Pran in Pune,Kaul in Kashmir

Pran in Pune,Kaul in Kashmir
GK Photo

Writer, ace broadcaster and Kashmir’s doyen of drama, Pran Kishore Kaulmight have made Pune his home but his heart continues to remain in his spiritual home, Kashmir. In an interaction with Greater Kashmir Senior Editor, Nazir Ganaie, he discusses his early writings, his love and longing for his homeland and his tryst with a microphone and camera.

For him, Kashmir isn’t just his homeland. It is his first love, his place of solace, serenity and creativity. The writer, ace broadcaster and prominent drama personality, Pran Kishore Kaul, 98, likes to say that he resides in Pune but his heart lives in Kashmir—his spiritual home built of stunningly mesmerising meadows and landscapes, art, theatre, literature, fellow artists and surprisingly joyful memories and dark tales.

Whenever his fellow artists, poets or writers from Kashmir visit Pune, a city in Maharashtra, Kaul always aims to gather a small but appreciative audience around him and recollects his memories of love, longing and hopefulness about Kashmir. There, he talks about his writings, his improbably fond recollections of working days when he saw his fellow colleagues and artists getting killed on the streets in Kashmir, and his love for music, literature and theatre.

“Kashmir is not just a place. It is an essence that we all, irrespective of any religious tag, keep living with. For an artist like me, I am always hopeful that Kashmir, will see a new dawn of togetherness, where we all will start living together in communal harmony,” says Pran Kishore Kaul, at his Pune residence, where he was surrounded by family, friends and faculty and students from FTII, Pune.

“You have to always believe in the roots you come from. You have to learn to have trust and also trust the process of change. A lot has changed over the years in Kashmir but we have seen and lived the golden periods. I am hopeful that the golden days of Kashmir will be back,” he says.

Pran Kishore Kaul was born on January 23, 1925 in Srinagar, Kashmir. He did his initial schooling in Srinagar, joined SP College, Srinagar and later got educated at the University of Punjab (Lahore).

Kaul in 1943 started his acting career from SP College Dramatic Club and later became the secretary of the two leading dramatic clubs.  He acted in Neelam based on famous Urdu playwright Abid Ali Abid’s classic RoopmatiBaazbahadur as its protagonist. He also acted in Imtiaz Ali Taj’s classical Anarkali and TikshaRakhshita by Mahmood Hashmi. He was an active member of Bazm- AdabiZauq and under the canopy of literary giants like Khawaja Ahmad Abbas, OpenderNathAshk, PremNathPardesi, BalrajSahni, he found the ink of his pen ruling the nerves of paper through short stories. With the passage of time, the Literary Study Circle emerged as Progressive Writers’ Association which later brought a thorough “cultural revolution ‘’ in Kashmir. Under the leadership of Kaul, the dramatic wing of this organisation contributed a lot to the literary traditions of Kashmiri literature by producing Kashmir Yehi Hai, Play ¾, Dollar Sahab, Batahar, Shaheed Shervani and Sawal by PremNathPardesi, Naya Kashmir Ki Rah Par, Bombur Ta Yamberzal (A Kashmiri Opera) by Dina NathNadim. A reproduction on the visit of Russian leaders namely Marshal Bulganin and Nikita Kuschev, DeevaneKaKhawab by Ali Muhammad Lone, Kanjoos (an adaptation of Moiler’s The Miser, Malan Cho by RabindraNath Tagore (Adaptation by Pran Kishore) Budh Kam Shudh, KhaloojanKaKhawab, Hero Machama, Jheel Bula Rahi Hai by Ali Mohammad Lone, Vitasa (Opera in Kashmiri) HimalaKeChashme (Opera in Urdu) PiyaBaajPyala (Musical Play) and Tipu Sultan. Pran Kishore has served Indian Television by the likes of Gul GulshanGulfam, Junoon, Ghuttan, Noor Jehan, Saaye Deodar Ke, Manzil, Safar WapsiKa and SapnouKaSaudagar.

In addition to acting, Pran Kishore Kaul has directed and written screenplays. He was bestowed with the SahityaAkademi Award for his novel Sheen TuWatu Pod. He was one of the founders of the Miltsar Kashmir Music and Dance Group, a group that travels widely with the goal of supporting Kashmiri arts. Kaul is best known as the creator of 1991 Doordarshan television serial Gul GulshanGulfaam. He is also a recipient of Silver peacock for the feature film Maanzirath and was instrumental in major cultural activities that took place in the Kashmir valley for nearly five decades, making a unique contribution and place in the field of art, culture and literature. In 2018, Kaul was awarded the civilian award, Padma Shri.

Kaul says his love and admiration for the arts and culture was greatly inspired by his parents, who would inspire him to go miles ahead in the field of arts and literature. In his early 40s at a young age, he saw his parents moulding and pushing him into the field of creativity. After graduation from SP College, Kaul gravitated toward writing, theatre and music and in the brief, he produced novels and many stage dramas. Kaul before moving out for his higher studies had established himself as a remarkable voice for many in the literary and creative circles.

Golden Era

For him, his unending mentorship came from prolific writers and poets including Rahman Rahi, Amin Kamiletc, who brought an artist and writer in him onto the stage.

He is a seasoned novelist, a prolific playwright, a serious stage director, a brilliant broadcaster and a painter. Recalling his initial days at various literary forums, Kaul says that he started writing during his college days. “We used to have a literary club known as Bazm-i-Adab which was a breeding place for eminent writers. “I started with Urdu short stories. I started writing in the Kashmiri language in 1947 and later I joined my many contemporaries including Ali Muhammad Lone, Sofi Ghulam Muhammad, Kanwal Nain Parvaz, and Mahmoud Hashmi.”

On his stint at Radio Kashmir (now All India Radio), he says that there were many other writers including Ali Mohammad Lone, QaiserQalander, Bashir Bhat etc with whom he would take his literary journey ahead.

“See, my decades-long association with Radio Kashmir not only gave me recognition but it also exposed me to a lot of challenges and opportunities,” Kaul recalled. “After joining the radio, I started writing in English. I would go on experimenting with the mediums of the language. But here for a definite reason as I had to deal with technicians who were non-native to Urdu or Kashmiri. I would write the screenplays for them in English so as to make them understand the entire scenario.”

“Later I preferred to write in my own mother tongue for the reason that it belongs to my roots and I was able to express and show more. Simultaneously I started translating my own Kashmiri novel Sheen TeWate Pod into English. My Kashmiri novel, Gul GulshanGulfam, shot me into instant fame. It was after this novel, I started getting national and international attention. During this period, I did a lot of work on the literary front as well as on bringing theatre back to its pristine glory. Later, I translated it into English and a dear friend and noted academic, Prof. ShafiShauq was with me in this translation project. As a writer I wrote what I felt and observed around me, may it be culture, heritage, traditions and above all life in general coupled with history.

 Sound Is A Beautiful Medium

Kaul says that one needs to be creative in creating the pieces. “Consistency and perseverance are very important for any creative individual. As I always say that once you are an expert in creating the perfect sound, you can surpass Aladdin’s genie. Sound is a beautiful medium. it has not only served saints and sages but a broadcaster as well.”

Recalling the 1965 war, when air raids were frequent, Kaul says that announcements were made to stay indoors as sound would smash the doors and windows.  “The power of sound fascinated me and I realised that one can almost create an alternative world for radio dramas. In Radio Kashmir we could generate many sound effects that in reciprocity aided our dramas to a level hitherto unexplored.” “There are lots of challenges when it comes to working behind the cameras and on the radio, you are at free will to create every minute and intricate detail within the four walls of your recording studios using microphones and, in our case, it helped us in giving a new lease of life to the dramas that were critically acclaimed.”

“I must say, broadcasting has been my soul. I joined Radio in 1948 and after that, I have learned a lot in my 30-year broadcasting career. I channelised my experience into experiments and innovations that create a special niche for Radio Kashmir among its competitors at the All-India Level. I was able to add to the bench strength of the special category of broadcasters of the country, and Radio Kashmir was considered one of the prominent stations in the country for the reason of upholding top-class broadcasting.”

Kaul says that radio has been a great source of satisfaction for his creative life. “Radio gave a lot. It was life support to me. I have lived with it. I have grown with it. Sound has also taught me a lot of lessons for life. It is only because of sound that you can transfer your imagination into auditory imagery, one can perform miracles with sound variations. We can do any possible variation by using sound modules. We can actually travel to far-off places with the help of sound when we are actually working in a studio. That too was a life-changing experience for me.”

 They called me Blue-eyed Boy of Shiekh

Recalling the political upheaval and his close association with the former Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Shiekh Muhammad Abdullah, Kaul says, he used to closely monitor PM’s speeches and would always aim to add colour to them.

“My colleagues would call me a blue-eyed boy of Shiekh Muhammad Abdullah. I would make sure that his speeches are spread well and also I would personally listen to them carefully and add colour to them.” “Later my association with Shiekh sahib’s family continued. With Farooq sahab and his son Omar as well.”

Writers Must Mushroom

Kaul says that in a place like Kashmir, writers and storytellers must grow exponentially. “Writings and good writers must mushroom. We must pave the ways for the young generation to grow into this field,” he says. “I always believe that creativity is the hallmark of any independent existence. If you are a creative being. You will find ways to choose your goals.”

“You can’t tie a creative person for long. I remember, when I joined Radio Kashmir, there was not any locking back for me,” he recalled. “I did my best to explore myself in all my creative pursuits. When I felt I was made for theatre, broadcasting was my calling and then later I ended up having solid affairs with writing and filmmaking.”

Powerhouse of Creativity

In the Kashmir region, Pran Kishore Kaul’s colleagues and contemporaries call him a “power of creativity” and a connoisseur of stage, music, poetry, painting and dance.

“One would be amazed to see the capabilities and creativity aspect of Pranji. I joined Radio Kashmir as Programme Executive and it is here, I started knowing him so closely,” Former Director General Doordarshan and former Secretary Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages, DrRafiqMasoodi, told Greater Kashmir.

“During that time, I also had a brief service stint outside and I came to know about many of his other facets and I started reading his literary works.  He was equally good in fine arts, literature and overall mass mediums. Pran Ji’s scripts, line of direction and presentation are always rooted to the ground and the content has something deeper to convey,” he says. “I also had the honour to translate one of his books into Hindi which was assigned to me by the Sahitya Academy. The translation brought me good recognition in literary circles and also an award. He has been an ace broadcaster and a born narrator. His narrative brings people and incidents to life in flashes of telling detail.”

“Pranji was a great radio drama producer. He would go through the script at least twice to understand a single line before production. His characterisation for any production was unique,” says Kaul’s colleague and former broadcaster and Programme Executive, Radio Kashmir, NisarNaseem.

“He would make sure that artists undergo a series of rehearsals before the recording. He used to create sound effects as per the requirement of the play. I have seen him create drama effects through his voice to make the play more attractive. He was born an artist. He used to perform the toughest role in the plays with marvellous modulation. As a person, he is a good friend, a great guru and a tough teacher. Let me tell the truth that so many artists would like to imitate his style of acting,” says nostalgic Naseem.

Former Director, Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar, ShabirMujahid, while recalling his association with Kaul, says. “Pran Kishore Kaul has been a multidimensional personality who carved out his name in the field of art, culture & literature, remarkably well. I am honoured to work under him on the stage from time to time. DD Srinagar produced the first colour serial Imandar in 1986. I was the Director. Pranji worked in the same serial as Prof Usman, a character, which later became a household name in the valley. Pranji is a radio voice, a novelist, a dramatist, a director, a painter, a writer and above all a lovely human being, who taught us many things and continues to guide us.”

“Pran Ji is a school of excellence in many areas like broadcasting, radio drama, stage acting, scriptwriting, cinematography, production, direction, special effects, film acting, painting, and writing,” says noted playwright and president, AdbiMakazKamraz, Amin Bhat.

Let there be the return of another Budshah

On the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland, the ace broadcaster says “let there be another Budshah.” In order to bring back the Kashmiri Pandits with honour, dignity and no fear.

Elaborating, he says that during the rule of Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin of the Shah Mir dynasty of Kashmir, who was popularly known as Bud Shah (the Great King), the Hindus of this region felt safe. Budshah had earned a name for himself for his policy of religious tolerance and public welfare activities. “The king extended liberal patronage to Sanskrit language and literature. He called back the Hindus who left Kashmir during his father’s reign. I must tell you a great Kashmiri Pandit doctor, a noted Physician in his darbar, Shri Bhat, was a classic example. Shri Bhat who was left alone with none of his relatives around requested the King that only one thing can be a real gift to him after Bhat had saved his life from some ailment. It was the return of his relatives and other KPs to their homeland. The king had agreed. He let the Kashmiri Hindus build their temples and follow the personal law according to the Dharmashastras. Let there be a Bud Shah for many of us too.”

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