaan and Soun Kya Soochuvi and acted in Kashmiri Film Inqalab. Late Shadi Koul has earned many awards on account of his unparalleled performances. He was awarded the best actor in Tasruf, Manzil Nikka, Dastar and Local Tax Extra.
“Dad was a friend, a brave heart. He acted throughout his life, may it be at home, at the hospital and on the death bed. I remember an incident when my brother was declared incurable by the doctors, my dad acted in such a way that he never let his son know that he is aware of the harsh reality and my brother acted accordingly, he copied dad and I was the one witnessing their acting. The tragedy that shattered him internally was to cart the dead body of his son to cremation. When his health deteriorated, I took him to Ganga Ram Hospital where he put his hand on my shoulder and smilingly informed me not to listen to the doctor if chemotherapy would be suggested. This is still a mystery how he came to know about the advancement of his disease. He often declared himself as public property. A man who entertained one and all through his acting never public his own grief and grievances. He was a real hero who taught me how to live.” Vijay Shadi Lal Koul.
“An actor should have Creative insight, he must have the ability to enter into another character with ease, energy, visual and vocal presence. He/ she should have a dedication to performing with confidence, be able to engage with the audience. Shadi Lal had attained this all over a period of time. Story narration and character description would be enough to transform this actor into a character he was to play. On the sets, the director had just to tell him the frame width for gestures and movements. Order ACTION ….and the character would come into a magical flow.
Shadi Lal, an ever-smiling affectionate, and sociable human being whose communication always brimmed with a personal touch. He began his journey in theatre together with his friend Ayash Aarif (another versatile actor) and they together founded the ‘Kalidas Theatre’ in 1973. Soon the duo became Jai & Veeru of Kashmir TV and Stage.
The beginning of a director-actor relationship between Shadi Lal and I was when we met in the early ’80s at DD Srinagar. His theatre group had prepared a skit and wanted it to be presented on TV. As the content was appealing, I included it in the program for children. After doing a series of didactic skits and short enactments under the title Shukriya, he cleared the auditions and was enrolled as a drama artist.
A careful look at him revealed humor in his mannerism and body language. Appropriate synchronization of his facial expressions, physical gestures, and dialogue became his USP. Theatre remained his passion all through and initially, he performed serious roles on Stage. Farooq Sheikh and Ms. Usha Tikoo joined him during theatre days and the trio became complementary to one another. In 1981 I directed a comedy Play Local Taxes Extra (written by Sohan Kaul) with ‘Kalidas Theatre’ featuring Shadi Lal (as Bhushan Lal), Usha Tikoo (as Usha Rani), Farooq Sheikh (as Makan Malik), and Asho Kak (as Gash Ram). The play was staged in the annual drama festival of J & K Academy of Art Culture and languages and was adjudged second best with a repeat performance at Abhinav Theater Jammu in March 1982. The success of the show was such that week-long ticketed shows were organized in Tagore Hall Srinagar later with jam-pack auditorium. The credit goes to the mesmerizing performance of the team with their vibrant and energetic performance with terrific comic timing. Soon the trio started being noticed. Fact remains that this play became the basis for their casting in popular TV serial SHABRANG when Jinab Farooq Nazki watched the play in Tagore Hall in 1982 and made an announcement there on the stage.
Shadi Lal became the face of an ordinary poor or middle-class Kashmiris through his innumerable plays telecast on Door Darshan Kendra, Srinagar, or via his performances on stage at Tagore Hall.
In 1987 Shadi Kaul gave a mesmerizing performance in Telefilm GASH YINAS TAM (political satire) written by H.K. Bharti and directed by me. Two urchins caught in curfew sitting in a local pub and under fixation that they lost their daily wages due to the curfew imposed (a weekly fixture) those days. The film was super hit due to its contemporary relevance and performance and dialogue rendition.
Pain and suffering befell him when Tele- Film Gash Yinas Tam repeated telecast in the last week of December 1989 finding it again relevant to the circumstance prevalent that time. The night following his house was gutted leaving him in a pair of clothes, forcing him to leave behind hearth and home for Jammu in 1990 like other community brethren.
Prior to our migration, we did some more productions together where Shadi Lal played various characters with vibrancies and artistic sensitivity. My teleplay production in DDK Srinagar was Kate Kate Achur a comic tragedy written by Shri Bhushan Lal Bhushan. Shadi Kaul was once again at his best in portraying an office clerk, whose most unpleasant day every month was the salary day, as he has to escape from the clutches of a grocer, milkman, washer man, barber, and many others whose bills remained unpaid. His escape through tragedy was sugarcoated by his comic gestures, which brought tearful smiles and sobbing giggles to viewers. His idiom was simply devastating as it was rendered in inimitable rustic style. The characters he lived on a television screen and the stage will remain etched on the minds and his dialogues will continue to resonance in the ears of the viewers.
Shadi Lal was a humble friend a disciplined team member, simple and easy to deal with. He was always cool in rehearsals but energetic and full of composure in performance. He will always remain alive in the deepest realms of our hearts!” Rajesh Kaul, Ex-Director and Head of Dept. Media Centre Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts.
“Shadi Lal worked with me continuously for more than a year during the production and telecast of the very popular serial Shabrang. A long serial of 104 episodes, of which I produced around 70 episodes. He was the main lead, playing the iconic character of Shamus-ud-din, which is remembered even now. This serial gave him immense recognition and made him a star. The impact was such that even after 40 years or so, the serial and Shadi Lal are remembered and revered even now. Undoubtedly a great performer both on TV and on stage. Completely at ease before the camera. Very hard working and serious about his performances. I don’t recall a single occasion when because of his laxity or lack of preparation, we had to re-do a shot or a scene. A mild-mannered down-to-earth and simple human being with no false ego. However, I feel his potential was not utilized in full. He didn’t get scripts where he could show his full potential with variety. I wish writers and directors would have offered him different subjects and characters. All the same a very genuine and a great actor.” Ashok Jail Khani.
“My association with late Shadi Lal Koul Jee, a legendary accomplished artist dates back to 1979 when he was an active member of Kali Dass Theatre. This association strengthened with each passing day. Then came the golden era of our association when we staged a classic comedy…Local Taxes Extra written by Dr. Sohan Koul. The success of this play owes to the hard work, the dedication of this great theatrist borne on this land. This great success earned him a place in the TV serial SHABRANG, a masterpiece of Jenab Farooq Nazki, Director DDK. Shadi Jee and I with Usha Tickoo became household names in the valley. Wherever we went, people would gather in thousands to offer their love and appreciation. It is very difficult to describe his talent, human nature, and dedication to theatre. He was a born and gifted artist. He remained an inspiration and role model for many young artists. He was punctual and I remember his intensity with which he conducted rehearsal with his co-actors irrespective of seniority. He would keep me on my toes. He was the one to hate laziness and would never show resentment against his co-actor or actress if the latter would skip rehearsals intentionally but would advise, guide him/her. His contribution to T.V, the Radio and Stage is praiseworthy.” Faruq Sheikh.
“Primarily Shadi Lal Koul Ji was a very humble human being. He was an actor of his own ‘class’. He was a natural actor. He used to act from his soul. He has left a huge legacy of his ‘acting style’ behind him. He was very close to my heart, so was I. I had a strong desire to work with him on stage, radio, or television but did not get any opportunity. Only once we were cast together in a TV Serial, where I was supposed to play a University student and he was to play the role of my elder brother. Mr. Qazi Faiz was also doing a role in that serial. We also did readings/rehearsals for a week or ten days. Unfortunately due to some reasons, this serial could be produced. My family members, especially my ‘mother’ was a huge fan of him. My salutes to the great actor of Kashmir.” Mushtaque Ali.
“ Yaadi Mazi Azab Hein Ya Rubb Cheen Le Muj Se Hafiza Mera ( The events of the past so tormented me, Lord! That I was taken away all of my memories) It was during my stay in Leh as the Director All India Radio Leh when I met him and spend some good time with the legend. He was a lovable person, a great soul apt to be framed as versatile artist. He would play a comic role and tragic role with equal emphasis on the character he was on for. He created a niche on his own in the famous T V serial Shabrang by Farooq Nazki. People would anything but not the serial in which he delved deep in the character of Shamas-ud-din. But as the maxim goes: Dead man’s head can’t wear a crown. Shadi Lal was ignored during his life time and was awarded posthumously which tells the tale of our reckoning an artist.” Bashir Aarif, Dy. Director General Radio Kashmir, Srinagar.
“Shadi Lal played a vital role in keeping the comic element in the drama alive. When I got the role in Shejar as Nunda against him I was given the idea that Shadi Lal may outdo me in the film because of his being a star, but he was absorbed in his role in such a way that he never made to feel that he had an edge over me. His style was unique, he would perform at his best whatever the role he was on for. ” Bashir Dada.
“I lost my purpose. Shadi Lal is the never ending shadow that still walks with me through the labyrinths of my memories. His death has folded a free end of my acting career. We were a pair known for our love, care and friendship. As an actor, I would like to say that he had lived with the characters of his society. He would act exactly like what was needed by the character he was on for. He would give you a feeling as if he is performing effortlessly, but the reality is that he would rehearse hours together and would inspire his co-actors to follow the suit. Shadi Lal was the most overlooked actor, he was not given due credit which is the saddest part of the culture we have. I was always of the opinion that he was fit to be promoted to the big screen, but like other legends, he was ignored. With his death, I feel half beaten. As a friend, I have nothing to offer, but a few tears always cascade down my cheeks when I open my laptop to rewind the reel that had captured us. And as his co-star, I have one thing to say that our chemistry was metaphysical in texture. My silence is the richest tribute to the departed soul” Ayash Arif.
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”