Kashmir has produced many theatre artists and actors who have represented their talent not only in Kashmir but at national and international platforms.Among them is Dr Ayash Arif, one of the loved actors, television personalities and directors of Kashmir having worked in more than 300 tele-films and tele-serials and has also featured as an actor in four national-level feature films.
With 40 years of experience in theatre, television and radio as actor, producer and director 60 year old Ayash is known as Dilip Kumar of Kashmir.
Born in Balgarden area of Srinagar, he would actively participate in local events and would also sing songsfrom his school days. He started his career in 1972 as an artist and would take active part in local events.
Ayash was passionate for theatre and he took it as a career although it was challenging given the limitations of platforms that time.
He has worked closelywith Shadi Lal Koul, a Kashmiri actor, best known for his comedy roles. The duo worked together in television and in films.
In 1973, Ayash started participating in Sangam Theatre Group which was the leading theatre group that time followed by Kalidas Theatre.
Later, he got an opportunity and did Theatre Repertory Course in 1973-74, sponsored by the National School of Drama and organized by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages during which he honed his skills.
From academics to theatre, Ayash is one such actor who created a world of his own and mastered academics, filmmaking, journalism, acting, editing etc.
In 1976, he joined Doordarshan Srinagar as actor and played leading roles in teleplay, series and films. It was during these years that he earned much fame, this motivated him to direct and produce programs for Doordarshan both commissioned and in-house in the form of telefilms and documentaries, in addition to entertainment programs for national and regional channels.
Later, he did Post Graduation from University of Kashmir followed by PhD in theatre on indigenous folk theater of Kashmir and electronic media.
Ayash directed a number of stage plays and was elected as a director for Kalidas Theatres, Srinagar and Festivals for J&K Filmmakers and Artists Cooperative Limited.
In 1987, he started his career as an actor-producer and his first telefilm Shehjaar was widely appreciated by the audience.
In 1996, he also produced a serial titled Haba Khatoon for DD National which gained the huge viewership world over. He was also taken as a producer-director for Sheikh Saadi Shiraz’s Gulistaan Bosa. It was a combination of Bollywood and Kashmir actors.
The multi-talented actor and director is the first person from Jammu and Kashmir who was awarded Tagore National Scholarship 2013-2014.
Notably, Ayash is a visiting faculty of Meewar University Rajasthan. He was selected as a Member of the General Counsel/ Central Committee of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, and Languages.
Currently, Ayash is working on a film on Kashmir culture which will be a bi-lingual film. He is also participating as main character in Indian web series Amaar.
The noted artist currently works on a feature film with Kangna Ranaut, an Indian actress, renowned director and filmmaker who works in Hindi films.
While taking about the Kashmir theatre movement that faced a setback in the recent past, he said there is a need to revive Kashmir’s theatre culture which will not only create opportunities for youth but also act as a vibrant medium for artists.
“Theatre is the vibrant medium. Kashmir’s theatre movement has faced many ups and downs over the past several decades. Despite that best theatre artists were produced in Kashmir valley till late 1980,” he said, adding “Theatre has its own relevance despite the availability of different kinds of new mediums. We have to train young talent. We lack professional institutions where we can groom young talent. There is also lack of financial support,” he said.
Ayash while welcoming the film policy, appealed the government to introduce and groom regional cinema which will benefit local talented artists and producers.
On the other side, the artist who wears many hats said many students are interested to take part in theatre and make it a full-fledged career.
Commercial theatre is the need of the hour where we can give space to humor and satire which will give relief to people and connect people, he said.
“Youth are talented. If they have an interest in television or theatre, they will have to study professionally. They should not find shortcuts to their goals. The field is very vast it needs commitment and dedication,” he said.
An ardent dramatist, Ayash considers theatre to be the mirror of society and considers his responsibility to raise the social issues for the betterment of people. He believes that if culture is appropriately prioritized both by the government and people and it will definitely yield wonderful outcomes.
He expressed his concern over the fact that the new generation of the families of folk performers is getting disillusioned from art and there is need to rekindle their interest by supporting them so that this legacy is preserved for the coming generations.
Apart from acting, he has written many screenplays for tele- serial for Doordarshan like Nove Te Vow, School for Wives, Midnight Dreams, Guli and Widow besides many short stories which includes Reah (The Flame), Wache Taluk Vopur Tcaie (The Alien Shadow within), Krehnis Shahras Menz ( In the Dark City), Yalie Gaye Daier (Thus the window opens), Friend Request, Krehein Gulab ( Black Rose), Naseif Raatch Huind Khab ( Mid Night Dream) and Hundeir Ehsaas (Frozen Sense).
He joined the active Theatre Movement in Kashmir in the year 1970 and participated in so many seminars and workshops regarding theatre activities in Kashmir and produced, directed and acted in number of stage plays.
Ayash won the Best Stage Director Award in the Annual Youth Drama Festival of 1976 for a play Tasruf. He won Stage Actor Award in the Annual Drama Festival of 1985 and 1986 organized by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.
He won Best TV Actor Award in the year 1986 and Best Director Award for the tele-serials Chari Truch and Ghulam Begum Badshah for the year 2001 and 2002.
He is also the recipient of State Academy Award for Best Director Award for the tele-film entitled Habba Khatoon for the year 2009. Besides that, he won the Best Achievement Award for the tele-serial entitled Athwas for the year 2010.
In radio Ayash was graded as top grade drama artist of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar. He has been participating as grade-A drama voice for Radio Kashmir, Srinagar and All India radio over the past 38 years.
The multi-talented artist and actor has also worked as the anchor of different musical programs for Radio Kashmir, Srinagar like Mehrab, Gazal, App Ki Farmayesh etc.