Cultural upsurge of the Valley
By Tej N Dhar
Painting and Theatre in Kashmir: Suraj Tiku’s Journey, Dr Ramesh Tamiri; Jammu: Suraj Foundation, Pp 142 (PB), Rs 300.00
IN the current spate of books on Kashmir, which are mostly about its politics, Tamiri’s work on cultural developments in the Valley is very welcome. Though it is about the individual journey of Suraj Tiku, who occupies a distinguished place in the cultural upsurge that the Valley witnessed soon after 1947, Tamiri devotes the first part of the book to the origin of art and theatre in the Valley and the achievement of Tiku’s guru, Kashi Nath Bhan, who spearheaded the resurgence of artistic activities in the Valley.
Tamiri examines the tradition of painting in Kashmir from the days of Nilmat Puran to our own times, in which he discusses its main trends, provides small sketches of the key figures from among the British and the locals, and shows how Sir Amar Singh Technical Institute, which was established in 1913, became the primary centre of art education in the Valley. He does the same for the theatre by tracing its origins from the medieval times to our own, focusing on its key forms, the various theatre groups and their artists, and the establishment of the Song and Drama Division by the government to simulate interest in theatrical activity. The chapter on Bhan deals with his family antecedents and schooling, his professional activities, and his lifelong involvement with stagecraft, acting, painting, and teaching.
The chapters on Suraj Tiku provide a detailed account about his evolution as an artist, right from his school days to his last days as an exile, his painting skills, displayed in his use of water colours and oil, his creativity as a set designer, his passion for theatre, reflected in the roles that he played in numerous productions, and his comic skills. He also provides a brief account of many other members of Tiku’s artistic family, some of whom are still active as theatre persons and painters.
Tamiri’s book is a piece of groundbreaking research. He has produced a well written account of art activity in the Valley, a large part of which is based on oral sources, particularly about Bhan and Suraj Tiku. He has put together wealth of information about people, performances, paintings, and public reception to the work of painters and theatre persons, which could have been lost in the years to come. He has also collected photographs, including some rare ones, of almost all the artists mentioned in the book, and some known paintings of Suraj Tiku. The Foreword to the book by Prof. Ratan Parimoo is a rich essay on the subject, and he rightly commends Tamiri for the encyclopedic range of his work. The book has the makings of a useful reference work on painting and theatre in Kashmir.
(Suraj Foundation, 245-Amar colony Extension,. Gole Gujaral, Talab Tillo, Jammu Tawi 180 002)