October-December 2001 issue
Author : Shri Moti Lal Kemmu
Language : Kashmiri in Persian Script
(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.