Srinagar- The seven-day theatre festival being held here will give a second wind to the fledgling folk art scene in the region which, being the grip of militancy for the past three decades, bled a lot of its cultural wealth, artistes say.
The festival that began on Monday and will see leading lights of Kashmiri theatre performing is being organised by Kashmiri cultural NGO, Vomedh (hope).
“Vomedh is a 15-year-old organisation. We have not only been working in Jammu and Kashmir but across India. In 2022, we took an initiative to promote our mother tongue by holding a Mother Tongue Day in February,” Rohit Bhat of Vomedh told PTI.
“We got a huge response. This festival is part of that effort under which seven plays will be staged. We are focusing on folk arts because our youth are walking away from folk arts,” he said.
“We want our youths to connect with their mother tongue through the theatre. The new generation is ignoring its mother tongue and has adopted English and other languages,” Bhat added.
He said the festival was started with the performance of two plays — Band paether and Bakerwal paether, which involve storytelling about rural life through folk dance.
Veteran theatre and television actor from Kashmir Ayash Arif said such festivals provide a platform to the artists not only to showcase their talent but also to draw in a younger crowd interested in local culture and language.
“As you know, for the past many decades there was a complete halt on these activities. Unless and until there is a cultural movement, our youth will not connect. And we have abundant talent with us in colleges and universities.
“When we talk of theatre, so many people want to come and perform. We have to provide them a platform so that they can showcase their talent,” Arif said.
He said a lot of talent was wasted in the 30 years of turmoil in Kashmir with the youth getting further away from its local culture and local tongues.
Bashir Ahmad Bhagat, a Band Paether artist, said theatre artists over the past three decades have been subdued for lack of performing opportunities.
“The past many years were like doomsday. We were crestfallen stuck inside our homes and we could not say a word as it was about our livelihood. We would perform on stage, visit villages including religious places.
“The situation became such during militancy that we thought Allah is angry with us,” said Bhagat, who said he wants to spread happiness with his craft.
“We got a new lease of life after the theatre staged a comeback once the situation improved. Kashmiri language will flourish only when our youngsters will relish the folk art in their mother tongue,” he added.
Midhat Nazir, an upcoming Roff artist, said theatre festivals were very important to promote culture.
“We get to represent our language. Such programmes should be held so that we can also promote our language and culture. This has given us a platform to showcase our culture,” she said.
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