Suraj Tiku

Suraj Tiku

Suraj Tiku Suraj Tiku

Sh. Suraj Tiku was not only very interested in painting but also theatre was his passion. He acted in dramas staged by the first theatre group Kala-Kendra in the beginning at its Shivalaya stage and later at Tagore Hall, Srinagar. He made set decoration and painted background scenes for dramas. Professionally he was also employed at Song and Drama Division of J&K govt. state information.

The veteran actors of Kala-Kendra were Sh. Triloke Das (from Toongipora), Sh. Lakshmi Narayan Kaul (known popularly as Lassa Kaul of Drabiyar, he also acted in dramas of Radio Kashmir), Somnath Sumbly, and many others.

Sh.Suraj Tiku later joined the School of Design, at Exhibition grounds, Srinagar. Its director Sh. Triloke Kaul had a positive influence on Sh. Tiku's persuasion of art.

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Suraj Tiku-Evolution of an Artist

By Dr. R.K. Tamiri

SURAJ NARAIN TIKU  was a master painter-artist, a creative set-designer and a talented actor. This outstanding talent and his great personal qualities made him a legend in his life time. Suraj lived in different times when commercialism in art and theatre was still a taboo. He abhorred cheap publicity. To him art was more important than its creator. Tiku did not have godfathers either. Had an opportunity come his way he would have emerged as an artist of national fame in all genres he pursued.

Suraj Tiku with Trilok Koul

Suraj Tiku with Trilok Koul

Suraj Tiku was born on 14th June, 1929 to Pt. Govind Ram and Mrs.Imberzali. He had humble origins and an unfortunate childhood. He was still a toddler when his father died. The prevailing joint family ethos and the affectionate care of his uncles helped Suraj to grow up to adolescence without being burdened by feelings of insecurity. However, the economic hardship the family faced did not allow Suraj the luxury of pursuing higher education.

Tikus originally lived in Drabiyar locality of Habbakadal in Srinagar city. According to family sources, it was Pt. Govind Ram who took the decision to shift to Sheelteng, Babapora on the other side of Habbakadal bridge. Suraj'sgrandfather, Pt. Kailash Ram Tiku had three sons--Govind Ram, Shridhar Joo(b.1914), Madhav Lal (b.1916). Of the three brothers Govind Ram was the eldest. Pt. Kailash Ram's daughter Bonamal was married to Nanak ChandGurtu. Pt. Govind Ram's only daughter Arundati is married to Pt.Radhakrishan Raina of Dalhasanyar locality, near Drabiyar.

Pt. Govind Ram had his own business. He ran a paddy-shelling mill. The other two brothers were employed in the State government. Pt. Shridhar Joowas an Instructor in crafts. After passing 8th standard he had gone for diploma in crafts at Amar Singh Technical Institute. A man of great taste Pt.Shridhar Joo was quite affectionate to the children of his extended family. He loved to take them on study and entertainment tours to Mughal Gardens, Museum or when some high dignitary visited Srinagar.

Suraj Tiku in his studio making a portrait of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

Suraj Tiku in his studio making a portrait of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

Pt. Madhav Lal had read upto F.A. (12th Class) and served in State Cooperatives Department. Even as a student of SP College Madhav had excelled in theatre activities. Later, when he joined regular theatre Madhavwas to emerge as one of the best actors produced by Kashmir in 20th Century. He was a good adaptor and had dubbed and directed Shanta Ram'sJahez in Kashmiri very well. Madhav, a good Director was also gifted with a wonderful voice as was required in Parsi theatre. Older generations who were witness to Madhav Lal's sterling performances in Samaj Sudhar Samitiplays recall his great role as Vishwamitr in a mythological play.


Suraj had his primary schooling from the local Babapora Govt. School, the alma mater of many eminent personalities. He later joined MP High School,Dilawar Khan, passing Matriculation in 1945. Tiku enrolled subsequently at the local prestigious Amar Singh Technical Institute to obtain Diploma in Arts. His teachers at the Institute were his uncle Pt. Shridhar Joo, Pt. Shivji Raina, Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan, the legendary set-designer and a pioneer in the field of theatre direction in Kashmir. Pt. Shivji Raina was a great artist in the field of painting. His students say that Raina was an artist even in his dealings with the students and other people. His two sons Mohan and Jawahar emerged as good artists, while his third son Omkar excelled in music.

Hoshiarpur Years

After successful completion of Diploma unemployment haunted Suraj. He left for Hoshiarpur to try his luck as a Drawing teacher. It was here he struck good friendship with another Kashmiri, Pt. Shyam Nath Pandita of KhojaBagh, Baramulla. Pandita, a successful teacher in his later years, was serving in Kamahi Devi High School at Hoshiarpur. At the request of the Principal of this school, Sh. Ram Lal Suraj made a life-size portrait of him. This portrait adorns the school even today. A few years later Suraj returned to Kashmir and was appointed as a government teacher. Soon after returning from Hoshiarpur Suraj's marriage was solemnised with Uma Kaw D/oMaheshwar Nath Kaw of Zaindar Mohalla. They have two sons, Santosh andRavi, both associated with theatre. The former has also excelled in set-designing, painting, calligraphy and as a poet. Their daughter Sushma has done a Diploma in Painting.

Song & Drama Division

Suraj Tiku's first posting as Government Teacher was in Govt. High School,Pattan, where Mr. Saifuddin was Headmaster. The school had been upgraded recently from Middle to High School. Suraj was appointed as Drawingteacher. He continued to pursue painting and theatre work with full passion. In 1966 Suraj Tiku was selected for set-designing by Song and Drama Division of Ministry for Information and Broadcasting. Three other Kashmiris,Messers Krishan Langoo, Omkar Nath Khazanchi and Omkar Nath Raina were selected for acting. They were given rigorous professional training at Delhifor two years. Return of these artists in 1968 introduced a new professional approach in theatre and set-designing in Kashmir.

Artists of Song and Drama Division had to do lot of travelling with the roving theatre. Fed up with hectic travelling Suraj Tiku got an opportunity to joinSchool of Designs. He came closer to Pt. Trilok Kaul, who was the Director of the Institute. Suraj Tiku retired from the Institute on 30th June, 1984.


In 1990 when violence broke out in Valley, Suraj Tiku, who loved Kashmiremotionally was quite reluctant to leave for safety to Jammu. In June, 1990 the family decided to leave after Suraj's son Santosh was tipped off by a colleague to leave Srinagar immediately and save his life. It was a painful moment for Tikus. Retrieving his father's works was the first priority forSantosh Tiku, a sensitive person with strong sense of history. Suraj told him, "Paintings are no priority. I will redraw these. Safety should be our foremost concern".

Exile Paintings

After staying in Udhampur for 2½ months Tikus moved to Jyotipuram, where presently Santosh runs a School. Suraj's lungs had become weary due to long standing asthma and heavy smoking. He could never reconcile to 'exile'.Santosh Tiku  recalls, "Displacement was great shock to father. This affected his health. Kashmir would haunt him all the time. He gave vent to it by painting Kashmir. Whenever he remembered Kashmir he would start painting, at times not even on proper paper. Some of his paintings of this period are on the back side of invitation cards. One of his paintings shows clouds, depicting gloomy ambience. He would love this painting. He could never resist painting Kashmir'.

Suraj passed away on 26th January 1997, leaving behind many admirers and friends.

SourceKashmir Sentinel


In the write-up Suraj Tiku-Evolution of an Artist, Published in May 2008 issue of Kashmir Sentinel the name of other daughter of Late Suraj Tiku was inadvertently omitted. Mrs. Renu Tiku is second daughter of Sh. Suraj Tiku. She has her masters in Hindi and teaches at Jawahar Navodaya Vidalaya, Juganu. She had also passion for painting during her student years.


Suraj Tiku-Recollections

By Prof Sant Ji Kaul Sultan

Suraj TikuWAYBACK in 1989 I met Suraj Tikoo for the last time in Srinagar and thereafter when I moved over to Jammu. I learnt that he was staying with  his son at Udhampur. For a couple of years there was no communication between us. Then suddenly came the final parting. The icy claws of cruel death snatched him away from us for ever. It was a great personal loss. He is no longer with us now, but he has left some sweet memories, which I cherish, love and ruminate.

Suraj Tikoo had a multifaceted personality. He was an actor, a painter and a warm hearted extrovert who liked to laugh, to share joke and to establish rapport with people quickly at the emotional level.

My first encounter with Suraj Tikoo dates back to late forties. During that period many plays were being enacted by various dramatic clubs associated with certain social organisations. The aim was to expose the social evils that ate into the vitals of our society. Plays like 'Harish Chandra' and 'SatyavanSavitri' were also staged. I remember watching 'Satyavan Savitri"----a classical tale produced and directed very meticulously. It left a deep impact on the mind of the audience. A  sizeable number of spectators had gathered in a  small auditorium at Sheetal Nath Complex. The audience watched a series of tragic situations unfolded in the play. They looked sad and the atmosphere had turned grim. There was soon a short break followed by a comic interlude.

The curtain parted and the play resumed. Just then Tikoo made an entry on the stage as a young husband trying to tame his wife---a shrew. He spoke a word or so to the lady, (the role was being played by a  youngman) and she shot back in cold sarcastic note that was quite defiant. Agitated as he seemed, he burst forth into a dogrel to register his complaints against the bad tempered lady. The situation turned extremely funny. There was a commotion, the audience burst into a peal of laughter and this was followed by a loud applause.

Here was the person, who would be a good friend and companion in the years to come.

Suraj Tikoo was a talented person and acting was his forte. In the years that followed he worked successfully in many plays. He was adept in stage craft, which he had learnt under the able guidance of Pandit Kashi Nath Bhan, a well known art teacher of his time and a theatre personality. In later yearsTikoo acted in radio plays with great aplomb and made his presence felt as a versatile actor.

In early fifties there was a spurt in cultural activities in the Valley. Poets,painters actors, singers and writers gathered under the banner of Cultural Front. Tikoo and many of us worked together and exhibited our paintings along with some well known and senior artists of the state. Henceforth the art movement became broad-based and continued to flourish under the patronage of senior artists. Many art exhibitions were organised in the Valley and all of us including Tikoo infallibly participated in them.

Tikoo specialised in landscape and portrait painting. His works commanded respect amongst art lovers and connoisseurs. His lines and colours unfolded a magical energy in the landscapes that depicted his homeland-Kashmir and its environs. He loved Kashmir caringly, genuinely and whole heartedly. A small landscape presented to me by him many years ago is pregnant with sweet and sad nostalgia.

Tikoo was a delightful company and a very good friend. He was outgoing in nature and radiated an unending zest for life. Whenever I called on him there would always be a warm sincere welcome awaiting me. One comes across such a man in one's life only once in a while.

Prof. Santji SultanThe writer has remained an eminent Educationist, with passion for painting. Presently, he is based in Lucknow.


SourceKashmir Sentinel

Suraj Tiku's Genius Lay in His Art

By Dr. R.K. Tamiri

SURAJ TIKU was drawn to art instinctually. As a young boy he would pick up charcoal to draw sparrows on walls. When he was in the 5th or 6th standard his art teacher had asked him to draw a flower. Suraj finished the drawing and presented it to the teacher. The latter was annoyed and scolded him. He had an impression that somebody else had done the job for Suraj. The teacher asked him to make the drawing in his presence. He was amazed to see such free flow of lines.

Suraj's artistic instincts were spotted and honed into serious pursuit for art by Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan. The latter became Suraj's Guru, not only in painting but also in set designing and acting. Bhan was colleague and close friend of his uncle. Pt. Shridhar Joo. The former was a regular visitor to Tikus's home and had the opportunity to watch Suraj's immense talent at close hand. It is true that not many of Bhan's students achieved comparable fame and success as Suraj did. Suraj had the zeal to learn and imbibed his guru's teachings quite faithfully.

Suraj was a master artist who could do portraits and landscapes with equal ease. In later years when he came in association with Sh. Trilok Kaul at the Institute of Fine Arts Suraj received the influence of Modern Art. Suraj Tiku's abstract paintings amply reflect on his capacity to quickly adapt to the new techniques and art forms in painting.


Even as Suraj Tiku came our of the portals of Amar Singh Technical Institute he was an accomplished portrait painter. His portrait of Ram Lal, Principal of Kamahi Devi School at Hoshiarpur speaks about it. Two other portraits of this period include those of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.

Suraj Tiku's another teacher at AS Technical Institute was Pt. Jagar Nath Mattoo, an excellent portrait artist of his time. Tiku would spend lot of time with him to learn techniques in portrait-drawing. Suraj had good hold and perfection in portrait making. He would do his portrait painting in oil. Sh. Moti Lal Kemu describes him as 'the last portrait painter I know'. Suraj never made portraits for commercial purposes.

He was asked by the J&K government to make a life-size portrait of Sheikh Abdullah, the then Chief Minister. This oil on canvas painting is preserved in Sher-i-Kashmir Conference Hall at Soura Institute.

Another master portrait drawn by Suraj is that of Bhagwan Gopi Nath, an ascetic of high spiritual merit. Mr. MK Tiku, who gave the order on behalf of Bhagwan Gopi Nath Trust, recalls, "when I showed this 4x3 painting, oil on canvas, to Pt. Shankar Joo Fotedhar he was amazed. The saint was shown in sitting posture, performing Havan. Every item used in the Havan-Thal (plate), Pambash, Shakar (Jaggery ), Narjeel (coconut pieces), Kangri (local warming stove), was so well delineated. This painting was stolen in mid-1990s when some people gate-crashed into the Temple premises at Kharyar.

Other excellent portraits made by Tiku and still available to us include those of--Saint Anandji (of Vilgam), Saint Govind Kaul Jalali (of Ram Shaiv Ashram, Fatehkadal) Dr. Amarchand Kak, the first optician (1929) of Kashmir, Pt. Tika Lal Langoo, the great philanthropist and father of Sh. Krishen Langoo, the music maestro etc. He also made portraits of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mahatma  Gandhi, Dr. S.N. Ahmed Shah, the renowned physician and Sh. Chaman Lal Churangoo, one of the founders of Kala Kendra theatre.  Mr. Balkrishen Qasba's only regret is that Tiku never made portrait of his illustrious grandfather, Master Zind Kaul. He says, "Suraj made such an excellent portrait of Kishen Langoo's father, delineating his facial wrinkles so nicely".

Both the Artists Gh. Rasool Santosh and Suraj Tiku had been asked to make large-sized portraits of Pt. JL Nehru. Suraj was also quick in portrait drawing. Even while he was conversing with a person he would prepare the sketch of the person in ten minutes and the following day he would present the finished portrait to him.

Gokul Dembi, the famed painter-artist and Tiku's former colleague comments, "I found him to be the best portrait painter of his era. His use of colours was beautiful. In his portraits the colour of the skin would look so natural and portraits full of life".

Sh. M.K. Tiku, a connoisseur of art, who knew most of the master artists ofKashmir intimately, adjudges Tiku as good as Mahendra Nath Dhar, the veteran portrait artist of early 20th Century. He observes," Dhar was better known because he was there before Suraj Tiku had arrived on the scene. Also, the urban elite of Srinagar had portraits made by Dhar on orders. More than 75% of these portrait paintings had been done by him. It was quite natural that Dhar was better known".

Landscape Painting:

Suraj Tiku's landscape paintings have been much appreciated. He was equally proficient in oil as well as in water colour. Like other painters his landscape paintings have been done mostly in water colour.

Suraj loved to paint Kashmir landscapes and its rural scenes. Boat formed a regular theme in his landscape painting. To him boat symbolised Kashmir. In landscape paintings he would paint Dal and Anchar lakes and other water bodies in the vicinity of Srinagar and rural hinterland. Dal Lake has been the regular theme of local as well as foreign painters. Some of his best landscape paintings include 'A street scene in winter', 'River by Night' (Displayed at 32nd Annual All India Exhibition in 1968), 'In Kashmir' (Displayed at Art Exhibition in Jammu in 1964).

Another much appreciate landscape painting of Tiku is 'A River scene nearPurushyar Temple' in Habbakadal. This was the painting he gifted to his friend Sh MK Tiku, a trustee of Bhagwan Gopi Nath Trust and a  leading saffron trader. One evening Suraj was gossiping with Mr. Tiku at the Habbakadal bridge. He took out cover of cigarette packet and drew a pencil sketch of the area near Purushyar temple, with Jehlum flowing in its full majesty and behats (big boats) moored on its banks. Tiku asked Suraj to try a better landscape scene-near Chinar Bagh or Nehru Park. After 5-6 days Suraj droped in at Mr. Tiku's shop in Habbakadal and handed him over the painting-depicting river scene near Purushyar Temple. Great landscape painter Dina Nath Wali 'Almast' on seeing this painting in Mr MK Tiku's house had all praise for Suraj. Suraj also respected Mr. Wali and admired his landscape work. Tiku would preserve Wali's paintings. Wali's poetic collection"Sahrayuky Posh" (Desert Flowers), presented to Suraj by the author was carried by him to Jammu also. On another occasion artist GR Santosh  took this painting in his hands, kissed it and exclaimed, "Yi Chuh Kamal, Yi Gav Artist. Atha Asiah Logmut Rupaya Ya Zah, Vuchiv Kamal' (This is great. This shows the artist in him. It must have cost him a rupee or two. How wonderful it is?) Another artist from Maharashtra, who was connected with Khadi Commission and visited Mr. MK Tiku, saw the painting. He had all praise for the painting and asked Mr Tiku if the artist of the painting was alive and expressed desire to meet Suraj Tiku. The meeting could not materialise as the Maharashtrian artist had to leave early.

Oil on Canvas Work:

Suraj Tiku also did oil on canvas landscape paintings. His best paintings in oil include 'Horses', 'Roses', 'Dongas at Habbakadal' (1975) etc. 'Horses' was gifted by Suraj to Muzaffar Ali, the noted filmmaker of 'Zooni' fame. Another painting with similar title adorns Amar Mahal Gallery. 'Roses' (displaying Roses in coir basket) was presented by Tiku to Dr. Naseer. The latter on seeing this beautiful painting got up from his seat in appreciation.

Many of Suraj Tiku's paintings are in collections of J&K Cultural Academy and other Art Galleries of India. His paintings have been displayed in exhibitions held by J&K Cultural Academy and 'Visionaries' Group. This group was launched by artists serving at the Institute of Music and Fine Arts in 1969, with an objective to activate the work of art in Kashmir and hold exhibitions. Its leading lights were Suraj Tiku, Prof. Santji Sultan (Gen. Secretary), Trilok Kaul, PN Kachru, Gokul Dembi and others.

This group held an exhibition in Delhi , in which Suraj also participated with his paintings.

Suraj Tiku's paintings have been awarded for 'First Snowfall' (1963-64), 'Horses' (1965), 'Roses' (1964), 'My Land' (1967). The awards were given by J&K Cultural Academy.

Miniature Paintings:

Tiku had fascination for Kashmiri miniature paintings. Whenever a miniature painting would come his way he would preserve it in his archival collection with great care. Santosh Tiku remarks, "father did not only appreciate the antiquity or beauty of these paintings but would also speak with great sense of pride that Kashmiris had such remarkable creativity".


Tiku's contemporaries and juniors had great regard for his artistic work. Pt. Trilok Kaul, his mentor and close friend comments:

"Suraj was very sincere towards his art and profession. He was inquisitive, had will to learn and evolve. His paintings on the strength of their quality qualified for exhibitions alongwith those of Somnath Bhat, Kishori Kaul, PN Kachroo etc. Tiku's landscape paintings had an edge over those of DN Wali (particularly after 1949) as Tiku was in tune with contemporary trends in art though his base was traditional. He had seen Sat Lal Kampassi, DN Wali, British artists etc. Tiku's style was different from that of Wali. GR Santosh, however, had an edge over Suraj in line".

According to Krishan Langoo, Suraj Tiku accepted no artist other than Trilok Kaul. Tiku admired Trilok Kaul's creativity and had all appreciation for his struggle to pursue art despite hardships and economic uncertainty.

Trilok Kaul, Tiku's Director at the Institute of Fine Arts, had a positive influence on Suraj's persuasion of art. Return of Trilok Kaul and others from Baroda saw a new interest among local artists in use of bright colours and trying new art forms like cubism, expressionist styles and other forms of abstract painting. Suraj Tiku also absorbed these influences. 'Kanzalvan' (1975), a village near Gurez, is perhaps the best done by Suraj in this genre.

Gokul Dembi also admires Tiku's landscape paintings. He observes:

"Suraj would make beautiful landscape paintings. He would do in water colour usually and occasionally in oil. The reason was water colour was fashion of the day in Kashmir. Suraj's landscape paintings were done in a realistic way, his water colour used to be like water where freshness would be preserved. He would do it in traditional way. Suraj did abstract painting also. There was influence of Trilok Kaul on him but Tiku's basic concepts remained the same".

Rajinder Tiku, an eminent sculpturist remarks:

"I know Suraj more as a person who was very jovial and loved to cut jokes on anything. He would also treat his work very jovially. His work would excude energy".

Illustration Work:

Suraj Tiku would prepare portraits and sketches for Gaash, a magazine in Kashmiri, published by publication wing of J&K Education Ministry. He would also do illustration work for books brought out by the Education department. Tiku made title covers for many books, including Lol Badrayas Lol Rey, Saya Git (authored by PNK Sayil and Halas Chu Rotul' ,by Harikrishan Kaul.

Tiku used to work for exhibitions, designing models for different departments. He helped B.Ed. students in preparing models.

SourceKashmir Sentinel


Suraj Tiku was a Creative Set-Designer

By Dr. R.K. Tamiri

SURAJ TIKU had no formal training in Set-Designing. He acquired this art by assisting Late Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan, the redoubtable set-designer whose contributions to set-designing remain unrivalled by any Kashmiri even to this day. Suraj Tiku was very good in learning and adaptation. Among Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan's many students it was only Suraj Tiku who emerged as an outstanding and creative Set-Designer. Suraj's pick-up was very quick.

Set-Designing is an art in which the artist creates an illusion. In technique it is quite apart and more difficult than painting. Since the actor has to move the set-designer has to depict the movement. Unlike painting the task of designing sets is complex, involving many things.

Santosh Tiku, who learnt set-designing from his father remarks, "Father (Suraj Tiku) had great imagination drives. He  successfully designed set depicting heavenly scenes, showing gladiator emitting fire from mouth etc. In the designing of sets Father would lay stress on three aspects-understanding the situation, Focusing on the environment and background for the play and lastly, recreating the times in which the play was to be situated. I think after Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan my father was the only set-designer at the provincial level."

Music Maestro Krishen Langoo opines, "Suraj had tremendous imagery. He once showed Chouraha (Square) with a small lantern. He was creative. Even upto Bombay there was no set-designer who could match him in creativity. After 1967 Suraj Tiku concentrated mostly on set-designing".

A Republic Day Tableau-Shalimar Gardens Kashmir,

designed by Suraj Tiku

Suraj Tiku had many firsts to his credit in the history of set-designing in Kashmir. It was he who first showed river on stage and introduced three dimensional sets, beginning with 'Bina Divaron Ke Ghar' (1967).

Living legend on Kashmir's folk theatre 'Bhand Pather', Moti Lal Kemu observes, "Suraj was a good set-designer after Late Kashi Nath Bhan. He created sets for 'Bina Divaron Ke Ghar' (A house without walls', 'Taentkor' Tsaya (shade) etc. These plays had different sets. It was a difficult job to do. Yet he performed the task so well. Suraj would understand the set background to be created and knew theatre very well".

Artist Gokul Dembi corroborates," Suraj was a reputed set-designer in dramas. Continuous sets were made by him. Set designers of Delhi and other places made great money but Tiku got nothing as he was devoted to theatre. In set-designing he was very innovative and also quick in doing it. Set designing never posed any problem for him. He knew the job well and would do all things jovially. During State-sponsoredJeshan-e-Bahar Suraj did  lot of commercial work. He was a good illustrator and knew applied site of art i.e. graphics, layout etc. very well",.

Sh. O.N. Khazanchi, a versatile actor and Suraj Tiku's friend says, "Suraj was master of stage technique. In set designing Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan was the best and Suraj, the next best. Suraj made sets for plays staged in police meets and Ram Lilas, hosted by Sanatan Dharam Sabha. He would be incharge of the stage management. These sets had also to be executed quickly. Suraj did set-designing for 'Nefa Ki Sham', a play staged by Song and Drama Division. One of the sets designed by Suraj Tiku still stands at the Director's office in Song and Drama Division, New Delhi. He was a gifted artist in set-designing and adept in tricks of stage".

Delhi Training:

Suraj Tiku's great moment came in November, 1966 when he was selected for two-year training course in set-designing by Song and Drama Division. Three other artists, selected for acting, who were Suraj's fellow trainees in Delhi included ON Khazanchi, Krishen Langoo and ON Raina. Till 1966 Theatre in Kashmir was in a sense unprofessional, with conception about lights. They did not know mime and had a state-of-the art knowledge about acting or sets. Artists used to do acting just by watching others or evolving their own styles.

Selection of these four Kashmiri artists for two year professional training was a watershed in the history of Kashmir theatre. These artists had a strenuous schedule inDelhi under country's best artists. Rama Rao gave them in training in acting, set classes, lighting, breathing exercises and gestures. In addition Suraj Tiku had separate training in set-designing under Mr. Sharma, then India's leading set-designer. The training was meticulously professional.

It was during this apprenticeship at Delhi Suraj Tiku caught eye of legendary Col. Gupte. The latter was Director of Festival at Delhi. The Folk Theatre troupes from different parts of India had come to take part in the Festival. Kashmiri artists got an opportunity to work with Shombu Mitra. Visiting down memory lane Krishen Langoo recalls, "Col. Gupte was very strict and a hard disciplinarian. He debunked cheap acting. Only Tiku had free access to him. He would often say 'Tiku Ko Bulao' (call Tiku) and order Yeh Banana Hai' (this has to be made). Suraj Tiku was very quick."

Exccelling Mentor:

Col. Gupte had directed and organised, plays—'NEFA Ki Sham', Katghar', 'Kohinoor Ka Lalten'. Original sets for 'NEFA 'Ki Sham' and 'Kohinoor Ka Lalten' had been made by Sharma, Tiku's Guru in Delhi. In remaking of these sets Tiku even excelled his mentor. In sets of Kohinoor made by Tiku one could hardly find any difference between Red Fort in sets and in real.

Another occasion in which Suraj Tiku excelled his mentor, this time Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan, was when he made sets for the 'night scene'. This set became a permanent one and would be often used when situation warranted. This set had been originally designed for Samaj Sudhar Samiti plays under the guidance of Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan. Those were difficult times for a set-designer. He had to achieve objectives more by his skills, with just crude items available for painting.

This 'Night Scene' curtain showed River Bank during night, with windows of the house having multi-coloured glass panes and the light from these getting reflected on to river waters. When Kashi Nath Bhan saw the set designed by Suraj, his pupil, he felt overjoyed. Patting him in appreciation he told Suraj, '"Ab Tum Tayar Ho" (you have now come of age). Recalling this episode Balkrishen Qasba, who too worked closely with Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan, says, "the basic idea of this set was that of Sh. Kashi Nath Bhan. Through use of Hareer (glazed paper) Suraj made it more beautiful. By playing light effects a superb scene was created".

A vintage Suraj Tiku Set

Suraj Tiku was very original. As an artist he carried that rare trait-humility. He would never hesitate in appreciating the work of others. On one occasion Suraj Tiku and his colleagues, during their training in Delhi, were watching a play at the festival. In one of the scenes depicting sea the particular effect given by the set-designer gave a feeling as if the sea waves were fast moving towards the audience. The Rishi (an ascetic) was shown busy preforming puja and trying to put his foot in water. Langoo recalls, "It was first time I had seen such a remarkable scene. Suddenly, there was a slap on my cheek. I saw Suraj running out of theatre and re-entering the hall through the rear door. I was at a loss to understand why Suraj behave that way. He revealed, "I was so thrilled to see such a great scene". Suraj had slapped me in sheer excitement".

Lobo Episode:

Suraj Tiku's great skills and creativity in set-designing has become part of the folklore associated with Kashmir's modern theatre. In early 1970s, Moti Lal Kemu's 'Tsaya'was going to be staged, under the Direction of redoubtable Trilok Dass. John Max Lobo, the renowned set-designer, had recently joined Doordarshan Srinagar. In 1975 he had done make-up for Adhe Adhurye. Originally, Suraj had to make sets for 'Tsaya'. At the last moment Trilok Dass brought Lobo to do the job. Suraj was deeply hurt. He called on Krishen Langoo and said, "Trath Peyi, Triyas rood na yaad" (I feel let down. Trilok had the temerity to show this disregard to me by getting Max Lobo".  Langoo tried to calm down Tiku and took him to Nishat Bagh, to make him relax. Suraj was busy those days doing sets for Ramlila, a job he did without demanding remuneration. We have a different version on Lobo affair from Tiku's family. Suraj had told them that it was on his advice Trilok brought in Lobo for making sets for 'Tsaya'. Probably, Suraj had lied to his family to convey an impression that his substitution by Lobo was no disrespect to him. In 'Tsaya' King Avantivarman was to be shown on a snowy mountain. An ice cave was to be made in plaster of paris, with entry and exit points. Lobo came to prepare sets at Kalakendra premises. The play was to be staged at Tagore Hall the next day. Designing of the cave required good skill. When sets were ready, Lobo was stuck-up. He had kept no exit point for the cave.

At 11 0'Clock in the night anxious Trilok Dass dropped in at Suraj Tiku's house and begged him to re-make the sets for the play. Suraj was a great man. He kept his hurt feelings aside and carried alongwith him his son Santosh Bhushan Lal Bangroo, ON Gursu and Abdul Majid. Lobo's sets were dismantled. It took Suraj less than three hours to prepare new  the new sets, which looked superb by any standard. Poor Lobo had to face choicest epithets for his blunders. He had no option other than to remain silent. Preparing sets for TV is one thing, while designing these for theatre is an altogether different proposition. Next day the sets were carried in carts to Tagore Hall and erected well in time. Native genius had triumphed. Langoo recalls, "He came the following morning to inform me that he had redesigned the sets for 'Tsaya'. I made him recollect what I had said to assuage his feelings--'You should not worry'. God was Sakshatkar ( omniscent ) with Suraj Tiku".


In 1980s Krishen Langoo had been given an assignment by HMT to stage a ballet'Sangar' in Bangalore. In this ballet one of the scenes was to be--Dal Lake with Khel Vather Lotus (leaves), Houseboat and crossing over of a boat. An aerial view of Srinagar city was to be shown as it looked from Sankaracharya Hill. Suraj Tiku had accompanied Langoo for designing the sets.

On arrival in Bangalore one day was lost in sightseeing. Same evening Suraj suffered an acute attack of asthma and was virtually choking for breath. Langoo had tense moments as only 8-9 hours were left to do the job. Brave Suraj who never called quits reassured Langoo that he would be able to do the job well in time. He asked Langoo to fetch tablets he used to take to void of the attack.

The following morning Suraj declared that he was fit enough to start the work. He himself went to the market to fetch different items needed. Langoo recalls.

"Suraj purchased net to cover the stage fully. He bought cloth (Latha) and would not waste money. Suraj would always economise unlike the artists of today. He gave directions to the carpenter and tailor on how to make small pieces which were to be affixed on the net. A Hamtulbargepole was also got. Suraj brushed these small pieces, to make them look like lotus The set was raised on four pillars. This was all accomplished in 3-4 hours. The excellent quality of the sets was revealed under the effects of light. People did not see the ballet. They were mesmerised by Suraj's sets and felt as if they were actually in Kashmir".

Shuhulkul was staged in Women's College, Amirakadal. A Cabinet Minister of some state was the guest of honour. P.N. Kaul Sayil, a well-known Leela poet who was associated with the play recalls, "We had to show a Chinar tree in the sets. Many designers made an attempt but failed. Finally, we had to call Suraj Tiku. In the set made by Suraj Chinar looked so close to real one."

Rangbulbul, a play written by Sayil and directed by Krishen Langoo, was shown at Tagore Hall. A tree and variyal had to be shown in the background. In this opera child artists were being promoted for the first time. Suraj Tiku designed the sets. The tree drawn by him, showing flowers and bulbul (nightingale), looked like a live scene, as if flowers and bulbul were talking to one another. Suraj's sets were always full of life. The opera was much appreciated. Famed DD Producer Mohan Swaminatri, who too was part of the audience, later made this production for Doordarshan.

Another superb set was made by Suraj in Dana Thar (Pomegrenate Branch) in 1981-1982. This play, written by Bansi Nirdosh had been alloted simultaneously to two colleges--Women College, Nawakadal and  Women College, Amirakadal. Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah and members of a visiting German Delegation were Guests of Honour at Amirakadal College. The play had a boat song. Sh. Bihari Kak, a noted artist and a participant in the play recalls"

"First song item in the play was Boat Song. Tiku made a wonderful set that gave a feeling as if the boat was actually moving in the Dal Lake. Suraj had put polythene sheet all around and green cloth was being given movement to deliver light effect. Two people were holding the wings, shuffling polythene sheet. Girls were singing in the background. This song and the set were adjusted as the best items in the play".

Birch Art:

Krishen Langoo refers to more instances abit Suraj's creativity. Many years back the clay roof of a house in Langoo's neighbourhood at Badiyar was being dismantled. Removal of clay yielded lot of birch-bark (burza vathar). Langoo's son would go and pick pieces of burza leaves. One day Suraj visited Langoo's home and decided to create an artistic work out of these burza pieces. He spread out a plastic sheet. Cutting burza leaves into beautiful  pieces he affixed these on the plastic sheet with fevicol. Then he drew a 'behat' (boat) in river. It showed the boatman standing on its bow (nam). The reflection of behat and hanji women in river water was also shown. Suraj next showed a peasant woman with coir basket (fotu) on her head coming out of the forest and moving towards the behat. Speaking about this music maestro says, "It was a remarkable landscape. I can never forget it."

Hero Machama:

In 1990 Suraj got an assignment for making sets for low budget 'Hero Machama',written by Pushkar Bhan. Krishen Langoo was the producer and the play was to be shown in 9 episodes. The story revolved round 'Machama', a plebeian and the protagonist in the play. Fortunes take a turn. 'Machama' becomes a mill-owner and finally turns into a millionaire. The protagonist experiences a dream, in which he travels to an alien land where the King had died and the country was in the process of electing the new incumbent to the throne.

In the sets Suraj had to show the Palace of 'Sheen Shah' (the King of the alien land) with people as strange creatures. Suraj was in dilemma as he had to operate on a shoestring budget. He went to the Pandit refugee camp at Nagrota, engaged the inmates in conversation and slowly won over their confidence. His eyes fell on a small grassmat (Patji). He asked them if they could design flowers and dresses with grass. Receiving positive reply Suraj took out his sketch-book and asked them to make Sikandar Choga. He told them they had to make 10-20 pieces each of different 'unique' costumes, pulhours (grass-shoes) with long stockings. They prepared Ghagra, shirts, massband, hairlike diamond--all in grass. The project was executed in 10-12 days, the total cost entailed was less than Rs one thousand.

Maharaja's Fort in Nagrota had been taken on rent for one month for Rs 2000. Suraj Tiku put carpets on wings. Through camera effect grass displayed golden hue. In the evening small flying insects would touch the electric bulb, produce sound of 'tip' and emit smoke. In camera it was captured as 'fog'. Suraj said it was the scene of heaven. He had completed sets for 'Sheen Shah'. Somehow, the play did not see the light of the day.


Sets for all Kala Kendra plays were designed and erected by Suraj Tiku. He made sets for more than 20 plays staged by Kala Kendra. Tiku had also been assisting Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan in making sets for Sudhar Samiti plays. He assisted Bhan in designing sets for famous opera 'Bombur Ta Yemberzal', written by Kashmir's poet-laureate Pt. Dina Nath Nadim and Late Noor Mohammed Roshan in October, 1956. Sets for such famous plays--Tsaya (1973), Alav (1974), Taentkor (1979), Aram Haram Hai,Uljan, Fun Ta Funkar , Graduate Pagal, Takdir Saz, Lalligerat were made by Suraj Tiku. 'Alav' , was Kashmiri rendering of 'Jheel Bula Rahi Hai', a play written by Late Ali Mohammed Lone. Takdir Saz and Lalligerat were also written by the latter, while Taentkor was written by Sajad Sailooni. In Graduate Pagal Suraj's son, Santosh not only assisted his father in making sets but also acted first time as a child artist. Suraj's other assistants in this play were Abdul Majid and Bhushan Bangaroo.

Sets for 'Tsaya', Alav and Taentkor received awards from J&K Cultural Academy.'Tsaya' was also staged in Kashmiri Samiti ,Delhi premises.

In 1976 Suraj Tiku made sets for Ram Lilas, organised by Sanatan Dharam Pratap Sabha at Tagore Hall. He was assisted by Santosh Tiku and Bhushan Bangaroo. According to Santosh 'Ram Lila sets of this quality were not produced anywhere inIndia." These Ram Lilas were organised by Sh. Bishamber Dass Mangotrian. The direction was given by Messers Kedar Sharma and Om Sharma, while make-up was done by late Herday Nath Gurtoo. Suraj also made sets for Cultural Day function of Govt. Medical College, Srinagar in 1976.

For many plays directed by Santosh Tiku Suraj was the set-designer. Suraj Tiku would also help other set-designers as and when they needed his assistance. His contemporaries in set-designing were Messers Jawahar Lal Wanchoo and Late Omkar Nath Dhar, incidentally both of them were this author's teachers at Govt. Lower (Now High) School, RN Mandir, Chotta Bazar.

Suraj Tiku's great moment came in late 1980s when noted filmmaker Muzaffar Ali asked him to make sets for Kashmir part of the shooting of 'Zooni'. Soon after they visited Aharbal fall in Shopian area, the turmoil broke out and Suraj Tiku had to flee Kashmir.

Suraj had an opportunity to design a Tableau (Shalimar Bagh) for J&K Govt. for participation in Republic Day Parade. Suraj's Guru Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan had also designed some Tableaus. Prior to Bhan Tableaus for J&K Govt. used to be designed by Bengali artists.

Suraj Tiku was an institution builder. He never hesitated in training new generations in art and would try to give his best. His illustrious students included Herday Nath Gurtoo (Make-up), Kamal Nain Bhan (Painting), Bhushan Bangaroo (Set-designing), Santosh Tiku (Painting, Set-designing and acting) etc. Suraj would not only give professional tips regarding acting, theatre, set-designing but would also lay emphasis on 'What should be the feeling on the stage'.

SourceKashmir Sentinel

Suraj Tiku-Theatre was his passion

By Dr. R.K. Tamiri

SURAJ TIKU carved out a niche for himself in the field of painting and set-designing. The truth, however, remains that acting was his real passion. It was again the efforts of Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan that drew Suraj to theatre. Bhan was the role model so far as theatre in Kashmir was concerned. Those were the days when theatre in Kashmir was still in its infancy, with little professionalism involved in it. Many artists preferred it as a pastime, rather than making it a full time pursuit.

Tiku had no formal training in theatre. He acquired acting skills through the process of selflearning. In fact, till 1964 no artist in Kashmir had any formal training. Pt. Ved Lal Dhar (Vakil), the grand old man of Kashmir theatre, had a brief stint at Alfred Co. in Calcutta. Sh.Sham Lal Dhar Bahar was the first local artist to acquire a Diploma in Dramatics at National School of Drama under Ebrahim Alkazi. Suraj Tiku had the privilege to have acted in almost all the plays staged by Sudhar Samiti and Kala Kendra under the direction of Messers Kashi Nath Bhan, Madhav Lal Tiku and Trilok Dass.

Samaj Sudhar Phase:

Though modern Kashmiri theatre had its modest beginnings in 1920s, yet it emerged as a distinct entity only in 1940s. Two types of theatrical activity were witnessed in Kashmir simultaneously from 1944 onwards. One was community (Pandit) focused, carried on under the aegis of Samaj Sudhar Samiti. This social outfit used to host plays initially at Shital Nath but had to shift later to Shivalaya, Chotta Bazar.

Many of the leading lights of Samaj Sudhar Samiti had remained in the forefront of Kashmiri Pandit community's Roti agitation in 1932. They had also been among the pioneers in Kashmir's Theatre movement from 1928 onwards. Sudhar Samiti plays had a strong social message. These castigated dowry as a social evil, attacked extravagant feasts and expenditure on marriages and other occasions. At times plays had also historical and religious mythology themes.

Pt. Nand Lal Kaul alias Nanna was a modern poet and perhaps the first playwright among Kashmiris in 20th century. He wrote Satach Kahawat(The Touchstone of Truth), Davya-Lol (Love of God), Ramun Raj (RamRajya), Prahlad Bhagat (Bhakt Prahlad) etc. Many of his works were Kashmiri renderings from Urdu but these were done excellently.

Sudhar Samiti staged these plays of 'Nanna', besides Akanandun, Vishwamitr,Satraat, Raja Harish Chander, Shiv-Parvati, Satyavan Savitri. Suraj Tiku's real talent flowed in these plays in which he acted.

Kala Kendra Years:

By 1950-51 Sudhar Samiti's theatre activity, conducted under its 'Natak Vibag', had started losing steam. Many of its unemployed artists had found full-time job in Central ordinancedepartment and had little time to carry on theatre work on a regular basis. Also, a new generation of theatre artists had arrived on the scene. They had higher aspirations and were impatient. Sudhar Samiti found itself handicapped to respond to their urges. A new cultural outfit 'Kala Kendra' was launched by the newer artists. In a certain sense Sudhar Samiti's 'NatakVibag' took rebirth as 'Kala Kendra'. History has its own dynamic. Some of the artists of Sudhar Samiti decided to work with Kala Kendra while others faded out.

Cultural Front:

The other type of Theatre activity that gained impetus after 1947 was the one inspired by leftoriented Indian Peoples' Theatre Association (IPTA). Balraj Sahni, the great actor, who was a leading light of this movement wanted a Kashmir Chapter of IPTA. This emerged in the form ofCultural Front (later Cultural Congress). Plays, written by the Cultural Front artists were staged regularly for quite sometime. The plays focused on the life of people in general and addressed broader issues. Plays staged by Cultural Congress included 'Land to the Tiller', 'Shihil Kul', 'Bombur Ta Yemberzal', 'Himal Nagiraay', 'Neki Badi'. Kashmir’s poet-laureate Pandit Dina Nath Nadim was moving spirit behind these plays. Some of the Kala Kendra actors took part in Cultural Congress activities as well. A patriotic play ‘Kashmir Hamara Hai’ was staged under the able Direction of Sh. Kashi Nath Bhan. Suraj Tiku played a lead role in it. Suraj Tiku was not among founders of Kala Kendra since he was actively involved with Samaj Sudhar Samiti’s Theatre Work. He joined the new outfit only after Director Trilok Dass returned from Madras and enrolled himself in Kala Kendra.

Suraj was still with Sudhar Samiti's Natak Vibag when Prithviraj Kapoor, the great stage actor, came to Kashmir to lay the foundation stone of Samiti's Theatre Hall on 9th of October 1952. Kapoor had enacted Soliloquy-- ‘Merchant of Venice on the visit. Samiti hosted a play for the visiting dignitary. Prithvi Raj Kapoor was all praise for Suraj Tiku, Kashi Nath Bhan and Trilok Das.Artist BK Qasba who was present on the occasion says that Kapoor called Suraj a great artist.

Suraj Tiku’s great acting performances came in such plays- Raksha Bandhan, Sativan Savitri(1951), Krishn Janam (1952), Aurat (1953), Prahlad Bhagat (1957) Akh Nar Akh Kotamb andTarqi Ki Rah par (1962), Bina Dewaroan Ke Ghar (1967), Graduate Pagal (1972). Taent Kor, Uljan, Satraat, Widhwa, Lol Fun Funkar, Widhwa. After 1968 Suraj concentrated mainly on set-designing. Tiku worked with such veteran artists -Messers Ved Lal Vakil, Mahender Wali, Madhav Lal Tiku, Omkar Nath Khazanchi, Laxmi Narain Kaul, Hriday Nath Gurtoo, Omkar Nath Gursu alias ('Ibn Adam’), Makhan Lal Saraf (who later floated his own theatre group (‘Rang Manch'), Krishen Langoo, Pyare Lal Razdan, Moti Lal Kemu, Somnath Sumbly, Girdhari Lal Dass and many others.

Role Models:

Suraj had three idols in his life Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan (Direction and Stage Craft), Pt. Trilok Kaul (Painting) and Prithvi Raj Kapoor (Acting), Suraj Tiku was inspired by Prithvi Raj Kapoor. He would recreate him as a Kashmiri Pandit character in Kashmiri Pandit roles.

If Suraj had to choose any one after Prithvi Raj Kapoor it was Shashi Kapoor. Suraj’s friend and the versatlie actor, ON Khazanchi says, “In later days when my son took him to watch ‘Suhag’ Suraj appreciated Amitabh Bachan as well but Prithvi Raj Kapoor remained the main influence. Suraj’s delivery of dialogues was superb. In dialogue delivery he was much like Prithvi Raj Kapoor and remembered all his dialogues.”

Critics rate Suraj Tiku as one of the five best actors of modern Kashmiri theatre, alongside Ved Lal Vakil, Madhav Tiku, Som Nath Sumbly and Omkar Nath Khazanchi. In many plays Suraj and his illustrious uncle, Madhav Lal Tiku acted together. Suraj had great versatility and could play any role. Yet experts rate Khazanchi higher than Suraj in versatility. Suraj Tiku always cherished doing a role and would feel upset if denied a role in a play. Invariably Suraj would get best roles in best plays.

Suraj Tiku acted in the roles of Khandani Batta (A Pandit with distinguished lineage), money lender, Kashmiri Pandit official etc. He loved to do the role of villain as well. Suraj performed this with great finesse in plays like Manziraat, Kashmir Hamara Hai (Directed by Sh. Kashi Nath Bhan), Satraat etc. As a comedian Suraj was peerless. In many plays staged by Sudhar Samiti and Kala Kendra comedy used to be the premier item. Suraj performed comedian roles in these plays, which added to their popularity.

Best Role:

Opinions are, however, divided on Suraj’s all-time best role in acting. Bal Krishan Qasba, an artist colleague of Suraj, rates Suraj’s role as comedian in ‘Satyavan Savitri’ as the most outstanding one. Music maestro, Krishan Langoo regards Suraj’s role as daughter-in-law’s father in Satraat as the best. He recalls,” In those days Tiku was quite handsome and had curly hair, before turning bald in later years. As a 10 year old boy I had gone to see the play ‘Satraat’ at Shitalnath with my neighbour, Pt. Mahendra Wali, who was himself an actor. The play castigated dowry as a social evil. As daughter- in-law’s father Suraj had dressed himself in Achkan andTangmoori Pyjama. Suraj’s superb acting created a lasting impression on me. I developed fancy, initially for him and subsequently for theatre”.

Sh. MK Tiku, a leading Saffron trader and connoisseur of theatre admires Suraj’s role as ‘beggar’ in the play ‘Uljan’. This play was staged first at Shivalaya and later at SP College. When MK Tiku asked Suraj the secret of this great performance Suraj disclosed that for attaining perfection in this role he used to visit Charas (ShodaGali (near Hari Singh High Street) for hours together to study how begging was done.

Moti Lal Kemmu, a legendary figure in Kashmir’s folk theatre, ‘Band Pather’ describes Suraj’s role as Sarvajana Mitr in his play ‘Tsaya’ as his best ever performance. Kemu says,” "Suraj himself admitted that he enjoyed to play this role as it befitted his character. This role had to be created because there was no ideal he could imitate”.

Sarvajana Mitr, who represents the people, is a historical figurean outstanding scholar brought to Kashmir from Taxila University by King Lalitaditya. Kemu even goes to the extent of pronouncing that Late Trilok Dass owed his success primarily to the good team (which included Suraj Tiku) he had, ‘who would assemble at Chottabazar and invariably spend their evenings together’. Since Suraj had great versatility in his acting he was an asset to the organisation he was associated with. Once ‘Song and Drama Division’ had staged a play ‘Desh Hamara Hai’ at Mattan, under the direction of Gulshan Rai Kapoor, a talented actor with excellent voice. ON Raina, who had to do the role of a ‘Maharashtrian’ had not turned up. Kapoor was in a fix as Raina’s item was third on the agenda. A man of crisis that Suraj was and also who loved to take up the challenges he volunteered to do Raina’s item. Suraj did his makeup himself. It was a little difficult as he had to look like a Maharashtrian. Suraj sang and danced with gay abandon. No body could make out that Suraj was not a Maharashtrian. Gulshan Rai was so amused that tears started rolling down his eyes as he burst into laughter. ON Khazanchi the great actor, describes Suraj Tiku as an artist and actor of great calibre. He says, “I have never seen such outstanding talent. He would assist us in script/dialogue writing. Suraj was adept in tricks of stage and theatre. At times if an actor faltered in dialogue delivery Suraj knew enough tricks to cover this up, without the audience getting even remotely conscious about it.”

Kemmu is equally effusive in his praise of Suraj Tiku. He observes:“Suraj Tiku was a talented artist. He had great sense of subtle high quality humour. He would set audience thinking in understanding the satirical element in it. Suraj learnt acting from Parsi theatre, which he used to attend. He would do good acting, ranking almost equal to Madhav Lal Tiku. He was among the top five actors of his time. Suraj was equally proficient in Kashmiri as well as Urdu. He had good voice and flexibility in his body. Suraj would understand the assigned role well and then try to create and perform it equally well. His delivery of dialogues particularly in ‘Taentkor’ and ‘Tsaya’ was very good. He had a radio voice" Tiku acted in radio dramas and a number of TV plays, including ‘Simon’s Papa’. He acted in two films—'Manziraat’ (produced by Prabhat films) and ‘Shair-e- Kashmir Mehjoor (in both Kashmiri and Hindu versions). In Delhi Tiku alongwith Krishan Langoo, Ali Mohammed Rah and Ali Mohammed Nishtar had a brief role in ‘Dr. Radio’, produced by Vilayat Jafri. Suraj Tiku toured different parts of the state and the country with roving theatre of ‘Song and Drama Division’ and gave performances.


Suraj’s brilliance would come to fore in the art of make-up as well. He would perform this job for his theatre and police meet plays. Later, he trained Sh. Hriday Nath Gurtoo for this, who equally excelled in this job.

Great learner:

Suraj Tiku had great zeal to learn and improvise. He kept himself abreast with the latest trends in set-designing and painting. He never missed an issue of ‘Screen’, a film journal, to keep himself posted with what was going in the film world. At Kala Kendra he would have hair-splitting discussions with his artist colleagues. Sh. Chaman Lal Chrungoo, a veteran of Kala Kendra recalls on a nostalgic note, “Suraj was very intelligent and had great insights into the scope of a play. Since I was secretary of the organisation he would sit for hours together with me, discussing different aspects—social, psychological etc., of a play.”

Santosh Tiku, Suraj’s son recalls the atmosphere at home, saying, “At home father used to discuss theatre personalities like Ebrahim Alkazi, Prithviraj Kapoor, Balraj Sahni etc. These discussions would be joined in by Madhav Lal Tiku, his son Tej Tiku etc. Invariably these discussions would turn to plays staged by Kala Kendra. Fatherknew everything about Elkazi’s plays. He was a great learner and never hesitated to own up his inadequacies. He knew Kashmir’sfolklore pretty well and harnessed this to add new elements into plays. Father occasionally listened to music but was not a connoisseur of it. I have only heard him singing Parbhaton Ki Pedan...”

Suraj Tiku had great sense of history and maintained an archive of theatre material. He was careful not to lend it to others for the fear of losing it.

SourceKashmir Sentinel


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