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A play-writer’s tribute to his actor: How Sohan Kaul remembers Shadi Kaul

Javid Sofi

Pulwama: “On Sunday, 12 July, 2020, around 12: 00 pm when his body in a hearse was kept in a cremation yard at Bontalav in Jammu area of Kashmir where many local actors had turned, for a moment it looked to me that a scene of a play is unfolding; I was thinking that Shadi Lal Kaul is playing a new role in a serial or play.
I was praying GOD for this imagination to be true.
I imagined that soon Shadi will wake up from the hearse to ask his director how well he performed.
Actors who co-starred with him know that Shadi would always demand a feedback from his director; His words will be reverberating in their ears this time.
But alas! It was only my imagination. Shadi, a popular actor from Kani Kadal locality of Srinagar, had packed up forever.
The ritualistic journey was in the process of getting completed: the mortal remains of Shadi, wrapped in a shroud, were waiting for rituals to be done, a sine qua non for consigning him to flames.
It is true that the flames paved a way for his physical emancipation, relinquished him from all worldly affairs and affiliations as it appears to onlookers but a selfless actor like Shadi will continue to live in our memories and drawing rooms. Death can’t take him away!
Shadi has to stay here: to entertain, amuse, and motivate despaired lives.
He is a legend which history is bound to preserve. Every audience member in Kashmir identifies himself with his televised personality; in every corner of the world where Kashmiri is spoken, he finds admirers.
He started from Kani –Kadal; from Khanabal to Khadimyaar he won huge fandom throughout Kashmir.
He was looked as an ideal for inspiration and motivation.
Shadi possessed qualities which set him apart from others; which made him rule over hearts of audience. He was passionate, zealous, honest and sincere which made him a reference in the world of acting in Kashmir.
A blessing, he reminded troubled Kashmiris how to laugh in tough times. His humorous acting turned as catharsis for millions traumatized in past three decades. Such a wonderful actor has to be alive in public sphere; he must refuse to go away.
Shadi began with ‘Gur- Bueth’, in which he played role of a gardner; as Bhushan Lal was he seen in ‘Local Taxes Extra.’
The manifestation of the actor in him came to fore as Shams ud Din iltutmish in Shabrang.
The magic of his acting spilled throughout Kashmir. Instantly, he became a household name.
I can say now that he was Iltutmish because he didn’t merely play a role; he lived it so innovatively that would perplex its play writer. He would get liberty from play writers to make changes in script, a concession which is not granted to all actors.
He performed many roles in many plays. Unfortunately, he was a tragedy man in real life.
He entertained people; made them to laugh but his own person was so drenched in sorrow that his eyes remained moist with tears. Shadi’s artistic brilliance let nobody notice it for he camouflaged his shattered persona in a charming comedian.
His contribution to our society is enormous for which he didn’t want to be rewarded in return.
Today when people were bidding him final adieu in the cremation yard; I found the plumes of flames consoling Shadi that: you are not going away; you will remain here among the people amidst the actors. You will be permeating paddy fields, apple orchids and almond blossoms, sometimes as Bhushan Lal, sometimes as Nike Kotuer and at other times as Shams ud Din Iltutmish. All it demands is recognition. The actor must be recognized. “
This is how a Kashmiri play-writer and novelist, Sohan Kaul, pays tribute to his colleague and a noted actor, Shadi Lal Kaul, who passed away on past Sunday at 66.

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