Tag Archives: jammu

Aarushi Thakur: A budding icon of Jammu

Abhishek K

Aarushi Thakur is a budding theatre personality of Jammu & Kashmir. She is daughter of Padma Shri Balwant Thakur, a renowned theatre personality of India. Here is a conversation with Aarushi:

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During the play Ghumayee
  • Youre a rising theatre icon of Jammu, please tell us in brief about you.

I graduated in Political Science from St. Stephens College. Ive done Masters in International Politics from the University of Leicester, London. Ive done theatre from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London. And right now Im working in Natrang and yes, Ive participated in DirectorsWorkshop in the National School of Drama in addition to various other acting and direction workshops.

  • How different is theatreculture here in India from that in the west?

It is the same in some aspects and in some there are huge differences also. Like the method of instruction and teaching is very similar but the way people perceive and receive theatre is a lot different. In London, people are ready to spend even £20 for a theatre ticket which is not possible here in India. People there take theatre as seriously as films but sadly its not so here in India.

  • Any comparison between theatreculture in Jammu and the rest of India?

The people in Mumbai, Kolkata are coming forward to invest in theatre; theyre getting sponsored which isnt the case here in Jammu. Everywhere else in India, theyre realising that theyve neglected theatre for long and theyre ready to pour in money to save theatre. Though my father has been trying to get sponsors in Jammu and has succeeded in roping in bigwigs like Airtel etc. yet weve to put more efforts.

  • How do you feel about the recent Jammu & Kashmir Festival that took place in London?

It was a great initiative. The people abroad have misconceptions about J&K; like while I was studying in London, people kept asking me if Id encountered terrorists and bomb explosions! The people there have no idea about the state the kind of diversity that we have here in J&K.

Besides theres a trust deficit in the various regions of the state due to political and social unrest; so in order to coalesce them, such festivals are greatly significant. The artists while portraying the composite culture of the state in a foreign land definitely feel the connection among themselves and acknowledge the unity in diversity that our state has exhibited for centuries.

  • How instrumental has your father Mr. Balwant Thakur been in guiding you to take up theatre as full time career?

To be honest! He never interfered in my choices, be it in academics or career. He never interferes while Im on a project and he never watches my rehearsals. He gets to see my performance with the rest of the audience only. And yes he does give me feedback as a viewer once the show is over.

  • You work with kids as well as with adult actors. Who are you more comfortable working with?

Actingwise, I prefer adults as theyre easy to communicate with. Adult actors grasp ideas and concepts quickly and have thorough idea of almost everything. While acting with or directing kids, one has to enact every scene as theyre young and have no idea about a lot of things. Besides I dont like to scold kids.

  • What exactly is Natrangs goal?

Our prime focus is on producing professional actors and directors. It is secondary whether they choose theatre of films at a later stage. A lot of actors from Natrang are acting in films, TV series etc. We do provide periodic courses for casual and hobbyists but were dedicated to producing professionals only.

  • In times ridden with Bollywood, how do you avoid the temptation to become a Bollywood heroine?

(Laughs). I dont want to be stereotyped with anything. In future, I wouldnt mind directing and acting in a film myself but Im not hell bent on becoming a heroine; being an actor would be sufficient for me.

  • Acting or DirectingIf given a choice which one will you choose?

Thats a tough one! I think Ill go with acting as it is less demanding than direction. While acting, everybody else be an actor, a set designer, the director or anybody, contributes to your performance. Everybody helps you bring out the best from your character. But while directing, you have to work on every aspect of the play, from actors, to set design, to costume, lights, soundDirection is tough!

  • What are your short term and long term goals?

Right now we are working on a Hindi adaption of The Twelfth Night. I am writing the script. The show will be presented in Jammu by the end of this year and then again in February, well perform it in Delhi.

Long term goals…. Im planning to take up courses in Film Design and Film Making.

Hero that Jammu forgot

Abhishek K

One day I struck a conversation with an octogenarian at a tea stall in Moti Nagar, New Delhi. Kundan Lal Saigal and Sialkot were two things that he mentioned right away when I told him that I belong to Jammu. Then followed his stories about Sialkot and how faintly yet fondly he remembered songs of KL Saigal.

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This event prompted me to venture out to find Saigal’s family and his house, wherever that may be in Jammu. I had to make some phone calls in the artistes-circle of Jammu to find out Saigal’s address. It turned out to be Mastgarh area of the old city.

Taking my camera, I went off to Mastgarh Mohalla hoping to find a legacy of Saigal all over the Mohalla. To my distress, nobody seemed to know about him; right in the middle of Mastgarh! After questioning about 20 passersby and 22 households, I got to know about his place by an old auto driver.

It definitely seemed a beautiful house, as I entered it. I was positive of being welcomed by his long forgotten descendants. As soon as I rang the bell, a rather hesitant girl came up to me. Gathering my intentions, she called her Chachu. The gentleman was quick to disappoint me while he told me that they’d bought the house in 1972. To my utter shock, he said that even their family didn’t know until 2004, when they celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of Saigal at the KL Saigal Chowk, that the house belonged to someone of such prominence. He too wasn’t much to blame because there wasn’t any mark of Saigal in the “KL Saigal Chowk”. Hardly anybody knew of that particular name of the crossroads.

The fact that only 50% of the Jammu youth knows about KL Saigal is also assumed by Mr. Jigar Mohammad, the HoD History Department, Jammu University. Yet he persists that KL Saigal is well known among the scholarly section of Jammu.

Now my only destination seemed to be the KL Saigal Hall at Abhinav Theatre. I wanted to know of their efforts to keep alive his legacy. There, Dr. Arvinder Singh Amn, Additional Secretary Jammu & Kashmir Fine Arts Society briefed me about the purpose of the hall and how it’s a centre of literary, folk, music and other performing arts. Saigal’s birthday is celebrated every year where artistes from the state pay their tributes to this legend in their own ways; including Mr. Anil Tickoo who dresses up as Saigal and sings his popular songs.

I’m still disappointed to see how a very few people remember the first superstar of Indian cinema- the multilingual actor and singer KL Saigal.