As OTT revolution continues to expand its territory throughout the globe, opening a wide spectrum of opportunities for the aspiring artists, DD Kashir continues telecasting outdated and outsourced programmes leaving the local artist fraternity in disarray as they struggle for their survival.
By Asif Khan, Arbeena Shah
AS a witness to the rise and fall of different artistic dynasties, an old dusky tree at the iconic Zero Bridge in Srinagar sends down its leaves, swirling onto the wet deck of the bridge to carpet its dull lurid floor. The pitiless frosty air born out of the bosom of Jhelum sways everyone clicking selfies and those sitting on the dilapidated benches made of oak tree.
Among many others, Zameer Ashai, dressed in discreetly dark and baggy jacket, drab pants running straight into his long suburban black boots, amiably looks at the river Jhelum with his sullen eyes reminiscing his lost legacy holding a chilled cup of tea. He doesn’t empty the cup peculiarly as it remains his lone companion through his stay at the bridge during these days.
“I hardly see any of my colleagues here,” says Ashai, a renowned Kashmiri TV artist, in a sober voice. “Currently, they’re busy searching work to make ends meet.”
The quintessential Zero Bridge has always been a parallel universe in a sense that over the time it has proven to be an aisle of creativity. The bridge brought together outrageously rich names of bedraggled DD Kashir who in early 2000 would enthrall people with their characters whose voices would reverberate in every Kashmiri home.
Reminiscing the evenings wherein Zero Bridge would turn into a warm bed of swaying tales and juvenile laughter as his comrades would confabulate and traverse through diverse issues pertaining to their lives satirically.
“We would blow all of our frustrations in laughter sharing each other’s sorrows as well as happiness,” Zameer adds while catching sight of white cup of tea.
But now, whenever Zameer passes by the same spot, a razor-sharp sense of yearning overtakes him as he seats himself on a fusty wooden bench candidly facing Jhelum cogitating the golden moments that he had spent here with his friends.
“I remember giving autographs to people. But now, we all are left in shambles to fend our own fate,” he says with a deep sigh.
Christened as Kashmir’s Dilip Kumar, Ashai recalls the time when he would be surrounded by locals who were avid viewers of DD Kashir. His fame may have faded but he still remains to be loved more than Dilip Kumar by his fans.
“Though personally I don’t like such analogies because Dilip sahab is a much bigger actor than me, however, you can’t stop people from calling you with different names,” Ashai says humbly.
The actor didn’t disappoint his audience when he reappeared on cinema with Imtiyaz Ali’s Laila Majnu, back in 2018 and displayed a gripping performance. He once again created magic with his austere acting.
But now, after two years, the said actor like many others is facing arduous times and suffering to make ends meet as DD Kashir continues playing with the career of budding as well as veteran artists by serving absurd content to the people of Kashmir.
Back in 2000s, when the channel was launched, Kashmiri people would keep their eyes glued to their TV sets, especially on the eve of Eid and New Year.
There would be legendry actors like late Shadi Lal Koul whose comedy would act as a stress buster for Kashmiri populace along with some local singing sensations who would momentarily uplift gloom in Kashmir.
Initially, introduced as programmes of interest for the people of J&K and to counter what authorities saw as “Pakistani propaganda”, DD Kashir was supposed to promote the talent within Kashmir to bring a sense of togetherness among people and authorities.
“As per the pledge taken while bringing DD Kashir into existence, the locals would be engaged and given livelihood,” Ayash Arif, another veteran actor of DD Kashir, says.
“But post 2010, there were some unauthorized programmes which created rift between us and the authorities.”
The dramatic duo of Ayash Arif and late Shadi Lal Koul was known to bring laughter to Kashmiri homes. But the advent of cable TV allied with dull as dishwater attitude from DD Kashir did wonders for its great fall.
It was indeed overwhelming for the people seeing the local talent on their TV sets. But today, when OTT platforms are even swaying away the Cable TV audiences, DD Kashir has been pushed into a state of defunct and its artists in despair as they struggle to make ends meet.
Behind its fall and gradual fading from public memory is its old-school model, says Aijaz Rah, a local singing sensation and a prominent figure of DD Kashir.
“It could’ve done wonders till now but it has gone in a reverse direction,” Rah says. “They don’t hire new artists and on being asked they throw the entire weight on the absence of suitable budget.”
Director DD Kashir, GD Tahir, didn’t respond to repeated queries from Kashmir Observer on the stringent and incongruous attitude of the channel culminating fatal results for the artist community who once earned their bread from it.
And now, they’re left dry pocketed. As alleged by many they are still awaiting the release of their payments.
“We’re in deep distress as many of the families of our artist community are in starvation,” Rah continues to voice the artistic anguish.
Though Kashmir has throughout the course of its history been a political theatre, but it is now taking a toll on the lives of the artists who remain clueless about their future.
“Many of our jobless and distressed artists are bedridden today,” Bashir Dada, a legendary artist who had worked with DD Kashir, says.
DD Kashir artists have been knocking the doors of the court incessantly to get their problems heard and resolved.
But their unending struggle is only creating multitude of problems for them, laments Kashmir’s Dilip Kumar at Zero Bridge.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.