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Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

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October-December 2001 issue

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Book Review

'Bhand Natyam'

Author : Shri Moti Lal Kemmu
Language : Kashmiri in Persian Script
Pages :178 
(Review by J.L.Manwati)

Drama has a unique place in the evolvement of aesthetics in Kashmir. Based on legends, supported by traditions, upheld by manuscripts and documented by the annals, the narrative history of drama in Kashmir can be traced to Nilamat Purana and Rajtarangini. Even though there are references enough of the traditional folk theatre in Kashmir in the ancient folklore and literature, yet drama does not seem to have taken firm roots in the valley in the early times. However, an inference of early drama in Kashmir which comes to mind is 'Bhand-Pather', which used to be performed in open fields, big courtyards, or even under the cozy shade of the Chinars for entertaining people. These professional performers called 'Bhands' or 'Bhagats' used to entertain people with their rustic humour, fine acting, curious costumes, garish makeup and above all, with lampooning satire on the courtly administration , decadent rituals and customs of the contemporary society. The topical or sometimes, on the spot, sarcasm would make 'Pather' instantly popular. Donning dominoes and masks and masquerading as animals would create interesting situations in the performance of 'pather'.

 The performers of this popular folk drama lived mostly in clans at Wahthore ( Badgam district) and Akingon (Anantnaag district). The 'Bands' of Wahthore because of their proximity to city, would frequently come to the city on festivals and perform in the courtyards of the people and in return would be gifted with cash and kind. The 'Bands' of Akingon used to perform in the nearby villages.

 In the post independence cultural upsurge in Kashmir, towards late fifties, the 'Bhands' of Wahthore under their leading artiste Mukhta Bhat and those of Akingon under Mohd. Subhan Bhagat organised themselves and formed dramatic clubs for their activities.

 It was in these very formative years of the cultural movement of Kashmir that Shri Moti Lal Kemmu who had the honour of being the first Kashmiri youth to have had a proper training in 'Kathak Shaile' of the Indian Classical dances and who had earned a degree as a National Scholar for Drama and Theatrics from Baroda University, associated himself with drama movement in Kashmir including 'Bhand Pather'. In the later years Kemmu Saheb's urge in delving into the history of drama in Kashmir made him a dedicated researcher on the subject. Being a prolific writer, Kemmu Saheb wrote many a one-act plays and dramas which were well received by the connoisseurs of art. In 1982 his trilogy 'Truch' was adjudged as the best book in Kashmiri language and was awarded by the Sahitya Academy. In 1997 Sangeet Natak Academy honoured Shri Kemmu for his contribution to Indian stage and theatrics as a Kashmiri playwright.

 The current book of Shri Kemmu 'Bhand Natyam' under review is a well researched treatise on 'Bhand Pather' dealing with various development stages of this folk drama viz its origin, gradual growth and present status visa- vis contemporary theatre in the country and its relevance in the rich repertoire of Kashmiri literature. It is a book for "all times' , which can be important source of reference for the students of Kashmiri folk drama. If Siddharth Kak's documentary on 'Bhand Pather' produced in seventies could be termed as a 'Celluloid showcase' on 'Bhand Pather' ; Kemmu saheb's 'Bhand Natyam' would rightly deserve an epithet of a 'Saga in Print' on Bhand Pather. To reach larger literati fraternity, however, English version of the 'Bhand Natyam' would be a welcome step.

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