Acclaimed Kashmiri theatre group performs in Bengaluru

Published : February 11, 2020 14:08 IST

A still from Fading Memoirs Photo: By Special Arrangement

A noted theatre group from Srinagar, ‘Theatre for Kashmir’ (TFK), will be performing in Bengaluru on February 11 and 12. Two plays—ne in English titled ‘Fading Memoirs’ and the second in Kashmiri titled ‘Bea Chus Shahid’ (‘I am the Witness’)—will be performed each day. The performances assume salience as this is the first time that the group will be performing after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year. TFK has a wide following in Kashmir and was the first theatre group to perform in English in Srinagar. The team has mounted nine original plays and five adaptations so far since its founding in 2004.

The two plays that will be performed in Bengaluru have been performed in the past and have been received well. The Kashmiri play ‘I am the Witness’ lays emphasis on the importance of memory and the responsibility of every generation to take it forward. The play has been staged multiple times across Kashmir since 2011 and has been instrumental in creating a debate around contemporary issues. The English play ‘Fading Memoirs’ transcends the visible and probes the complexities of experiences that emerge from the personal ordeal of people in conflict zones. With its wide canvas, the scenes shift across several war zones: Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kashmir, creating a strong anti-war narrative. It incorporates the work of nine poets including Faiz Ahmed Faiz, T.S. Eliot, Mahmoud Darwish and Sheikh-ul-Alam, the 13-14th century Kashmiri mystic.

Speaking at an informal event in Bengaluru on Sunday, February 9, Arshad Mushtaq, the director and playwright, shared information about TFK. Considering that none of the team members is professionally trained in theatre, relying on other sustainable careers, it is remarkable that TFK has lasted so long and won critical acclaim. Mushtaq himself teaches at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Srinagar. “Theatre is our responsibility as we express what Kashmir is all about through this medium. We do theatre because no one else tells these stories from Kashmir,” he said on being asked what drives TFK.

The group would have come to Bengaluru in January but Mushtaq had an interesting tale to narrate about the delay in their arrival. “After the abrogation of Article 370, Internet and phone lines were completely snapped in Kashmir. Severely restricted connectivity began to be restored in January,” Mushtaq said. Connectivity was restored only to one terminal at his institute and even then, each faculty member was allowed only a few minutes. “I checked my email on January 7 and saw that I had received an invitation from Rangashankara (a well-known theatre venue in Bengaluru) followed by three reminders to perform in Bengaluru on January 16, but I was completely unaware of this,” Mushtaq said. An alternative date, February 11, was later provided to the Kashmiri group.

The conversation shifts to life after the abrogation of Article 370 and many poignant tales are told by the eight members of the group. “My uncle passed away in August last year and there were 20 people at his funeral because we couldn’t let anyone know. There would have been at least 500 people if word had got out,” Mushtaq said. Considering that their plays are rooted in such trauma, do their plays have a message? Mushtaq responded by saying that group members were not activists but wanted to pose a question through their plays: “Why is there selective silence on Kashmir by the liberals in India?”

(Theatre for Kashmir will perform at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on February 11 at Rangshankara and at 7:30 pm on February 12 at the Bangalore International Centre.)


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