BY MUSHTAQUE B BARQ
From the labyrinthine of Fathekadal, a young man walked out of Ashaie Kocha with a pleasant dream in his glittering eyes to triumph over his world. The possible world with a considerable magnitude of its own to allow a young man to breathe freely. The social sphere with a standard size for an aspirant to mark its territories. A generous heart with the profundity of its own. His backpack by heart was a loaded cargo to be carried under duress. Dropping the school bag at the stage when the family had different ideas to endorse a young boy as per their expanded mandate was not less than waging a brutal war against them. The fledgling fellow who bolted the windows of academics and pushed open the gates of art and turned to be a self-motivated TV artist is Zameer Ashai. A household name of TV viewers in early eighties. He started his career in 1974 with a stage play Khamosh Adalat Jari Hein directed by Kavi Ratan Sharma. From this theatrical performance to Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, an advertisement for unity in diversity, a song that was telecast in 1988 after Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Ghandhi concluded his Independent Day speech. Zameer Asahie represented Kashmir in the song that was performed by Bollywood icons like Shaban Azmi, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Wahida Rehman, Lata Mangeshkar , Omi Puri etc.
Apart from TV Zameer Ashai has played leading roles in some Bollywood films like Laila Majnun by Imtiyaz Ali, Shikara by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Zameer played a vital role in Hussain Khan’s Kashmir Daily and Sarwar Mir’s Bed Number 17. The man who stepped out of the confinements of conventions portrayed number of characters in TV serials like Aab – Seemab directed by Farooq Naziki, Alave directed by Farooq Naziki, Chuaraha directed by J.K. Zutshi, Mahaan (a full length film) directed by Bansi Koul, Gudya Ghar directed by Zaffar Ahmad, Bhanwar (first colour serial) directed by Zahid Manzoor, Habba Khatoon (Urdu Serial) a D.D. National Production directed by Ayash Arif, Farishtay directed by Tariq Javid , Bal Marayoo directed by Shahzad Rasool, Gulistan Boostan (a series) a D.D. Urdu Production directed by Ayash Arif and Ek Mode Par directed by Rajesh Koul. He played a leading role in Kashmiri Film Abysmal by Gul Reyaz.
Zameer Ashai has many awards credited to him, the prominent among them are:
Sadiq Memorial Award, Athwas Foundation Award, Shakir and Aslam Memorial Award. The actor was awarded by Firdous Dramatic Club and J and K Police (Budgam). Infotech Appreciation and Jammu and Kashmir Film Makers Co-operative awards are also ascribed to him.
The actor turned Producer started his own Production House under the banner: Vitasta Vision and under this house many films and serials were produced. The film Unknown Kashmir was produced for J and K Tourism. Serial like Yamerzal, Hastay Gaatay, Reh, Wadiyada Pyar Ki and Amanat were his in house productions. To promote Kashmiri language, the actor has his own U-Tube channel under the banner Kashur Studio.
“Zameer Ashai I found enriched with flair fit to occupy Indian Screen. He has all the features coupled with elaborative eminence to conquer bigger screen. Due to expansion of TV viewing his development as an artist lured him to the confines of TV and he had nothing to lose because he created his space at all India level through TV. I have worked with him and found him a versatile actor who knows how to perform in three different languages with equal severity. He is the one who has impressed me and I hope he will continue to grow as a mature actor as he was in his youth.” Farooq Nazki.
“A versatile genius of our theatre world at home. Groomed as a young artist, he touched the peaks of excellence. One of the dimensions of his impressive acting is his method acting style. He is a wonderful Director”, says Abdal Mehjoor.
“During my first short play for Doordarshan, one of the characters failed to perform, so Zameer Asahai who used to do mimicry of film actors. I approached him for the role which he denied for it was to be performed live, but I motivated him to perform and he played the role of Nawab. His role was so impressive that he was picked for Aab Seemaab. Zameer has tremendous acting potential and range”, reveals Bashir Dada.
“He is expert in mimicry, had he carried on this talent, he would have been the best in the Bollywood. I have worked with for the first time in Aab Seemaab by Farooq Nazki. I found him unparalleled, a class beyond compare and a down to earth human being. He can do justice to any role. Zameer is a friend of mine I am proud of.” Tariq Javid.
“With 40 years of acting experience, if one can draw a perfect image of a person with appealing smile aided with enthralling effect in the profound eyes, one would certainly think of Zameer Ashai. I remember when I approached Zameer Ashai to cast him in Bansi Nirdosh’s drama Ajal, he liked the script but he was not sure that such a drama can be performed on the stage for the reason it needed lot of background effects like forest, wind, thunder and lightning. I managed to do what all was possible, but his flawless acting only dumped the effects as insignificant. He was able to alter the façade during his performance in such a way that my effects proved only a tattered coat. In Inspector, I still believe that his performance was lively and pulsating. We are proud that we have an actor like Zameer Ashai.” Dr. Sohan Lal Koul.
“I found Zameer Ashai as a prototype of acting, well versed with natural flow and blend. He is the one who broke the conventions of the radio influence when he joined TV. Our TV history is incomplete without his contribution. I personally believe that he revolutionised stage acting by his multidimensional personality and dialogue delivery. He is an actor with his own style and state” Ayash Arif.
“Zameer Ashai has been an icon of Kashmir, when any one thinks of a star in Kashmir, it is certainly Zameer Ashai. He dedicated his entire life to acting and created a niche of his own.” Mushtaq Ali.
“Zameer Ashai is a common name, who started his career in 1974 as a stage artist. A versatile artist with natural talent. He has worked with me and would help the director to improve the scenes. He is a good director as well. His acting opened doors for many.” Shabir Mujahid.
Q:- How have you started your career as an actor, what was the reaction of your parents?
It is an interesting story, full of pain and pleasure. When I first put forth my option, I was alone to fight. My father out rightly repudiated my choice. Our family Ashai Family was popular and as such my father was not willing to see me as an actor for the reasons better known to him. I approached my mother and she was there to support me by all means. After learning my intensions my father deputed me as a contractor at Uri and I had no choice but to obey. I was never happy because I was sent to a far off place. I don’t know whether it was my luck or bad luck of my uncle who went into loss and had to wind off the project of which I was a part. I was called back and the incubated wish of becoming an actor motivated me to obey my own vibes. I struggled to motivate my father who had other choices for me, but then I followed my own beats to make it happen and it happened finally. There is no substitute to hard work, luck favours the brave hearts and nothing is unachievable when one finds a way to unlock his hidden talent. Of course, hardships and challenges not only reshape you, but they also put you on razor edges. Those who are ready to take risks, they have the best of the fruits to enjoy.
Q:- Who introduced you to TV and how you handled this transition?
It so happened that I attended a theatre workshop conducted by J K Academy. K Ratan Sharma was our trainer who refreshed our minds and trained us how execute the role assigned to a particular artist. After the end of the workshop out of forty artists I was the pick of the bunch. I met a Producer at TV station and motivated him to introduce mimicry in youth programme. It was something new at that time which I was keen to promote through TV. Believe me this was the opening I was looking for, and it was after this programme Farooq Nazki offered me a role in his play Aab Seemaab and then I never looked back. By the grace of Allah I found noble people around me and I owe much to them.
Q:- What type of roles you have played?
I consider myself lucky for the reason that I was offered many roles. I played as a comedian, as main character and Villain as well. One thing that I want to put on records is that I lived with the characters I performed. The in-depth study of characters guided me to establish a link between real human experiences and performance on the stage or before the wide eye we call it camera. I enjoyed every role that was assigned to me to satisfy the director and my audience. One has to be what he has to perform, otherwise acting looks artificial and ordinary. I tried my best to keep my acting natural and it worked. Zaffar Ahmad, a dynamic director offered me a lead role in his film Gudiya Ghar which I played with all my zeal and I was appreciated beyond words. In Mere Bachay an adaptation of All My Sons which was Debonair Films Production, I played a role of a father that was much cherished. In one more production of Debonair Films Bandhan I played a different role. I have done a number of serials which include Namawar under the direction of Umar Imtiyaz. I have also worked for a number of productions under the direction of Zahid Manzoor and Syed Zeeshan Fazil. As I mentioned I was lucky to present myself through different roles and people accepted me wholeheartedly.
Q :- How do you see acting as a career for the younger generation?
Acting is an art and one has to learn it like other subjects. I believe that our younger generation must go ahead with acting as a career, there is nothing wrong in it as long as they are sincere and dedicated. Now a days there are so many platforms where one can find the space provided one is trained. Our youth who are keen to opt for acting as a career must attend workshops and theater performances before facing the camera. It will certainly boost their moral and sharpen their skills.
Q: – Who are the people you have worked with and impressed you ?
I believe that I am the discovery of Farooq Nazki. I am highly indebt to Mr. Bhansi Koul who polished my skills. I played a role in his full length film Mahan. Bashir Dada played a pivot role in my promotion. I was much impressed by Ayash Arif. Jai Kishan Zutshi, Rajesh Koul, Omer Imtiyaz, Deepak Kawal, Mudasir Imityaz, Mushtaq Bala, Shahzad Rasool and many others have influenced me to the extent that I still carry their impression in my mind.
Q: – Tell us something about your latest new song in U-Tube Moaj?
Moaj is a song in which I performed, Gaffar Kanihami has sung it so well that I found myself engrossed in it. Moaj is a story of a mother, her role and significance. I dedicate this song to all the mothers for their inexplicable role. They are the best performers and I salute every mother for her quiet contribution.
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”