Saturday, August 8, 2020
 
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Good bye my friend Shadi Lal Koul
"Shamas ud Din aage bado hum tumhaare saath hain"


Avtar Mota



I heard the boys shouting this inside Botanical Park near Chashm e Shahi garden, Srinagar on a summer day in 2009 . I knew that a TV serial “ Jatta Vanai “ for DDK was being shot with Shadi Lal in the main lead.I asked one of the boys who must have been barely 19 years old as to who is Shamas ud Din and he immediately opened his small notebook to show me the autograph of Shadi Lal Koul . It was surprising to find enormous fan following of Shadi Lal even amongst children born after 1990 in the Kashmir valley .Further questioning revealed that they were regularly watching the serial SHABRANG( 104 episodes ) produced by Farooq Nazki for DDK Srinagar . Who does not remember Shadi Lal's dialogue , " Begum Salaal Tse Kyaazi Goyee Malaal " from this TV serial ?

This Play was telecast for 3 successive years ( 1981 to 1983 ) and i vividly remember that shops would close and people would rush to their homes to see what Shamas ud Din had to say in the new episode . The play created a character that turned to be as popular as Hero Machama of Pushker Bhan. Shadi Lal became the face of an ordinary poor or middle class Kashmiri through his innumerable plays telecast on Doordarshan Kendra , Srinagar or Performed on stage at Tagore Hall ,Srinagar.

So much was his popularity that he preferred to remain indoors as people identifying with his characters would embrace him on roads . Ladies would kiss his forehead in traditional Kashmiri style . The shopkeepers , Tongawallas , vegetables sellers , school and college students would shout "Shamas Ud din Zindabad " loudly at him.

Once he told me this :-
"My inspiration has been the clerks , Tongawallahs, labourers , petty traders on the footpath and men trapped in circumstances beyond their control . I do not remember how many plays i have done . Most of the plays were performed on stage . A good number of plays were adapted by TV as well . I also acted in a DD serial under Shyam Benegal banner with Om Puri. My character as Houseboat owner in Balwant Gargi's Play "HOUSEBOAT " for Door Darshan was well received . I also acted in a Kashmiri movie INQUILAAB produced by a Mumbai based producer and directed by D K Kanwal.

Once I was shooting in Sopore where a Tongawalla came to the venue and asked me to come to his house for five minutes to have a cup of tea with him. He had also brought some fish for me. I told him that i was with the shooting team and had to go to another village for some shots whereafter I had to rush to Srinagar . He felt disheartened . I assured him to visit his house upon my next visit.He hugged me . Reciprocating his affection , i too hugged him . He kissed my forehead and held my hand as tears rolled down his eyes. He had seen me in SHABRANG TV serial . When I left Sopore, I kept looking at him from the car window for a long distance. He kept waving . I reciprocated. That was my award."

A careful look at him revealed humour in his mannerism and body language . He would make appropriate use of his hands and facial expressions . His steps on the stage are calculated to match the content of the dialogues. He hardly needed rehearsals . Apart from acting , Shadi Lal also wrote script for a popular TV Comedy SHUKRIYAA directed by Rajesh Koul . His acting field is not confined to Kashmiri theatre alone . I remember his acting in a Hindi play Dulari Bai in 1981. When Dr Sohan Lal Koul translated the popular Kannada play Haivadan by Girish Karnard to Kashmiri ( Gurey Buthh ) , it was Shadi Lal only who became the first choice of the director for this play. And when Mohan Niraash translated a Kannada play by S L Bairappa , Shadi lal was again in the lead role.He has told me this :-

“ Some artists from whom I draw inspiration include Vijay Suri , Makhan Lal Saraf , Jawahar Wanchoo, Ghulam Nabi Baba and Pran chandra.I also prefer good script writers like Ali Mohd Lone , Farooq Masoodi , Hriday Kaul Bharti , Bashir Dada and Hari krishen koul .”

Born in a middle class family at Chotta Bazar Srinagar , Shadi Lal was a self taught man . Together with his friend Ayash Aarif he founded the 'Kali Das Theatre 'at Chotta Bazar , Srinagar and began his journey in theatre.

I remember a popular TV serial "Rangan Heund Rang " produced by DDK Srinagar written by Pushker Bhan and directed by Dr Sohan Lal Koul .This serial had Shadi Lal Koul as the lead character , Nikka Kottur' .I am also reminded of the comedy TV serial called "Cherry Treuch " written by Makhan lal Saraf and directed by Ayaash Aarif for DD Kashir wherein Shadi Lal played the role of Gopi Nath Gagroo. Another Comedy drama "Ghulam Begum Badshah" for DD Kashir directed by Ayaash Aarif had Shadi Lal playing the main character Mokhta Mir. None can forget the comedy " Tijaratuk Assan Tareeqa" written for DDK Srinagar by Hriday Koul Bharti produced and directed by Shabir Mujahid . Shadi Lal acted as Master Ji in this popular drama . "Gaash Innus Taam" was another play written by Hriday Koul Bharti and directed by Rajesh koul for DDK Srinagar wherein Shadi Lal's dialogue " Maaji Hinz driyee Kaami doah Guv Zaayee " is still remembered by Kashmiris anywhere .Shadi Lal also acted in three episodes of ' Gul Gulshan Gulfaam' under Cinevista Banner .

Shadi Lal acted in the play "Local Taxes Extra" written by Dr Sohan Lal Koul.The play was performed at Tagore Hall Srinagar in 1981. A history of sorts was created by this play in Srinagar. Tickets for the shows would always be sold in advance for a fully packed Hall. Additional chairs were always put to accommodate the audience . Once the Staff at Naaz cinema nearby gave a thrashing to the artists to pack up as the play had played havoc with their business. This play was also adapted for TV by Ashok Jailkhani . I vividly remember that Rajesh Koul another Producer in DD Srinagar brought multistep camera to Tagore Hall Srinagar and recorded the play for DDK Srinagar in another style .


Dastaar ( Turban ) was a play that touched height of popularity in Kashmir valley. Written by Hari Krishen Kaul for theatre initially, the play was staged at Tagore hall in 1978 in a drama festival organised by J&K Academy of Art Culture And Languages . The play was produced by Kamal Theatre Badyaar Bala and directed by Santosh Tiku . Shadi Lal acted as Section Officer in this play and received 'Best Actor Award ' for his superb role . The dialogue from this play "Kusum Lata Nein Bataa Kheytaa " is still popular in the valley . This play was also produced for DDK, Srinagar by Ashok jailkhani wherein another talented actor H. N .Gurtoo performed an equally impressive role. Dastaar was again done for DD1 channel with Shadi Lal again in the lead role.

Shadi Lal was a friend and a well wisher. He was simple and easy to deal with.Never have I heard him speaking ill of any person. Did he ever get angry? I haven't seen . There was hardly any function in our family which he did not join. Along with Makhan Lal Saraf , I brought him to the literary Baithaks and he enjoyed these gatherings.

I knew what he was he going through for the last three years. Whenever we met, he remained cheerful.I would ask him:-

" How are you feeling now?"

" Bilkul fit. Doctors have told it is just very small issue that can be tackled with drugs."

As he went through the painful chemotherapy cycles, he did everything to look normal and never losing his smile.

Shadi Lal Koul was a versatile actor of Kashmiri comedy . A Mehmood , Jagdeep and Kesto Mukherjee all in one .

This man who brought smiles to so many faces had his own share of pain and suffering . Destiny snatched his darling child who fell victim to the dreaded cancer long back. Shadi Lal would break down and turn serious even at slightest mention of this painful episode of his life.

Peace be to you soul dear friend. You will be missed. Your smile and humour will be missed . It shall take me time to accept the reality that you are not around.

I end this tribute with a quatrain ( Qitta ) of Ali sardar Jafri....

“Zindagaani ne diya hai ye mujhe hukm ki Tu
“ shab e Tareeq ke daaman mein sitaare bhar De
Phoonk de Jamaa hai Jitnaa Khas o khashak e Nifaaq
Qalb e Insaan mein Mohabbat Ke sharaare bhar De"
( Ali sardar jafri )

" Life has decreed upon me
That I should ,
Decorate the hem of the dark night with shining stars ,
Blow away all that lies heaped with us
As rubbish of disagreement and hate;
And then ,
Fill every human heart
With bright sparks of Love "






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