16 Years Later, Theatre Returns To Valley
17 July 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Pain has a new outlet in the Valley. After 16 years under the militant guns, theatre is back in Srinagar, this time in the form of a festival. And the first play staged at the jampacked Tagore Hall here was Band Pather, quite aptly, a Kashmiri adaptation of Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot. As the ambiguous wait of Doggul and Goggul-Kashmiri epithets for clowns-unfolded, revealing the Kashmir tragedy in all its complexities, watching from the front row was Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and singer Ila Arun. Unlike many others in the audience, the CM, at least, seemed to have come prepared for the powerful political satire that combined modern techniques with traditional theatre elements. 'Guns and slogans are not the way to express our grievances and pain. It is better if they find a balanced expression through theatre and other art forms,' he said, while inaugurating the week-long festival being organised by Doordarshan. Earlier, director of Doordarshan Srinagar Shahzadi Simone set the right tone by beginning with, 'Greetings of peace to you all.' She added that she was proud to exorcise the 'ghost' that had possessed Tagore Hall, 'Kashmir's temple of culture'. 'What Broadway is to New York and Prithvi to Mumbai, Tagore Hall is to Kashmir. This theatre festival is a bid to reclaim our culture and identity,' she said. But there were some dissenting voices, too. The organisers failed to invite those who have kept the art form alive amidst the turmoil, alleged some artists. 'Ghulam Nabi Baba, 75, who has devoted his whole life to theatre was not there. Also missing was Pranna Shangloo, a Pandit who has spent 50 years in Kashmiri theatre and did not migrate,' said one of them, who did not wish to be identified. But the overall mood simply overwhelming such undercurrents. 'A long-suppressed means of creative expression has been let free. I am happy,' said Arshad Mushtaq, director of Band Pather. A gateway to Kashmir Srinagar: Kashmir will soon have its own 'gateway' on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. The state expects the complex to become an important stopover which will help tourists make arrangements for their stay. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who laid the foundation stone at the complex on Sunday, said the gateway will act as a 'mini-Kashmir'. Located at the scenic Lawdoora Qazigund village, the Rs 3-crore landscaped complex will have an amusement park, a restaurant, a shopping centre, an amphitheatre and an information centre. INTACH has designed the gateway, which will be built by the tourism department's engineering wing.