National Bhand Theatre fights against odds to preserve bhand pathar, Kashmir’s indigenous folk theatre form - watsupptoday.com
National Bhand Theatre fights against odds to preserve bhand pathar, Kashmir’s indigenous folk theatre form
Posted 27 Nov 2019 01:25 PM

INDIAN EXPRESS

The day his phone rang, announcing to him his troupe’s selection for the 11th Bal Sangam festival, at Delhi’s National School of Drama earlier this month, Shah-e-Jahan Ahmad Bhagat was in Kupwara. His prepaid phone worked because he was in the border area; had he been home in Budgam, he would have never received the call. The play, Gosain Pathar, that Bhagat brought to NSD, was the same that the director had acted in as a child artiste in Bal Sangam in 1998. As he and artistes of his National Bhand Theatre group were preparing to leave for the festival in Delhi, it snowed in Kashmir, blocking the roads.

Bhagat’s ancestors have been performing the folk theatre form, bhand pathar, for seven generations, and National Bhand Theatre — comprising 50 family members and relatives in Wathora village in Budgam’s Chadoora tehsil — was formed in 1972, and registered as an NGO in 1980. Their Wathora gharana follows the guru-shishya parampara and the group has trained under Padma Shri playwright Moti Lal Kemmu (grandfather of film actor Kunal Khemu), among others.

Bhand (clown) pathar (meaning character) was born when there was no mode of communication. The clown-like messenger would carry messages to and from the king and his subjects.

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