By Moti Lal Kemmu
Whenever Kashmiris migrated to other parts of the country for longer times or permanent settlement they were known as Kashmiris because of their language and customs. While speaking Hindi in Hindi-Urdu belt they could be recognized by their accent as well. A Kashmiri can easily adopt and learn languages and customs of other parts of India, particularly northern India. Most of migrated Kashmiris built Mohallas in Delhi, Lucknow, Benaras and other cities as well.
In some cities some of the lanes or by-lanes are named after Kashmiris of the locality who made their name famous by their chosen profession. Kashmiris are proud of their motherland and also feel proud in being called Kashmiri anywhere in the world.
But the famous poet-playwright of last century who is known as Kashmiri inspite of his Takhalus as 'Hashar' is Aga Mahmood, better known as Agha Hashar Kashmiri.
Kashmir is famous all around the world for its Shawls. Even during the reign of Kanishka Shawl merchants used to participate in the trade melas at Sialkote and sell shawls. They were known as 'Dausika' for selling Dussas of Pashmina.
Parents of Agha Hashar had migrated to Benaras in connection with shawl business. Aga Hashar was son of Aga Mahmad Ghani Shah who had migrated to Benaras and was married there in the year 1868 A.D. 'Hashar' was born and brought up at Banaras in Nariyal Bazar Mohalla Govind Kalan. His date of birth is 3rd April, 1879. He passed away at Lahore on 28th April, 1945. Most of the education was given to him at home and was taught Arabic, Persian and Urdu, mainly religious as his father was opposed to English and European style of education. However, on the insistance of his friends and customers Aga Hashar was admitted in Jai Narayan Mission High School. He could not get through in the tests and therefore he read at home.
At the initial stage Mahmood Hashar helped his father in business but gave it up shortly. Those days Parsi Theatre Companies were presenting shows of their plays at different cities in the country. Hashar developed taste for acting and writing plays for the companies during the days of his education. He had talent for writing poetry. Those days Parsi Theatre was real patron of poets who could write both poetry and plays. The atmosphere at home was not conducive for this activity and therefore, Agha Mahmood Hashar left for Bombay to try his luck in the field of playwrighting. At Banaras he had written a play in seven days entitled 'Aaftab-e-Mohabbat' which was not liked by the the master of the Alfred Company but was purchased for Rs 60/- by one Abdul Karim Khan owner of the Urdu paper Aksser-e-Banaras who published the same. In Bombay he met the proprietor of Alfred Co. Shri Kowas Ji Palan Ji Khataow and recited his poems to him. He liked the talent of recitation and presentation of poems by Hashar and he was appointed on Rs 15 per month for writing plays for the company. Thus started his relation with the company and he got proper atmosphere to write plays. He wroteMurid-e-Shak, his first play for the company. The play was an adaptation of Shakespeare's Winter Tale. It was successfully produced and presented by the Company and His wages were enhanced to Rs 40/- per month.
Thus started the career of a professional Playwright. His plays could be divided into four phases as per his stay in Bombay, Calcutta and other cities. We could enumerate his plays written from 1899 to 1901 for Alfred Company as under: 1. Mureed-i-Shak (1899). Hashar called it translation but some others consider it an adaptation of Shakespear's Winter Tale. The company presented it more than 50 times.
2. Nare Aasteen (1899-1900) 3. Asser--e-Hiras (1901). The play was based on B.R. Sheridan's play "Pizarro" 4. Meethi Churi or Durangi Duniya (1901) 5.Dame-Husun/Thandi Aagh (1901).
All the above plays became popular and Agha Hashar began to gain popularity.
Now other companies had also viewed the progress of Agha Hashar and recognised his talent. Within a period of half decade Hashar had experienced writing shorter songs, crisp situations, witty, sharp and pointed dialogues full of idoms and poetic virtues. Scenes were well-planned with dramatic atmosphere, romantic situations and conventional settings.
During the second phase of playwrighting from 1902 to 1910, Hashar wrote the following plays which were presented by different companies besides Alfred Company:- 1. Shahide Nan., for Alfred Company. Its some scenes were presented by some other companies of the time and later Hashar re-wrote the play after 2 years.
2. Saide Hawas, written in 1905-06 was based on Shakespeare’s "King John".
Hashar exploited Shakespear's dramatic acumen imaginatively. It was produced by Parsi Theatrical Company in 1906.
3. Safaid Khoon. Based on the plot of Shakespear’s famous tragedy "King Lear", this play was written in the year 1907 for 7 months for Bombay Natak Mandali for monthly salary of Rs 250/- 4. Khwabe Hasti. Though written in 1908 the play derives main thematic inspiration from Shakespear’s Macbeth particularly 'Dream Scene'. It was produced by New Alfred Theatrical Company.
5. Khoobsurat Bala. This 4 act play was written in 1909. This play is also considered to be influenced and adapted from Macbeth. Vice and virtue being the main theme it was a very popular play.
By now Hashar was so popular through his plays that he achieved country-wide reputation and some called him Indian Shakespeare. There were about a hundred playwrights from Hindi-Urdu belt, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Bombay, Delhi and even Lahore and Calcutta who were writing for different Parsi Theatrical Companies and must have influenced each other as is evident from similarity of titles of some other plays. But those who were contemporaries of Hashar and may have influenced him or got influenced in one way or other were Munshi Mahmood Ali Miyan 'Benarasi', Pt.
Narayan Prasad 'Betab', Mir Ghulam Abbas, Qazi Sayaad Hussain 'Nashtar', Shaad Abdul Lateef, and Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Naja. During his third phase of playwrighting Hashar wrote some of the significant plays and also moved to Calcutta from Bombay where he found atmosphere more congenial for his writing-ability.
1. Silver King (1910) based on the play of Henry Arthur Jones of the same title. It was known under another title of Naik Parveen.
2. Pehla Pyar (1911), a social play on Indian society was his original play.
3. Van Devi (1913) This was written in pure Hindi.
4. Bharat Ramani (1914) was again an imaginative and original play. It focussed on Love and social problems. Hashar had acted as a Tantrik in the play.
5. Yahudi Ki Larki (1915). This play was perhaps based on W.T.
Mancrift's play 'Jews'. A film of the same title was made in later years which was very popular.
6. Sher Ki Gharaz was another imaginative play. Conflict of Thought Content, philosophy and atmosphere was the theme.
7. In 1920 Hashar wrote one of his famous plays 'Bilwa-Mangal' on Sur Dass. It was a very popular play of the last century.
8. Madhur Murli in Hindi was another imaginative play by Hashar related with Lord Krishna and the music of his Flute.
9. Bhagirath Ganga, based on Puranic story. It was later published from Lahore and was titled Bhagirathi alias Ghanga Avtaran.
During the fourth and last phase of his playwrighting Hashar was in Calcutta from 1920 to 1932 and wrote about dozen plays of significance, most of them in Hindi and experimenting and improvising his styles.
1. Rustum Soharab, (1920) based on Firdausi's Shahnama.
2. Hindustan (1921) in three parts, based on Indian History and Ramayan story.
3. Aurat Ka Pyar (1921). A film was also made on the plot of the play which shows the popularity of this play.
4. Mashriki Hoor, very popular play from Hashar written in 1922. A social play.
5. Aankh Ka Nasha written in 1923-24. Anti-prostitution and social evils.
6. Sita Vanvas in 1927-28, based on Ramayana. By now Hashar had started his own Drama company which was later sold to Nawab of Charkhari.
7. Bhisham Partighya written in 1928 and was based on Mahabharata story.
8. Bharati Bala written in 1929.
Exposure of social evils was the main theme.
9. Dharmi Balak Gharib Ki Duniya was written in 1929.
10. Dil Ki Pyas written in 1930-32 is perhaps the last play penned by Hashar.
Some of the plays written by Hashar are not available as he used to sell his plays to the Companies or was paid Munshi of some companies. During his last days he moved to Lahore where he formed his own film company. The films made on Hashar's plays or plots of the plays are, Yahudi Ki Larki, Bhisham Pratighya, Shirin Farhad, Aurat Ka Pyar, Chandi Dass, Kismat Ka Shikar and Dil Ki Aag.
Though Hashar was not highly educated, yet he had studied European and oriental classics particularly, Shakespeare and Sheridan, Firdausi, Ramyana and Mahabharata.
Whatever and whichever scene from European plays he liked, he would either directly translate it or translate and adapt the same in his own style and language befitting Indian atmosphere. The style of rendering dialogues in Parsi style was known as 'Blood and Thunder' style because of the poetic rendering of dialogues, which were written stylishly. For about one century Parsi Theatre had survived in the country when theatre halls were constructed in the cities and towns and touring companies were presenting shows. Aga Hashar Kashmiri's plays were seen with keenness, and were highly appreciated. He is the first Muslim playwright who has been awarded Gold Medal by Benaras Hindu University in recognition of his contribution to playwriting and Indian Theatre.
Later on Indian cinema broke the backbone of this theatre movement and Parsi Theatre Halls were turned into cinema houses and people were attracted to see films.
Almost all the famed actors, directors, musicians, scenic designers and writers connected with Parsi Theatre joined cinema world and films on Parsi drama scripts were made into films. For more than half a century the Indian cinema was influenced by the conventions of Parsi theatre.
In our state a man of literature is known as ADEEB. Only poets, short story writers and critics come into this category but playwright is not termed as "Adeeb". That is why Agha Hashar Kashmiri has been neglected and no chair in any University has been created on his name. Writing drama is perhaps considered inferior literature Alas!
*The author is a noted Play-Wright. He has played pioneering role in reviving Kashmir's Folk-Theatre, Baand Pather. His book ‘Bhandnatyam’ is considered to be a classic on Kashmir's Folk-Theatre.
Source: Kashmir Sentinel
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