Born in 1925, Pran Kishore is one of the pioneers who brought cultural renissance in Kashmir during pre and post-Independence period. A multifaceted personality, he carved a special place for himself in the field of broadcasting, creative writing and theatre. Recepient of many State, national and International awards, Pran Kishore has significantly contributed to the contemporary scenario of Jammu and Kashmir.
In a free wheeling chat with Deepak Raj he reveals his lifetime experiences. Excerpts of the interview:
Q: You have been associated with Radio Kashmir Srinagar for a pretty long time. Can you share your experiences working with this medium of communication.
A: I have not only been associated with it, but have been a part of it since its inception, except the two years I served at the Jullundur Station of All India Radio, where I was deputed along with Bashir Butt to handle the daily programme Sada_e_Wattan to counter the malicious propaganda of Radio Pakistan in1968. Well, coming back to your question, It was a great experience to build a great institution like Radio Kashmir from almost a scratch. You will agree that it was by no means an ordinary job. A group, mostly of young boys and girls, just out of college, striving to become broadcasters, in itself was really fascinating as well as challenging for us. Most of us were in our twenties. We kept on experimenting, many times failing, but learning all through from our mistakes. To be very honest whatever I attained at later stages in life and whatever little recognition I got on the National as well on International level was because of the experience I gained in this mass media. I had not confined myself to Radio Drama alone, which was my main job, I had contributed to almost all other branches of broadcasting. This had given me an opportunity to get in contact with thousands of people, besides hundreds of artists, musicians, writers and journalists. I had interacted with the common man in the cities and villages, people from the upper strata of society including the political elite. Not only interacting with them personally but also through our broadcasts. It was a unique experience. In this way I gained knowledge of human psychology and behaviour which helped me in my writings and productions.
Q: So after having so much of experience in this media, how do you see future of Radio at a time when internet, social media and electronic explosion are dominating mass media.
A: Well this challenge started long back when television was invented and started by BBC. It was the same situation when sound was introduced in films in early thirties. The doyen of silent films, Charlie Chaplin warned his contemporaries that it was a death knell for cinema. So beware. But later on realising the power of sound as the fourth dimension in films he produced talkies like Gas Light and other films. Progress is law of nature. After the so called dominance of the different channels of mass media, over internet or television, did radio stations all over the world close their shop? Instead the net work of sound broadcasting kept on widening. Hundreds of county radios are working in England besides British Broadcasting Corporation, none failing in health. Sound has a power and has been used by our Rishis and Munis while imparting Guru Shabd to their disciples. When a message is to be conveyed and imbedded deep in the mind of the listener, medium of sound is most potent. Hadn’t it been so, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not have chosen Akashvani for his Man Ki Baat. All India Radio is the prime vehicle while Doordarshan only relays it. Don’t you see the popularity of FM radios. Radio has the potential of reaching everywhere, the fields, up in the mountains, while driving while walking. Neither shall spoken messages wane nor shall the print media die. It is I, who is now seriously involved with television and films who says that.
Q: You have been associated with stage acting at some stage of your life. Which are the important plays in which you have acted from time to time?
A: The list is long since I had started with the S.P.College dramatic club of which I ,was the elected General secretary. First play that became very popular was Neelam by Abid Ali Abid in 1943. After that followed Imtiaz Ali Taj’s classic, Anarkali. Then came Aankhen By Mahmood Hashmi and Balidan by Prahlad singh in Amar Singh Degree college. Kashmir yeh Hai by Mahmood Hashmi, Sawali, Shaheed Sherwani by Prem Nath Pardesi, Naya Kashmir Ki Rah Par By Shivdan Sigh Chauhan, Dewane Ka Khwab, Khaloojan Ka Khwab by Ali Mohammad Lone, Kanjoos By Mollier, Phulwari by Tagore Bombur Yamberzal by Dsina Nath Nadim and many street corner and village chowpal plays for The National Cultural Front. In fact I had started studying art of theatre and drama during my college days and after Aankhen in 1945 I had myself, started directing plays and operas. The list again is long. Outstanding plays and operas I directed for the State Cultural Academy were Jheel Bula Rahi Hai, Vitasta by Dina Nath Nadim, Himala Ke Chashme, by Hamidi Kashmiri, Piya Baj Pyala and Tipu Sultan by Zubair Rizvi. These were staged in Jammu, Delhi, Chandhigadh, Lucknow, Cawnpur, Patna Calcutta, Bombay, Bagalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Trivandrum. So I was actively involved with theatre till 1989 when I shifted to Films and Television.
Q: What was the reaction of the public towards theatre during pre- militancy days in Kashmir. Do you see any future for art activities in the valley post militancy.
A: Theatre had grown gradually from infancy to maturity from 1947 to 1988. A large number of young play wrights had appeared on the scene besides the veteran play wrights like Ali Mohammad Lone Akhtar Mohiudin, Autar Krishen Rehbar, Sajood Sailani, Hari Krishen Kaul, Bashir Dada, Som Nath Zutshi, and others. Amateur theatre groups had come up not only in the city of Srinagar but in dozens of villages. Besides the theatre festivals organized by the Cultural Academy, prominent theatre groups from the city and village dramatic clubs got united under the banner of Kashmir Theatre Federation which soon became a movement throughout the valley. This Theatre Federation besides discourses and seminars held Drama Festivals on its own strength for which seeking a seasonal ticket became difficult because of the limited seating capacity in Tagore Hall. The response of the public was great which grew year after year. This movement gave birth to dozens of dynamic actors both men and women, besides imaginative directors. Even the folk theatre of Bhands had got a big boost during that period and revival of its style helped both the play wrights and directors to adapt it to modern sensibilities in their creativity. Though this movement died after a few years because of personal egos, yet it had laid a solid foundation for a living and potent theatre in Kashmir.
Q: Do you think theatre will survive in the State in the coming days because of the numerous television channels.
Challenges are there. But my firm belief is that like radio, theatre connot and will not die. Drama has been one of the most potent form of art that has not only reflected human life, its problems, social or psychological , but also has been a motivator of change. I am seeing here in Maharashtra, especially in Pune that theatre is as popular as cinema here. And best of the actors crave to act on stage. You will be surprised to know that there are regular morning mid day and evening shows in theatre halls, with facilities of advance booking. Marathi plays run for weeks together. We have not tried to develop a professional theatre. That is the most important factor. In its absence we cannot have artists who earn their living from theatre and devote all their time to the art. Second important thing is that we must have very effective plays in regional languages close to the common man. There have been many stage productions both in Kashmir as well as in Jammu which had more than a professional finesse. But in spite of that we have not risen from the level of the amateur theatre. However in absence of a professional theatre amature theatre has done a lot. I do agree that other sources of entertainment as television and films will wean away a majority of drama lovers from theatrical performances but professional theatre will stop it to a great extent.
Q: Your novel Gu lGulshan Gulfam has recently hit the stands. What made you portray the life of boat men.
A: Yes it was launched by Harper Collins, one of the oldest and most renowned international publishers in July this year first in Pune at a very well attended audience of writers and intellectuals including Parikshat Sahni, who played the protagonist Malla Khaliq in my TV serial based on it, Sunil Mehta the producer of the serial and twice winner of National award, Mrinal KulKarni. It is the English translation of my novel in Kashmiri which has been acclaimed as an epic In Kashmiri prose. The translation has been done by Prof. Shafi Shauq along with me. Why did I write about the boatmen of the Dal Lake? Well I have grown with the mesmerizing fascination for it from my very boyhood. The glamour of the house boats and the life of the tourists who came to stay in them seemed to be mystic till I had an opportunity to see the life inside them. This connect introduced me to the life of the owners of these house boats and their families. Not only them but also the shikara walas, the vegetable growers, the hawkers catering to the tourists, and those who illegally filled the lake with muck to reclaim land. All these factors motivated me to write about them. Besides, Gul Gulshan Gulfam is a conflict of values, about breaking of families, and the mad rush to somehow become rich.
Q: What induced you to the art of novel writing. Your other novel Sheen ta Vatapod in Kashmiri language got the Best Book Award from The Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art Culture & Languages, and after some years it was translated into English. Why?
A: It did not get the Best Book Award only from the State Academy but aiso won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award too. Now your basic question, what induced me to the art of novel writing. This question was quite often asked when I wrote my first novel. My co- travellers asked me, how could I, who had dedicated my life to theatre and drama and spent major part of it in the company of dramaturges switch from Drama to novel. The main reason was my realization that drama in despite its strength to influence its audience does not overcome the limits of space and time and keep pace with the fast- changing moods of passion and transience of reality. In spite of my different approaches in bringing out the inner self out in my characters in a long series of open ended plays I failed to represent the complex undercurrents that make the human psyche. I felt that poetry and novel were the best forms in which human mind could be un-ravelled fully. Poetry is divine revelation. But my Creator did not deem me suitable for the faculty. So novel writing was the only choice. But that does not mean that I have abandoned play writing. As I have moved on to a wider field I have found that people interested in literature know very little about what is being written in our state, in spite of the fact that our writers are in no way, even one step inferior in creativity . Only that they are not exposed to the outside world. So translations are very important. Now the question why did I translate your novels after a big gap of time. I was extremely busy all these years, that caused the delay.
Q: How do you react to the recognition of your talent as a writer by concerned institutions who conferred awards on you.
A: My reaction is humility. I have never, either craved for, nor asked for those awards. Yes, one must feel happy if one’s work is appreciated. So I too feel elated.
Q: What are your future plans.
A: As I have very little time left now, I am not taking any further assignments except those for which I am committed. I am now mainly concentrating on my writing for publication. I have spent a major portion of my life with artists , writers, musicians, journalists, politicians, and intellectuals, being a part of All India Radio, Radio Kashmir Srinagar in particular. Without their co-operation and support I would not have achieved whatever little I have. So paying a tribute to them was my first priority. So immediately after the English translation of my novels I sat to write a book on my days in broadcasting, ‘This is Radio Kashmir, Srinagar.’( The Voice of Millions of People ). This book is in the final edit. Next is a novel “ The Moon of The Saffron Fields”. During my research through different histories on the Mughal Period, while writing my television serial Noorjehan I came across lot of material about the last Kashmiri king Yusuf Shah Chak, the political upheaval in Kashmir and emergence of the legend of Habba Khatoon and annexation of Kashmir with Mughal India. So this novel while dealing with the legend of this poetess Queen will throw light on the complicated political situation at that time in Kshmir. So thus my life moves on.