Thanks to the Corona-19 pandemic and partial conditions of lock-down, the new-normal in contemporary arts and cultural practices in 2021, barring a few physical expressions, has led to online exhibition models through a number of social media platforms. While the city/town-centric artists, writers, poets, theatre persons have channeled lockdown experience into insightful evocative works, it is the folk artist who has suffered financially due to lack of public demand for in-person performances.
Adding to the vows of the community of creative persons and cultural workers across the board is the lack of well-defined official cultural policy and the listless working of the Department of Culture and other institutions mandated to promote and preserve art and culture in Jammu and Kashmir.
For instance, the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL), the premier institution which has been the flagship of the state’s progressive policies towards promotion and development of arts and culture in Jammu and Kashmir is presently in a stage of limbo.
Ostensibly, under the UT administration’s initiative to do a structural overhaul of the Constitutional body and make it as a Society, JKAACL, since 2019 under the blue-eyed unaccountable bureaucrats seemingly insensitive to local culture and ethos as in-charge Secretaries remote controlling the three-in-one Academy from their original postings (presently from Raj Bhavan) is floundering like a rudderless ship.
Instead of trifurcating JKAACL into three Academies on the line of national academies like Sahitya, Sangeet Natak, and Lalit Kala, thus streamlining the development of literature, performing and visual arts in J&K, the know-all-Babus have in their skewed wisdom proposed the changes which tantamount to a mutilation of JKAACL existing structure.
Other than the annual drama festival held in March, 2021, Academy’s regular annual awards in different categories and events like art exhibitions, camps, folk and classical music concerts, and film festivals stand suspended. There are no new publication programs in Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojari, Pahari, Punjabi, Urdu, and Hindi. So much so, JKAACL’s much-touted dictionary and encyclopedia projects stand neglected. The same lackluster approach defines the working of Kala Kendra, Museums, Archives, and other institutions.
Under such conditions, large number of NGOs working in the varied fields of culture all over J&K, are feeling discouraged. One can only hope that the present UT Govt., engaged with many security and other pressing issues soon wakes up to the fact that to sacrifice ‘important’ at the altar of the ‘urgent’, can have malefic socio-cultural and political fallouts.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University: In the above-mentioned dismal cultural scenario, there has been a silver lining. The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University under the visionary leadership of Vice-Chancellor Padamshree Rajinder Kumar Sinha ably supported by Registrar Naginder Singh Jamwal, JKAS, has started a series of seminars and discourses on varied aspects of the culture of different districts of Jammu such as their monumental, religious, and musical heritage, languages, customs, etc. SMVDU is engaging with eminent creative personalities from different fields to establish a dialogue between academia and public intelligentsia. It is hoped that other universities in Jammu region will follow suit and adopt a pro-active approach to give the due share to ‘Culture’ in their academic programs.
Before taking up this year’s cultural highlights and contributions of individual achievers, let us remember those cultural personalities who bid goodbye to this mortal world. These include eminent Dogri writer/poet Padamshree, Saraswati and Sahitya Akademi Awards winner Padma Sachdev , Dogri poet and playwright Rattan Doshi and Gojari poet and writer Iqbal Azeem Choudhary,
Dogra Icon: The personality in limelight is the new Dogra icon Padamshree Shiv Dutt Nirmohi . The 84 years old stalwart scholar hailing from village Painthal has emerged as a symbol for his phenomenal contribution to preserving the Dogri literary traditions and the cultural heritage. The continuing parade of public felicitations by different schools, colleges, literary and social organizations and politicians from all over the Jammu region, is a sure reflection of popular recognition of his selfless service to Dogra society and culture.
Balwant Thakur’s : Appointment as Director of the World’s biggest Cultural Centre based in Port Louis, Mauritius, is considered to be the highest elevation of any cultural personality of India. Nominated as nodal officer of the celebrations of 75 years of India’s Independence in Mauritius, he, in a short span of six months has organized 100 International events in Mauritius.
Awards & Honours: Hindi writers/poets, Bharat Bhushan Sharma and Maharaj Krishan Santoshi have been honored with the Souhard Samman-2020-21 for their contribution to the development and promotion of Hindi
language. Given by ‘Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan Lucknow annually, the award consist of cash of Rs Two lakhs and fifty thousand rupees, a shawl, and a trophy. Ashok Angurana’s book of Dogri poems entitled, ‘Mokala Gaas Uchchi Doaari’ was selected for prestigious Prof. Ramnath Shastri Memorial Award-2021. Raj Bharati (PIX), educationist, social worker and dedicated to the preservation of arts, was awarded First Ramesh Mehta Memorial Award, instituted in the memory of Ramesh Mehta, the former secretary of J&K Cultural Academy, Hindi poet, critic, and artist. Dogri Sanstha Samman-2021, (GROUP PIX) was conferred upon veteran Dogri writers Inderjeet Kesar, Kuldeep Sharma ‘Abhishap”, Krishna ‘Prem’ and Zorawar Singh, senior journalist, a social and cultural activist working for promotion of Dogri language & culture, and Khajoor Singh, folk artist & a writer.
Ravinder Jamwal, Jammu’s well-known sculptor was awarded Maharaja Gulab Singh Award by Maharaja Gulab Singh Memorial Trust, and also honored NGOs for his services to the society. Javd Rahi, eminent Gojari scholar and activist was awarded by Lt Governor for his yeoman service in documenting Gujjar Culture.
Annual Drama Awards: Best Production, Patjhad, director Gurmeet Jamwal and Mohit Mehra, best actors (Female) Nazuk Bhagat (Ant Haazir Ho), (male) Himanshu Darshan (Miss Leela), and child actor Mannat Bhau (Kabuliwala). For best set Jyestha Jamwal (Patjhad), lights Mahir Sudan (Patjhad), make-up Manoj Dhamir (Trojan Women), costumes Ravinder Sharma (Trojan Women), music Rajesh Khar (Ant Haazir Ho).
Young Talent: Daughter of soil, young Arshiya Sharma’s extraordinary dancing talent was recognized when she came among top ten contestants in Sony TV’s Super Dancer-a kids dance competition wherein Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Geeta Kapoor and Anurag Basu judged the event.
Films: Amit Dutta , the son of the soil and filmmaker of international fame was honored with three retrospectives of his works in Berkeley Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Freer and Sackler Gallery-Smithsonian Museum, Washington, DC, at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. He was also invited by Copenhagen Architecture Film festival to present two films on classical architecture and water masters of Kangra Valley, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art,
Berlin to present two of his films. He published his first book for children: ‘Gyarah Rupay ka Fountain Pen’. A book by Srikanth Srinivasan, ‘Modernism by Other Means: The Films of Amit Dutta’, was also released.
Rahat Kazami and Tariq Khan, sons of the soil continued their tryst with offbeat films. In their latest film starring Sara khan & Rahat Kazmi “Ek Anjaan Rishtey Ka Guilt”, the cast includes local talents like actor Fezan Khan from Bhadarwah, Kusum Tickoo and Satish Bhat, Juzee and Saki Shah. The director and cinematographer of the film Rajesh Khajuria
and writer Pankaj Khajuria and editor Prashant Singh Kahlon are from Jammu.
Rahul Sharma of ‘Geetiyaan’ fame, directed the short film ‘Khalil’, written by SK Sharma (Retd. IRS) and cinematographed by Bharat Arora, the film was selected and awarded in different national and international festivals. Shakti Singh, the poet from Akhnoor, wrote the story, screenplay and dialogues of the film “Lines” which received several international awards. The film “2 Band Radio”, co-written by him got best screenplay award at ‘Lift India ‘, also had opening in UK Asian Film Festival. Sudesh Verma made documentaries including the one for Sahitya Akademi on Padamshree Pran Kishore. Parveen Sharma, directed short films, documentaries, and Dogri songs. The Bhajan ‘Kundlu Kundlu Bal’, directed by him crossed one crore views. Sameer Sharma, the cinematographer shot the short film Bhookh, which was an official entry for film festivals in
Musket and UK. He was also director of photography for the film ‘Moon’s Land’ and many short compilations. DK Films, one of the oldest production houses of Jammu, continued to produce documentaries, short films government, and private commissions.
Amazing Jammu: Initiated young journalist by Harry Wallia, the group ‘Amazing Jammu’ has emerged as a prominent platform for the identity of the Jammu region. It has provided a voice to tourism & culture stakeholders, handicrafts & handloom stakeholders, woodland & wildlife enthusiasts, artists, content creators, adventurists, policy planners, journalists, history & heritage experts. It has successfully raised issues like Mubarak Mandi vandalism
& heritage hotel Issue, unbecoming and futile activities of Tourism Department Jammu, successful tourism promotion campaign at Patnitop, restoration of heritage sites, handicraft & handloom promotion activities, geographical Indication tag for products from Jammu, inordinate delay in facelifting of Purmandal-Uttar Behni Circuit, ignoring/belittling of Jammu region by when it comes to official visits and meetings, delicacies and folk culture of Jammu, and so on.
Literature: With Prof Lalit Magotra as President, the Dogri Sanstha Jammu organized a number of offline and online literary/poetic meets, seminars, and book exhibitions. It part of its pivotal service to provide textbooks and reading material to the students and researchers in Dogri, the Sanstha undertook publications/reprints of ten books in 2021 on varied aspects of modern Dogri literature. It felicitated the top ten students who have obtained maximum marks in the subject of Dogri in class 12th
examinations. Sanstha also hosted book release functions for eight books in Dogri this year. Duggar Manch, under the stewardship of Dogri poet/activist Mohan Singh, organized the release of books in Dogri, literary meets and celebrated Madhukar Day. Nami Dogri Sanstha, organized a number of Dogri and multi-lingual e-poetic goshthies on topics like phillonian, dadi-nani diyaan kathaan, bujhartaan. It held eight book release and felicitation functions including a children’s book “Moti Mahal” penned by Dr Chanchal Sharma.
With Darshan Darshi as the Convener of Sahitya Akademi Executive Board and Language for Dogri, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, organized seminar in Govt. Degree Colleges of Duggar Pradesh to broaden the catchment area of the discourse on modern Dogri literature. As many as 18 programs were organised online and witnessed by large number of audience. Sahitya Akademi also published 10 books in Dogri during 2021, clearing thereby all pending works. As a personal landmark, Darshan Darshi’s work, ‘Windows & Doors’, an English translation of some of his selected, published and unpublished Dogri poems stand translated by him.
The veteran Dogri writer Padamshree Narsingh Dev Jamwal (Pix), published stage plays ‘Nama Purana’ operas ‘Daun Geeti Natak’ and ‘Monograph of late Pradhuman Singh’ for Sahitya Akademi. Inderjeet Kesar published anthology of poetry Sochen Di Manyari and Bal Sahitya Book Dogri Bal Kavitan Te Geet. Raj Manawari translated Loona, a Punjabi verse-play written by legendary poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi to Dogri Language. Rattan Basotra, editor of Dogri in JKAACL, apart from publishing regular issues of Dogri Sheeraja and Sada Sahitya, has undertaken translations titled Alag Alag Satya (Hindi) and Khiri Nirnay (Dogri). Sudesh Raj, writer/broadcaster released her book of Dogri short stories titled ‘Duathan’. Santosh Sangra, writer/actor published her Dogri plays ‘Doorey da Rishta’ and acted in plays like Azadi ka Amrit & Dogri play Trikaalan.
Young Dogri writer Yashpaul Nirmal published for SBT, New Delhi, translations of Hindi and other languages to Dogri in different genres. Dogri Bhasha Academy and Meri Mitar Mandali engaged in a number of offline and online activities & mega events to promote Dogri literature. Young writer Rajeshwar Singh Raju published and released online six of his books in English, Hindi and Dogri. Suman K Sharma, writer and translator authored a collection of short stories ‘Autumn Tales’. He also rendered into English Darshan Darshi’s Sahitya Akademi’s award-winning poetry collection in Dogri. The original title ‘Kore Kaakal
Koriyan Talian’ comes out as ‘Blank Papers Blank Palms’.
Hindi: Dr Ashok Gupta’s book ‘Jammu Kashmir ki Hindi Kavita’ came as a welcome critique of Jammu’s Hindi poets such as Chanchal Dogra, Nirmal Vinod, Sanjeev Bhasin, Sheikh Mohd Kalyan and Kunwar Shakti Singh. Manoj Sharma’s progressive poetry collection ‘Meel Pather Bula Raha’ was released and received rave reviews. Hindi Sahitya Mandal, released on its Platinum Jubilee the Digital Online Souvenir “Madhurima”. It also honored Kajal Suri with Nav Lekhan Puraskar- 2020 for debut book of any Hindi writer of J&K. She also received 2nd time, 14th National Women Excellence Award for contribution in theatre and literature in 2021. Agnishekhar, the eminent poet and writer authored ‘ Neel Gatha, the saga of Kashmir through the times. His other books are ‘Hum Jalawatan ‘, translations of poems of Kashmiri representative poets in exile & ‘Main Laldyad’. Kshama Kaul’s significant books this year include Hindi Novel ‘Murti Bhanjan’, and short story collection 19 January ke baad. Mahraj Krishan Santoshi published his poem ‘Itihaas Ke Ek Naukar Ka Hastkshep’ in the magazine ‘Duniya Inn Dinoo’. Onkar Padha Kanchan published two books in Hindi: Zila Kathua mein Sahityak Sanchetna and Duggar Ke Prachin Smarak.
Punjabi: The eminent poet of Pothwari, Swami Antarneerav, has established himself as a happening poet of Punjabi. His new Punjabi collection “Nahin” got published in 2021, and his name is included in the laureates of Modern Punjabi Literature, published by Kitab Trinjan. Randheer Kour, Punjabi scholar and lecturer in Government Degree College Bishnah, organized workshops on ‘Idiom, proverbs and riddles of Punjabi folk literature, six-month certificate courses in Reading and Writing Punjabi in Gurmukhi Script, and ‘Learn Punjabi through popular experiences. The Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, Jammu, released three Punjabi Novels of Bhupinder Singh Raina, while J&K Punjabi Sahit Sabha (J&KPSS), Srinagar, released at Jammu the Punjabi Novel by R S Kanwal. Two Punjabi books of Dr. Snober were released at GCW, Parade Ground, Jammu.
Urdu: Khalid Husain’s autobiography in Urdu, “Main Zinda Aadmi hoon” and a short story
collection, ‘Jannat Grehan’ came out as notable additions. Liaqat Zafri, the talented Urdu poet from Poonch, was a prominent voice on a number of online national and international platforms. Anjum-e- Farog-e-Urdu, published critical appraisal of Jammu’s renowned Urdu poet Arsh Sehbai. Balraj Bakshi from Udhampur, published ‘Aasaniyat’, a collection of nouns and verbs, and a poetry collection ‘Mitti Ke Mausam’.
Kashmiri: Samprati released Yeli Patsh Raev, the short stories and book of poems Roode Saery Warak by Dr. Amar Malmohi and Guli Myooth, book of poems by Mohan Krishn Koul. The Chinar Foundation released Lalviny Dug, poems by Kusum Dhar Sharda. The Funkar Cultural Organisation released Sontich Shech, an anthology of Noor Mohd Roshan’s works edited by Gulam Hasrat Gadda. Young Writers’Guild released books online: ‘The Paradise’, English poems, and Pot Aalav, a stage play by Vinod Koul. Bal Krishan also Sanyasi published his Magnum opus: Chronicles of Kashmir: Vaishnavi’s biography.
Visual Arts: Notwithstanding University of Jammu’s continuing floundering to give due place to creative arts coupled with non-existent departments of visual arts in other universities in the region, it was left to a few academically trained and self-taught artists of Jammu to keep the art scene alive. Ravinder Singh Jamwal, made a bust portrait of Maharaja Hari Singh for BJP party office, Jammu, 10 ft statue of Maharaja Ranbir Singh at RS Pura, two life-size statues of martyrs along with his new installations. Amit Slathia’s paintings “Sinister Silence” got selected for the 62nd National art exhibition-2021, “Gleaners in the Zone of Conflict (Homage to Millet) for the preliminary round of CIMA Awards 2022, and for the 20th Busan International Art Fair-2021. Sunanda Khajuria got invitations from CETYS Universidad in Mexico, the World Culture Artists Association in South Korea, and The Pan International, Shanghai, China, as well as art exhibitions at the Art Heritage Gallery in New Delhi. She presented her works at the international conference at Wuhan University of Technology, China. Young sculptor, Jasleen Singh’s works were selected for exhibitions in Tokyo, Osaka in Japan, Armania, South Korea, and for the 86th National exhibition of arts at Amritsar 2021. Milan Sharma (PIX) held a solo show at Shridharni Art gallery, New Delhi. Her works were selected for the International Artist Exchange in Busan, Korea, Virtual exhibition, 2021, and the Indian section curated by Dr Ashrafi Bhagat. She coordinated New Media Workshop and National Painters camp, at IMFA. Suman Gupta, KK Gandhi also participated in national & international exhibitions.
JKCCA, organized National Painters Camps, International Exhibitions of Art (Online), Sculptures Show dedicated to Late Gobind Kaur, Art Camp- cum- Demonstrations, and published Online Directory of Living Visual Artists of J&K. Jasleen Singh, Roma Bahl, Jang S. Verman participated in 1st Cultural Festival at Isparta, Turkey.
With Prof Shoaiv Malik as incharge Principal, the IMFA, organized many workshops and camps for fine benefit of fine arts students. The Dance Dept of IMFA, under Priya Dutta held performances at Basant Panchmi and Holi, It held Kathak Dance Workshops with the students of Himalayan Education Mission Rajouri, and Govt. Girls Higher Secondary School Reasi, and performance in Abhivayki, a program held at JU.
Cartoons: Manoj Chopra, eminent cartoonist received third prize in the National Cartoon competition organized by Unfold dreams in collaboration with Hope 21. He was selected for the World Press Cartoon, Portugal. Chander Shekhar, organized many cartoon exhibitions and held solo exhibition on World environment day, and on PM Modi on his 71st birthday. He was awarded by the Indian Army on 50 year’s celebration of the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Theatre: Jammu’s leading theatre group Natrang did over 40 shows this year. It held virtual presentation of Shanker Shesh’s ‘Aadhi Raat Ke Baad’, directed by Mohd. Yaseen for the Consulate General of India, Johannesburg, staged five plays to commemorate International Day of Theatre and organized a series of online National Theatre Talk Shows in which 50 outstanding theatre practitioners from different regions of the country. During Navratri Festival, Natrang presented 8 shows of Mata Ki Kahani supported. Balwant Thakur’s play ‘Gulab Gatha’ was presented by Natrang at Sports Stadium, Akhnoor in connection with the Iconic Week Festival. Natrang organized acting workshops by Bhasha Sumbli and Sunil Soni’, by NSD Alumni Baljeet Singh, and by Aarushi Thakur Rana.
Samooh Theatre Group, staged play ‘Trojan women’, presented a number of street plays, organized play readings, literary and cultural festivals and events in Jammu and in rural areas. IPTA organized stories reading- cum- Multilingual Poetic Symposium, the release of Ramesh Arora’s poetry books released. Rajneesh Kumar Gupta, the playwright bagged an appreciation award from Income Tax Department, Chandigarh. His adaptations of stories by Tagore’s “Kabuliwala” and “Samaapti”, Premchand’s ” Rasik Sampaadak” and play ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava’ were staged. The feature written by him Comrade Dhanwantri and broadcast from Radio Jammu, was also made as docu-drama. Vomed Theatre Group under Rohit Bhat staged Kashmiri plays Gaada Bata and Mujrim Ma Nahi Mujrim Ma He hun. Vomedh conducted online interactions with community artistes and personalities. Natraj Natya Kunj, Amateur Theatre Group, Hill Thespians, Rangyug and Pancham also kept their calendar ticking by sporadic performances and programs.
Heritage Concerns: Heritage warrior Kirpal Singh, undertook heritage survey of Bamhag, Dudu-Basantgarh and urged the Panchayats for preservation of heritage sites in their areas. He also started Baoli Bachao Project and published a folder on Parola Art of Duggar. He has set up a Mobile Heritage Conservation Laboratory to provide immediate preservation facilities. Anil Pabha’s services towards preservation of Dogra Heritage, were appreciated by Shri Arjun Ram Meghawal, the Union Minister of State in the Parliamentary Affairs and MoS in the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, who inaugurated the ” Amar Santosh, Museum and “Amar Santosh Art Gallary”, at Udhampur. INTACH: The Jammu chapter of Indian National Trust of Art, Culture and Heritage, under former director tourism, SM Sawhney, undertook a number of projects and workshops, to promote and preserve the tangible and intangible heritage of Jammu. These included Nature Care and Conserve project, Workshop on Clay Craft, Heritage walks, Listing of Water bodies and Built Heritage, temples, Online lessons on Cultural Heritage for various schools, Documentation of local cuisine, festivals, World Heritage week Webinar on Rahya-Suchani Military Legacy etc.
Tribal Welfare initiative: (PIX) The last two years have witnessed a slew of govt. program for the welfare of tribals in J&K. Under the aegis of Tribal Welfare Board, there is a new emphasis to safeguard the tribal culture and heritage. In this regard number of tribal literary and cultural festivals, exhibition of tribal arts and paintings were held at different places.
Tree Talk: Man of woods and acclaimed Dogri writer Om Vidyarthi (PIX)carried his mission of mass Biodiversity awareness through Tree Talks of which 11th Year Foundation Day was celebrated with 1165 interactions popularizing lesser known cuisine, beverages, teas, snacks among young minds and nurturing tree conservation consciousness in the society.
Adapt a Park: In response to JMC initiative to ‘Adapt in a Park’, Mitali Gupta , the well-known dietician from Trikuta Nagar Jammu, became the first to adopt a park in her neighborhood and convert it as a Herbal Park. She won accolades from none other than the Lt. Governor who during his to visit to the park appreciated her efforts in planting medicinal plants/herbs and creating awareness among the citizens about their healing qualities.
Annual Drama festival Awardees
Best Actors : Male, Female and Child artiste