NAZIR JOSH SAT BEHIND a large wooden table in the corner of a recording studio in Rajbagh, Srinagar. Scribbling absentmindedly on a piece of paper, he seemed unaffected by the bustle surrounding him. “We had minor issues regarding the rehearsals a few weeks ago,” he said. “But they have been resolved and now we are busy recording.”
Primarily a television actor, Josh had visited the studio in the third week of August to record the soundtrack that would play over the performance of a Kashmiri-language opera that he has written and will direct. It is a tale about the character of Bahaar (‘spring’) defeating his arch nemesis Chilai Kalaan (a phrase that refers to a 40-day period of extreme cold during the long Kashmir winter) in order to win over the woman he loves. “The main themes of the opera are love and death, which are represented by spring and winter respectively,” Josh said. He quoted a few lines from his script to me: “Bi chas khand haar pemitch, pather tultam/Sitaras taar pemitch pather tultam” (I lie fallen and scattered, pick me up/The tunes of my sitar have fallen, pick them up).
The opera is an atypically emotional affair for Josh, who garnered acclaim through comedy, and whom audiences recognise more easily when he is making goofy faces and spouting lines in peculiar, high-pitched voices. Through his comedy—both on the stage and screen—Josh has over the decades vented public bitterness through characters and stories that mock state repression in Kashmir, finding humour in an otherwise bleak situation.