Radio Kashmir and Socio-Cultural landscape of the Valley

Ashok Ogra

Radio Kashmir, Srinagar (now renamed All India Radio, Srinagar) is not just the name of another radio station – it is rather an institution that occupies an important place in the post independent history of the state.
Until the advent of television, the radio was the prime source of information, entertainment and education, and in nurturing young talent and playing a pivotal role in the socio- cultural life of the state.
For instance, had it not been for the patronage of Radio Kashmir, the talent in Mohammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal of Sufiana Moosiqui would have remained unnoticed?
Who can forget the immortal Leela (devotional bhajan) of Krishan Joo Razdan, ‘BEL TAI MADAL VENA GOLAB PAMPOSH DASTAI, that Tibetbaqal composed and sang?
He also guided Mohan Lal Aima when he recorded the famous Naati Shareef ‘YA NABI GOSH FARYADAN THAV… ‘ of Abdul Ahad Nadim and when composing Meehjoor’s song: ‘TAMMMANA CHANI DEEDARUK ME CHUM YAMBEZALEY BUMBRO.’
Tibetbaqal lend his voice to the film Mehjoor that Pran Kishore co- directed with Prabhat Mukherjee. We continue humming Qalinbaft’s famous song ‘YAS MARAMATIS MAINZ CHI NAMAN KAMAN SAETI GOME….’
We all grew up listening to radio drams such as LALA JOO & SONS, written by Ali Mohammed Lone and directed by Pran Kishore.
In his memoir “Radio Kashmir and My Days in Broadcasting” the award winning broadcaster, director and writer, Pran Kishore, provides glimpses into important developments in which many prominent ‘dramatis personae’ played pivotal roles in the state.
In an autographical style, the author has traced the history of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar from the day it was inaugurated on July 1, 1948 till militancy erupted in the Kashmir in 1990 forcing him to abandon his motherland.
Pran Kishore has many achievements to his credit including Padma Shri and Sahtiya Akademi award for the novel SHEEN TA VATAPOD. He has been an admirable broadcaster and a born narrator. His narrative brings people and incidents to life in flashes of telling detail.
He writes: “The journey begins in 1948, when, as a young man in my early twenties I had joined this great organization where I spent thirty five years of my life in creativity….. I feel proud of having been an integral part of it like the multitude of writers, dramatists, actors, musicians, singers, journalists, newsreaders and other who made Radio Kashmir what it is today.”
He acknowledges the contribution of N.L.Chowla, A.L.Maini, P.C.Chatterjee and many others but for whose guidance and support the station would not have achieved such excellence and acclaim.
The author provides interesting account of how popular folk singer of those times, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, was invited to the station. It was he who introduced Raj Begum to broadcasting. Both Raj Begum and Naseem Akhtar gained huge popularity among listeners. By mid- 1950s Radio Kashmir had gained respectability in the society thus encouraging educated young female artists – Mohini Shangloo, Asha Kaul and later Shammema Dev and Kailash Mehra and many others- to enrich the light music shows.
Ghulam Hasan Sofi comes for a special praise: “His popularity soon soared so much so that when we had to record the songs for the feature films, MAINZRAAT and SHERI-e-KASHMIR MEJHOOR he became the obvious choice to be the leading voice.”
He salutes Mirza Ghulam Hassan Beg, Mir Ghulam Rasool Nazki,
Somnath Kachroo, Mohan lal Aima, Abddullah Burq, Pran Nath Pardesi, and Mahinder Kaul and many others who laid the foundation of the station when the transmission commenced from Polo Ground on July 1, 1948.
Radio Kashmir also played an important role in promoting live concerts in the state. Zoona Begum with her melodious voice and pleasant personality would enthrall the audience. She also played the role of YAMBERZAL in the opera ‘BOMBUR YAMBERZAL’ (Narcissus and the Bumble Bee), written by Dinanath Nadim.
To his credit, he acknowledges the contribution of his colleagues: “it was Qasar Qalandar who approached Asha Bhonsale to record a Kashmiri song of Rehman Rahi : ‘SU GOLAB ROI DEOOTHUM BEYI AZ GOLAB CHAVAN.’ And it was Bashir Butt who succeeded in persuading Lata Mangeshkar to sing a few lines from a popular Kashmiri song despite the fact that she was not in a good mood because of the imposition of emergency: ‘KARIYO MANZ JIGRAS JAAI, CHAM NO MAAI MASHEAM.’
Interesting anecdotes sustain the reader’s interest – whether it is recording Begum Akhtar or Bismillah Khan or many other artists, writers and scholars- both from India and abroad – who would be invited to the studios?
Apart from music, Radio Kashmir also stood out for the quality of its talks and discussions. Being an established writer both in Kashmiri and Urdu, Ali Mohammad Lone, laid a solid foundation for talks and spoken word. Leading scholars, poets, and intellectuals would participate in various programs much to the delight of the listeners: Dr.Agha Ashraf Ali, Dinanath Nadim, Rehman Rahi, Mohhammad Yousuf Taing, Amin Kamil, Akhtar Moinuddin, Dr.Amar Malmohi, Ghulam Nabi Gauhar, Ghulam Nabi Firaq, Mohammad Amin Anderabi, Shahid Badgami, Rattan Lal Shant, T.K.Jalali, Nishant Ansari, Hamidi Kashmiri and many more including top political leaders.
Though most of the chapters are on and about Radio Kashmir but the author does dwell on the cultural and socio-cultural- political developments of that period.
He recalls: “…Rabindranath Tagore’s centenary celebrations were celebrated worldwide. Special funds were provided to all the states to build theater halls in his name. In Srinagar, too, the hall was built and a festival of Tagore’s dramas was held…. The Three Arts’ Club which had got formed under the patronage of Habib Tanvir with Shameem Ahmed Shameem and Satpaul Swahney playing a key role promoting theatre in the valley.”
Pran Kishore has described people, events and personalities he came across with minute details. The dramatic club of S.P.College, Srinagar (reviewer’s alma mater) staged ANARKALI in 1942. Directed by Mohammad Din Taseer, Principal of the college, the play became a motivation for K. Asif to produce the film ‘MUGAL-e-AZAM’.
No book that aims to capture the golden days of Radio Kashmir is complete without adequate reference to popular plays and features of those days like: JAWABI HAMLA, VADI KI AWAAZ, VOTUL BUJI, ZOONA DAB etc….
According to the author the serial VOTUL BUJI mounted to counter Pakistan propaganda during 1965 war was discontinued after the signing of Tashkent treaty in 1966. But the station soon came up with another serial ZOONA DAB that articulated day to day problems of the people.
The author pays tribute to the then Chief Minister Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq for encouraging the broadcast of such type of programmes that spoke the language of the people. Written by Pushkar Bhan and Som Nath Sadhu, the serial also featured leading artist like Maryam Begum – (all three were conferred with Padma Shri in 1973) – Jagar Nath Saqi, Sharif-u-din, Ashok Kak and the child artists Bashir Arif and Nayeema Ahmed.
Later on Farooq Nazki, who rose to be one of the finest broadcasters, added another dimension to the program.
The author offers an interesting story on how he persuaded Bhajan Sopori who was pursuing MA in English to join music section of the station. No wonder, he went on to emerge as one of the top exponent of Santoor and has been conferred with various awards including Sangeet Natak Akademi and Padma Shri.
Published by Chinar Publishers, Pune the book is a must read for those interested in broadcasting. The author credits his co-traveler in broadcasting, Shanta Kaul – (herself an ace broadcaster) – for preserving notes that resulted in this voluminous and rich book.
The author provides detailed background in the making of the popular serial MACHAMA. “The credit for the success of MACHAMA goes to Pushkar Bhan who played the role of the hero, his wife Khatji, Som Nath Sadhu and Mohammed Sultan Pandit who played MACHAMA’s chums, Sulagota and Rehman Dadda, wife Sahnta Kaul and finally the veteran old times actor, Jagar Nath Saqi as his father. SINDBAD MACHMA took listeners by storm.”
The book informs us of author’s commitment to discover artists. He made it a point to travel to Bijbedara to record an interview with another great artist of Sufiana Kalam, Abdul Khaliq Butt, who was bed ridden and couldn’t visit the studio.
In a world of media noise, it is hugely gratifying to follow the itinerary of a sane, imaginative and cultured mind. Author’s energy and hunger to remain physically and mentally active at age 93 put a younger man to shame. The author takes us on a journey to interiors of the valley that he visited to produce documentaries.
Post migration, Pran Kishore has been engaged in writing and directing, and it was the popular TV serial GUL GHULSHAN GULFAM that he wrote that earned him national recognition.
The only error I find relates to N.L. Chowla who the author claims was the director of the station during emergency. The fact is that he had long back been transferred to Delhi Kendra of Doordarshan.
A memoir is a record of memories, and particular events that have taken place in the author’s life. This autobiography by Pran Kishore is a straightforward account, utterly readable for its uncluttered lucidity and deeply engaged tone. His mature reflection ensures that the book opens up much more than its title.
(The author is a noted media & management professional & educator)