For 65-year-old veteran artist Nazir Josh aka Ahad Raza, who is also known as 'King of Comedy' in Kashmir, laughter makes people feel good and helps them to remain optimistic in difficult situations. The well-known comedian who has been entertaining people for decades believes opening of regional film industry will not only boost artists but help in employment generation as well.
In an interaction with Rising Kashmir, he said laughter is the best therapy to bust stress as it helps in remaining positive, optimistic and sail through difficult situations, disappointments, and losses.
Nazir Josh, a scriptwriter, director, and actor, became the household name in Kashmir after gaining popularity during 1990s by his leading roles in drama serials like 'Jum German', 'Ahad Raza' and till now people recall his distinctive acting and action.
Hailing from central Kashmir's Budgam district, Josh is among the first breed of artists in Valley who gained popularity during 1990s in Doordarshan (DD Kashir) serials.
After 2014, Doordarshan stopped its work on drama serials. Due to the ongoing situation and corona crisis, artists have suffered a lot in Kashmir, he said.
"Around 10000 people were associated with Doordarshan directly or indirectly and it shattered the dreams of all young artists in Kashmir," he said.
Josh says every state or region has its own film industry but there is no local industry in Kashmir. It would be more successful in Valley as people are more inclined towards Kashmiri entertainment, he said.
He said there is no entertainment alternative in Kashmir, no cinemas, and no theatres. Even singe TV station is also mum about the entertainment and is unable to deliver anything, Josh opined.
Recalling old memories, Josh said during his schools days, he was interested in acting. In 1970s, he joined the National Theater Budgam which was started by Bashir Budgami group to groom local talent.
"Initially I was assigned serious roles but after gaining some experience I did humorous roles in the skits that were staged locally. It was a turning point in my life and I started working hard to learn new techniques," he said.
Josh said in 1973, he participated in a state-level theatre festival at Tagore Hall in Srinagar which was organized by Cultural Academy in which artists from noted theatres including Rang Manch, Kala Kender, Asan, and Sangramal theatres participated.
"In the festival noted dramas from India were staged including Waiting for Godot, Konark and Shuturmurg (Ostrich Boys). While dramas of Som Nath Sadhu, Pushkar Bhan were also staged," he said.
He said his group also performed a humorous play in the festival and they secured a third position along with the other two noted theatres. We got appreciation from everyone at the festival, he said.
When Doordarshan was started in 1973, Josh cleared the audition and after that, he was assigned small roles in routine dramas aired from the station.
In 1977, famous producer Farooq Nazki returned back to Kashmir after completing his training in Germany. We worked on the drama serial 'Totma' and it gained good popularity among the audience.
"The serial had fewer dialogues and more action and we aired its 25 episodes," he said.
Again in 1985, Josh worked on a new concept' Hazaar Dastaan' and discussed the same with Bashir Budgami, who approved the idea and started its shooting.
"In this serial, Ahad Raza became the household name in Kashmir. It used to be aired on weekends and its main theme was revolving around the politicians, bureaucrats who exploit common masses.
He said it was a political satire drama. “We used to criticize those who were at the helm of affairs and it gained more popularity among the people.”
"That time popular Pakistani crime investigation drama series ‘Andhera Ujala’ was aired but it lost its viewership in Kashmir because of the ‘Hazaar Dastaan’,” he said.
Later, the popular serial was stopped due to some political interference, he said. The drama till that time had aired 52 episodes and it was aired again in 1987, he said.
After the success of ‘Hazaar Dastaan’, Josh also appeared in ‘Juma German’ serial in 1989, and later its shooting had to be left mid-way due to turmoil in Kashmir.
Later, they worked in Jammu and other places to feed the audience in Kashmir. From 1990s till 2005, Josh worked day and night with DD Kashir with noted producers and directors.
Josh claims he introduced rap song which has its base treatment in Ladishah, Mazaiya Chakri and other new concepts. “I have written more than 250 humorous songs which are still popular among the people,” he said.
Apart from these serials, the 65-year-old artist also worked in ‘Raaz-e-Hunz’, ‘Hero number 1’, and ‘Haput’, ‘Yas Lagi Tas Lagi Sarkari’, and ‘Adam’ to name a few. While popular stage plays include ‘Zolan’, ‘Lol Opera’, ‘Haa'r Koker’, ‘Khalwat Shah’, and T’im Gori Gayay’.
About shift from serious to humorous character, he said they were shooting for a drama and one of his colleagues was not present on the set. “I was asked to perform his role for some time and I performed it and got appreciation from all," he said.
In 2013, Josh appeared as a leading actor in the television serial ‘Asi Kut Chi Gachun’ (Where we have to go) along with Mir Sarwar and other local actors, which was directed by Bashir Dada.
About young artists performing on social media, he said most of the things are missing in their plays. “Training is important for every artist; there is a need for a proper script and dialogue. Short composition, suspense, and punch are vital components,” he said.
Last year, he also shared clips regarding Covid-19 awareness and it was received well across Kashmir.
He has also bagged best actor award from Cultural Academy Kashmir, Kashmir Jhelum Art and other reputed organizations of the valley.
'Even today, I am unable to visit any picnic spot in Kashmir as people recall 'Ahad-Raza character'. Now my son has started putting my old videos on social media due to which I have also fan following among the younger generation," Josh said.
About his future plans, the veteran comedian say after witnessing the love of people on social media regarding my messages, he is also planning to start his 5-minute satirical programme soon.
"Presently I am working on a new script called 'Comedy Reporter’ and it will be completed by the end of this month. Four to five episodes of this series will be released each month," he said.
Josh said young artists should train themselves and work hard on script and observation. “When there is a good script, we can produce good dramas and movies,” he said.
'Although there is no dearth of talent among the young generation but they need to polish their ideas and hone their skills.”
Josh said after witnessing the condition of veteran artists in Kashmir, there is no scope for them unless the government takes some concrete steps for the setting up of the local film industry.
"We have a cream of professional producers and directors in Kashmir, government can avail their services for setting up regional film industry or finance them for the making movies on Kashmir in Kashmiri language," he said.
Josh hopes that if the regional film industry will be established, it can provide employment to thousands of people. “I hope that government works on these ideas,” he added.