by Mehru N Nisa

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SRINAGAR: How devious people divide the ‘wise’ for perpetuating their assumed status was the fundamental story to Artche Kaal, the second play that was enacted by the artists of Yamberzal Youth Club at Tagore Hall Srinagar. The plot was interesting and there were not many issues with the delivery. At times, it seemed as if the theme was contemporary.

A scene from Artche Kaal that was enacted on March 16, 2021 at Tagore Hall. KL Image: Bilal Bahdur

Written by Syed Yaqoob Dilkash and directed by Basharat Hussain, the story revolves around Artche Kaal (played by Shazad Shabir) – the protagonist and his ways of creating disunity amongst the people and not letting them prosper. The play hints towards the existing vices of jealousy, disunity and superiority in society.

Artche Kaal is an evil ‘genius’ who claims to have a lot of knowledge about almost everything and people respect him for his opinions. Impressed, they also ask for his suggestions in every matter. In reality, however, his mask of knowledge is a facade. He actually is a self-centred man who only cares for himself and loves to see the people disunited and spilling each other’s blood over petty issues. He also has two horns on his head which he claims to have earned because of his knowledge.

The story begins with a scene when his two associates are licking the floor of his room in order to clean it and then tell him about the two groups of people – blacks and whites, who had come to know about their respective history. Both the groups claim to be the superior group than the other and want to keep all the resources and privileges to themselves only.

The cast of the theatre play, Artche Kaal, after the conclusion of the performance on March 16, 2021. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Artche Kaal goes to meet the groups one by one, first the whites and then the blacks and tells them what they want to hear. When both groups are told that they are the superior ones they start dancing and singing “yi asi hyangal wani, ti karo lolo” (we’ll do what the horned tells us to do). The groups then start fighting and kill each other which make Artche Kaal happy.

There are many other instances of the Artche Kaal subjugating the people throughout the play and the story makes one question about one’s part in the ongoing crisis worldwide and the futility of such issues. While one group thinks that they are superior to the other because of their skin colour, some other group thinks the same because of their gender; another group is attacked and killed because of their religion. The play really makes one think about people like Artche Kaal and the power they hold over us, so much so that we lose our own ability to think and act on our own will. The horned man is actually dividing society to perpetuate his rule and status.

Later on in the story, a conflict arises when Subhan Nayid (Basharat Hussain), who apparently has come back from the dead in order to abolish prostitution once again, make a dramatic entry into the play. (Subhan Hajam aka Subhan Nayid is the man behind abolishing prostitution and the increasing rate of brothels in the valley).

In Artche Kaal, Subhan Hajam once again demands the abolishment of such practices and the public shaming of culprits. Because of this, he earns respect in society and people start loving him but Artche Kaal would not let this happen so he gives a speech in which he says that the matter of prostitution will be taken to an international level for resolving it but he actually never means what he says.

In the end, his associates take over his position, both of them having one horn each on their head – a metaphor for the new Artche Kaals.

All the way through, a painting of a creature with fangs, hideous nose and face shape was hanging in the background with a warm hue over it.

It included performances from Shahid Malik, Nasir Khan, Showkat Magray, Mir Mushtaq, Javeed Kashmiri, Tariq Ahmad Dar, Khursheed Ahmad Mir, Syed Basharat Bukhari, Riyaz Riyan and Sheikh Mubalig Mumtaz.


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