The NUKKAD MAN of Jammu- Vijay Malla

Sahil Rasgotra. Updated: 8/21/2016 1:11:29 PM This Person: Then and Now

Many of us must have noticed this old man, in different parks, roundabouts, schools and pretty much everywhere, in different clothes, playing different characters in various plays. His strong voice, his timely delivered dialogues, his near perfect expressions add to his star-studded personality, making you wonder if you have seen him on TV or in movies. He is Vijay Malla, who has been writing and directing as well as performing in various stage plays, TV and Radio shows for last 51 years.

Sahil Rasgotra met him to know more about his journey

How did you happen to choose Theatre as your profession?

I was born in 1950 in Srinagar but soon after my birth, my family shifted to Jammu. As a young boy, I used to accompany my elder brother, who was a theatre artist to various stage plays and dramas. He used to play the main character in most of the plays and initially, I just wanted to play hero. It was only when I grew and delved deep into the technicalities of the theatre; I understood that hero is not the only character to aspire for. My elder brother was an inspiration, especially the way he continued doing theatre, even after getting a job, for close to 50 years.

How and when did your journey begin as an artist?

I did my first play in 1965 and continued playing different characters in various plays. This was the time when I actually learnt the finer aspects of the phenomenon called theatre. In 1971, I joined radio, which played a significant part in my growth as an artist. I got to learn the art of writing and performing radio dramas and plays from various masters of the art through radio. Of course, all this helped immensely in my theatre work and very soon, in 1973, I won the Best Actor award for 'Tumhare Chehre', whose script was also written by me, in the Drama festival of J&K cultural Academy. It was followed by another best actor award for 'Badhtey Kadam' by Songs and Drama Division Ministry of J&K, Government of India. That was the breaking point of my journey which paved path to many glorious years to come.

Tell us about 'Gori Maa Ke Kaale Bachhey'?

'Gori Maa Ke Kaale Bachhey' is a special play of mine, very close to my heart. I scripted, directed and acted as well in this play. It was special in many other ways also; having 38 actors in total, some of them played as many as 5 characters in it. In Drama festival, J&K cultural Academy 2005-06, the play won a total of 13 awards, maximum in the history of the festival. Kanta Devi who played 5 roles in the play won the award of best actor while I won the awards for best script and best direction. The play was a path-breaking play, going away from the traditional ways. It is also the only play till now that I have repeated in my career.

Can you just tell us in brief your association with various organisations and also the different honours conferred upon you?

A theatre artist is associated to the stage, be it of any association. As a theatre artist, I have acted in 40 full length stage plays, directing 31 and wrote 17 stage plays. In my association with DoorDarshan, I acted in close to 18 TV serials, wrote 15 TV serials, including various documentaries and biographies. For All India Radio, I have done over 140 shows in various capacities like writing, participating and presentation. Other than these, I acted and directed close to 30 short-movies and feature films.

I became a member of Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1974, and till date have served as the president of IPTA's Jammu and Kashmir chapter for six terms. I won a number of best actor and best director awards from J&K cultural Academy for different plays. I was also awarded with Uttrakhand theatre award, Bhagat Singh Samman in 2015. For my work in the field of traditional folk theatre, Government of India honoured me with a senior Fellowship award for 2 years, in 2009. I also have my own Theatre group, Ek Sath Rang Mandal.

Tell us about Monday Nukkad Theatre series.

Monday Nukkad Theatre series is basically an attempt to transform the mentality of common masses, particularly school going students, bringing out the commonly prevailed social issues like drugs addiction, corruption, national integration and patriotism. With this intent, we started off this series on 27th of August, 2012 and started performing plays on every Monday. We were discouraged a lot as people raised a lot of questions on the sustainability of this series, in long term. But not only we sustained but also succeeded in this mission and today we are performing our 203rd play in the series. The plays in this series consist of a signature play of 15 minutes and a theme of 3 minutes. This journey has been fascinating, satisfying and inspiring.

How is your way of theatre different than others?

Everyone has his or her own way of doing things. In my view, Nukkad form of staging a play is better than any other way, as it is the rawest form of theatre. I do not believe in fancy lights, expensive sets and attractive costumes, as all these are more of a disguise to an actor's ability, than a helping tool. Theatre works with good acting and nothing else. Another thing I have tried maintaining in my theatre work is not to repeat any of the stage play. In my 203 Monday Nukkads, I have not repeated even one play. On other stages also, I have not repeated any of my plays, except 'Gori Maa Ke Kaale Bachhey', owing to its huge popularity.

While researching about you on internet, most of the results directed me to famous Kashmiri singer with the same name. Is there any incident, where people have confused you with him?

You are not the first one to confuse me with him. People often take me for Vijay Malla, who has now passed away him, as he was more popular than me. He was like a younger brother to me and a truly talented artist. The day he died, I and my family received many calls from all over the country as everyone again confused me with him.

At the age of 66, what keeps you motivated to be an active part of theatre?

The greatest motivation for any theatre artist is the appreciation from audience. No matter, how big stars they become or how old they get, their first love would always remain theatre. We had seen bollywood stars, which would go back and do theatre in their free time and I am not even a star. Age is not that big a factor in theatre as it involves more of practice than strength. Zohra Sehgal who kept performing till the age of 100; we have A.K. Hangal, who was performing till he was 96 and I am just 66 yet. It is my passion for theatre that keeps me going at this age and I hope it keep me motivated at 86 or 96 also.

You have witnessed the theatre of the state undergoing various changes during your career of 50 years. Where do you think we stand as a state in this field today?

The state of theatre in Jammu and Kashmir has changed for worse, I believe. The class of actors back then is nowhere to seen today and it is because our authorities failed to preserve our culture. Every state except ours is improving and stressing upon its folk theatre. It is only us, who are not promoting culture and tradition despite of having one of the richest forms of folk theatre, folk dance, folk lore's and folk songs. It is a shame that we are not even able to protect Dogri, our mother tongue, let alone theatre. I am very disappointed in the authorities as well as people of the state for this.

What message would you give to a young aspiring artist reading your story?

Three golden words would be: Patience, Commitment and Punctuality. If you have these qualities in you or can inculcate them in your persona, no force can stop you from becoming a good actor. I train youngsters from our state as well as from other states and I keep telling them they need to inculcate these qualities in them, instead of running after fame, awards, money or short lived popularity. Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Irrfan Khan, Nawajudin Siddiqi- all these are stars today because they were completely focussed on theatre, yesterday.

Is there any regret you have when you look back at your journey?

I do not have any regret whatsoever as I did what I loved and always wanted to do- Theatre. Given a choice, I will not change anything from it. However, my students and fellow artist do have a complaint as they feel I should not have ignored money making in my love for theatre. I never seeked any reward for my work in monetary form as for me, appreciation from my audience was the greatest reward. In this, I ignored material comforts or monetary gains, but honestly, I have no regrets.

What projects are in pipeline in near future?

There are many new acts in the pipeline. We have collaborated with Police department and would be doing many plays for them. We will also be trying some new things in our state. There is a play which we would be staging in three different languages- Hindi, Dogri and Kashmiri- in different regions of the state. Our aim is to provide good quality theatre and we will be working on that in future also.

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