Title: Painting and Theatre in Kashmir—Suraj Tiku’s Journey
Author: Dr. Ramesh Tamiri
Published By: Suraj Foundation,Jammu
Price: Rs. 650 (HB), Rs300 (PB)
by Prof. R.N. Kaul
The book under review contains mindboggling information encapsulated in just 142 pages. It is so full of facts, figures and pictures concerning painters, playwrights, actors, directors etc that one feels flabbergasted at what the author has been able to achieve. For the present reviewer the journey through the book has been like an epiphany, a revelation. Even my penchant for reacting critically to books makes me feel shy. But did not Alexander Hope say, ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread? The magically enchanting vale of Kashmir has always been a natural habitat of creative artists. Her inspirational beauty – her snow-clad mountains, her blossoms, her roses, her evergreen forests, her gurgling rivers, her lakes like watery jewels – can make every sensitively aesthetic soul pour out his or her creative energy in the form of poetry or drama, or painting or song and dance and music. The vale of Kashmir – the veritable Firdaus – gave birth to mystic poets like Lala Ded and Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani. Rasul Mir, Arnimal and Haba Khatoon sang of lover’ joys and sorrows, Mehjur, Azad and Nadim expressed lyrically our passion for freedom from the centuries – old autocratic rule. And post-independence period has witnessed a Renaissance of the creative arts in the State, especially in the Valley, reaching extraordinary levels. There has been almost a mushroom growth of artists appearing on the stage of creative art, artists waiting in the wings to present their best. Poets, short-story writers, playwrights, musicians, actors, dancers, critics etc etc. have burgeoned like blossoms. And while many books have been written on Kashmiri literature etc, very few have come out concerning fine arts like painting, theatre, dance, music etc. The book under review is a laudable attempt long overdue. Mohan Lal Aima, M. L. Kemmu and M. L. Saraf have made such efforts in this direction. What distinguishes Dr. Ramesh Tamiri’s book is that he has brought all these fine arts under one roof. He has done lot of painstaking research, collected relevant material from all sorts of available sources, collected biographical details of great artists and arranged all these in a holistic and comprehensive mould.
At cursory reading the sub-title ‘Suraj Tiku’s Journey’ appears rather misleading. A discerning reader will note that not only has the author done lot of valuable work in collecting the infrastructure for his monumental book, but has also taken pains at planning of the vast data at his disposal. He has given us brief histories of both paining and theatre in Kashmir. Though these can be adequate material for separate books, yet these prove helpful for a reader who has remained ignorant about these creative arts and their protagonists. This background is necessary for understanding the contributions made by pioneers in these creative disciplines. Dr. Tamiri has demonstrated well how the fine arts like painting, theatre (including acting and stage-setting), music, dance etc. are results of hard work and how these also spring out of the imaginative faculty of the artists concerned. Then there are chapters on Kashi Nath Bhan and Suraj Tiku, the former being the guru of the latter, obviously dovetailed into each other. There have also been biographical sketches before but the two concerning Bhan and Tiku form the very foundation of the book. Bhan has been not only a guide but also an inspiration in helping the genius of Tiku to take roots and later to grow into a sprawling tree with flowers and birds to inspire other artists. At times while following the details of the growth of these artists one feels like losing sight of the forest in search of trees. This in spite of the fact that these details are of absorbing interest in themselves and also because there is a sprinkling of humour here and there. What gradually mitigates this impression is the racy narrative of the whole. In spite of being a medical professional, Dr. Tamiri shows command over the English language and hammers out a crisp narrative. After reading this book, one feels happy that the intellectual genius of Kashmiri Pandits is reasserting itself in spite of the traumatic experience of their having been hounded out of their homes and hearths in the Valley by fanatical hordes who forced their mass exodus by rape, murder and arson. One feels proud that some Kashmiri Pandit scholars have written profusely on the composite culture known as Kashmiriat. One such is by Dr. R. Tamiri. I recall such epoch making contributions like Dr. H. K. Kaul’s “Firdaus in Flames”, Bimla Raina’s “Lal Ded Meri Drishti Mein”, “The Ugly Kashmiri” by Arvind Gigoo, “Encyclopedia of Kashmiri Pandits…..” by C. L. Kaul and the latest “The Garden of Solitude” by Siddharth Gigoo.
I hope Dr. Ramesh Tamiri will keep his word of writing separate books on all the creative arts. The book is a treasure trove.
Naad, June 2011
[The writer resides at Chinore, Jammu]
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