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MAN BEHIND THE FRAMES, A brief profile of Mushtaq Bala, A film maker and few memorable moments with Mushtaque B Barq

16 mins read

Looking for a flawless frame to ascertain a route to artistic realms wherein, a micro lens of a conventional camera would turn into a mega and up-to-the- minute shooting aids, nothing such was in the mind, but as the proverb goes: Luck favours the brave. It dawned as a reality when a young man from a lower middle class of SarafKadal on the banks of Nalamaar picked up a star and followed it passionately. When Nalamaar turned into a concrete road, the man with a lens too explored the newer routes to touch the pinnacles of excellence. The man took a serious route to cart his talent to next higher level. From fashion photography to Production and Direction for television, the man came into the glare of public with an additional trait tagging him as professional Dramatist which later opened the blanket of his talent and brought at fore the documentaries and films. Well! The man behind this scene is Mushtaq Bala, a prominent film maker of the Valley, the Chairman- Kashmir Film Society, Member, Governing Board for Kashmir Cultural Centre by J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages and President- Kashmir Artists Welfare Foundation and J and K Film Makers Cooperative Society. As a Director/Producer , Mushtaq Bala has in his credit 143 episodes of a mega serial Yeh Zindagi Hai Gulshan, 39 episodes of Bandhan, Hans Andersen Ki Kahaniyan, a TV adaptation of his stories, Grimm Brothers, a TV adaptation of Grimm Brother’s stories, TaareZamin Par, a Tele serial, Mere Bache,  a TV adaptation of Arthur Miller’s Classic All my Sons,  60 minute film  Budshah, 3 Films on Sufiana Music of Kashmir for IGNCA, and number of other Tele serials like Rishon ka Farib, Dard Aashna, Kal Subah, Ek Kiran Roshni, Gulemuth, Tahqeeq, Talmeehat, Nanhi Duniya,Gulalae, Pagah Kaem Wutch, Subhuk Partav, Neela Nagina, Gulistan, Aao Bachoo, a musical series Saaz Aur Awaaz, science programme Vaastav Mein Why It Happens, current affair programme Badhtay Qadam, Magazine programme Atherot , Jammu Kashmir Ki Ziyarat Gaahein etc.

Mushtaq Bala has created history as a filmmaker by achieving Bharat Jyoti Award in 2001, Shakir and Aslam Memorial Award in 2002, National Achievement Award in 2003, Ozone Green Award in 2008, J&K State Award in 2012 & 2014, 1st and 2nd Rajasthan International Film Festival Award in 2015 and 2016 and Genova Film and Poetry Award in 2012, Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz Academy Award in 2017 & Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2018 Award.  Honorable mention Award at Cinemaking International Film Festival-Daka, Bangladesh-2021. Sarhad’s 1st J&K International Film Festival, Pune (2022)- Award.  

Mushtaq Bala has produced & directed a good number of documentaries like Shrines of Kashmir, Economic Pillars of Kashmir, tourism related series Aks Aks, Naya Dour, Reshem Reshem, A better tomorrow, Lion Safari, Light of Life Crocodile conservation, Science with fun, Prawn cultivation, Fresh water culture, Creative handloom, The wonder world of birds, State Botanical Garden, Animal Husbandry etc. In an interview Mushatq Bala revealed the valued moments as a filmmaker and shares his journey of hard work and love for film making.

“Your work in your chosen field is phenomenal and does’t need my approbation. For me you will always be a workaholic whose pioneering experiences in the cinematic as well as hard journalism will inspire many young men in our unfortunate land. Kashmir Pen to my mind is a singular contribution of yours  to the colorful heritage of our home. With love and regards of a 90 years old journalis”, M.L.Kotru, Senior Journalist.

“Have known Mushtaq Bala since the early seventies , when I entered Doordarshan. He was then running a photographic studio in Lal Chowk. We somehow clicked in a big way and developed an instant liking for each other. I always loved his company. Right from the beginning I found him very enterprising, ambitious and full of vigour with a keen purpose of making it big in life. Though he was a teetotaler , he would still give me and some friends company during our occasional drinking sprees which would sometimes last till midnight. Hats off to him, he never got tempted to taste the forbidden.A very charming, highly cultured and decent human being. During our friendship he got interested in acting and got to perform a cameo  in my highly acclaimed and popular production DASTAR.He would also take interest in our theatre productions and watch our plays. Keeping in view his overall Persona i was always sure that he will make a mark in life. Much later When i was in Delhi as Additional Director General of Doordarshan he did a couple of very good productions  for DD National channel and other channels. All in all a man of vision with a lot of dynamism and always a very welcome company”, Ashok Jailkhani, Ex. ADG, Doordarshan.

“I know Bala Sahab since 1973. Our first introduction was when Bala Sahab appeared for Drama audition in Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar. He was approved as drama artist and worked with same TV production as an Artist. Due to his family business commitments he was out of Kashmir for some time but he continued his venture then, did some modelling assignment for branded products. It was in the 90’s when we interacted after a big gap. This time he wanted to venture into Doordarshan not as an actor but as a content producer. I gave him some titbits of this line and as an intelligent person he picked up everything at first go and did some productions for DDK Srinagar and later moved to Delhi and Mumbai for bigger productions. His productions have always been acknowledged by critics and viewers. and has always made us proud. His name as Film Maker is known from Srinagar to Mumbai because of his work”, Tariq Javid ,Senior Actor, Producer & Director.

“Mushtaq Bala is an ace Producer and has established a production House of his own. He has produced some brilliant dramas. He has his own way to work. He brought on the Kashmiri screen some Bollywood actors as well. He started as an actor, but his shyness was the hurdle that pushed him to production. He is an honest man and set an example as a Producer for being sincere to actors and other crew members. I wish him luck”,Bashir Dada , Artist, lyricists, producer & Director.

“I have been knowing this thoroughly gentle man,  Mushtaq Bala for the last more than four decades.One feels fresh while talking to him.Man of little words.You will find him  always talking  sense. Professionally honest.Knows his craft to execute it efficiently for a quality product. Be it a serial for national television channels or for home consumption, Mushtaq has created a special place in the arena of both print and electronic media. I have been a great fan of his for his masterpiece productions.

His sense of creativity can be judged by some of his great productions.He has never compromised on quality.

Apart from TV productions, he has proved his metal as a dedicated news man by issuing weekly paper The Kashmir Pen.Here too, he has maintained the quality of news stuff and other related journalistic parameters.One feels honoured and comfortable in his company”,Bashir Arif , Ex. Dy.Director General, Radio Kashmir Srinagar.

“Mushtaq Bala, a smart young man with a chocolate face and decent looks, perhaps aspiring from within to become a film actor, entered Doordarshan premises in mid-70’s.  What really made Mushtaq Bala special was the fact that though he acted in few television dramas doing typical stuff, his heart always lay with purposeful content and excellence in technique. He dabbled into many ventures like print media, acting on stage & Television, organizing shows etc. But it was In early 90’s when Bala indulged in electronic media as a producer initially. He too started with normal stuff which was in vogue that time, but soon realized that his purpose was not to be rut of the mill. Mushtaq Bala became the propagator of good production with purposeful content. He never worried about whether he would make money or not, but it was put in his efforts to establish himself as a producer of merit with quality software for Doordarshan. He indulged in his passion for “good fiction” by producing several good quality Television Serials like ‘Tanha Tanha’ ,Hans Andersen ki kahaniyan and ‘Yeh Zindgi Hai Gulshan’. these serials were primarily made for DD National channel but subsequently made several rounds of telecast on other satellite channels of Doordarshan like DD Bharti, DD India DD Urdu & DD Kashir on the basis technical merit and public appreciation. He has always roped in professionals for his production work and never compromised on the quality for which he remained committed. His eye for the professionals associated him with Padmashri Pt. Bhajan Sopori and Padma Shri Ustad Saznavaz Sahib for 60 mts. long documentary on ‘Sufyana Music of Kashmir’ which was commissioned by ‘Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts New Delhi. His few other productions which brought him accolades are Films ‘ Budshah’ and ‘Ancient Architecture styles of Kashmir’. Mushtaq Bala is one of the very few Kashmiris who got empaneled into A Category Producers with Doordarshan Directorate on the basis of his work output.

Mushtaq Bala has inbuilt decency and is classy. His love for art and culture, grit and drive fuels him to venture. I wish him all luck”, Rajesh Kaul,Ex-Director and Head of Dept.,Media Centre,Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts.

“When you talk about films, theatre and journalism in Kashmir, you have to give prominent and deserving space to Mushtaq Bala for his yeoman services and immense contribution. He kept the torchlight of his mission on and burning when winds of despair and darkness had put out many lights in the valley. This dedication and commitment is praiseworthy and highly commendable”,  Avtar Mota, Playwright & columnist.

Q. How did the journey of a young man from lower middle class find an apt platform?

To be very honest I did not know the fact that the lens in my hand would one day turn me to queue the people to suit my requirement. Family business to some amount and my father’s encouragement were to a great extent responsible for exploring the talent in me. Without formal training it was indeed too tough to start with, but when you follow a star depicting fortune, one can certainly find a way to the destination. I believe that if you are ready to take risks, you can explore the sky. I learnt from mistakes and these slip-ups taught me to walk around, inspired me to experiment and you know unless you break you cannot create. This journey has witnessed both criticism and appreciation and I think one must be open to learn and one learns better when people around you analyse your work seriously. My passion after a lot of struggle and hiccups easily found a platform where I was provided with a suitable environment that turned me to the film world.

Q. You have directed Hans Andersen Ki Kahaniyan, share your experience how this project helped you in making a name in the film industry.

As a sensitive child, I was always keen to know the psyche of a child. The external pressure a child is exposed to, his adjustments, his latent wish lists and particularly his areas of interest. Hans Anderson’s stories inspired me to bring to the fore the conceptual and visual aspects of a child who in the shell of innocence imagines himself as an integral part of the bigger world. Andersen’s stories I felt were full of substance which I was looking for to turn my dream into reality. It was a dream project and I was able to address a child by way of providing him a proper stage to at least drop off his experience at school and street. His imaginations were acutely attended to through fantasy which Hans Andersen in his stories had excellently presented and I brought these stories before the audience and I enjoyed throughout the project for the reason that I could connect the imaginations of a child with that of the content on hand and I think was successful in converting the script into powerful recreation.  Screening of Hans Andersen’s stories on DD-I were part of events organized worldwide to mark the 200th birth anniversary of the celebrated author Hans Christian Andersen. The series has been preserved in DD Archives.

“ Purana Ghar ” one of the stories from “Hans Andersen Ki Kahaniyian ” was screened in 1st  International Film Festival held at Srinagar in 2007 organized by Films Division , Ministry of Information and Broadcasting , Govt. of India. The film has been honoured with J&K State Award 2012 ( J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages.

Q Your film Budshah attracted the attention of film makers when it was screened in 10th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF-2008), Which aspect of the Emperor you brought before the people through this film?

The film is a documentation of historical events and the life of Sultan Zain-ul- Abidin Budshah. There were two important aspects in the film. One to present Budshah as a popular emperor of Kashmir who ruled over Kashmir for 50 years and second to visualize five hundred years old epoch in the light of Budshah’s secular ideology, humanistic liberal approach, his

uprightness, justice, pro people efforts and progress in promoting irrigation and handicrafts of Kashmir. The film under the banner of Debonair Films and Video Communications was commissioned by Doordarshan in the Indian Classic category. Earlier Budshah was only a serial based on three episodes, but Doordarshan later permitted me to convert it into a film. The film received the first Ozone Green Award.

 The making of Budshah was a cake walk but indeed an uphill task, but the entire team contributed whatever was possible for them. The story concept, the artists, the portrayal of architecture of that era, the costumes, music and camera work was a challenge but I tried my best to bring the best out of me and that worked. The making of Budshah is a memorable journey.

The film has created history for Doordarshan ( for the first time DD has received cash prize for its commissioned production). The film “ Budshah ” has been screened in 10th Mumbai International Film Festival ( MIFF -2008 ),14thKolkatta Film Festival ,3rd Kashmir World Film Festival (KWFF-2019) ,Cinemaking  International Film Festival Dhaka , Bangladesh 2021 and Sarhad’s 1st J&K International Film Festival, Pune (2022).The filmhas also received OZONE Green Award.

Q. Bandhan was one of your popular serial. On what basis it gained so much popularity among the youngsters.

The serial was basically aimed to screen the modern concept of marriage in the backdrop of the traditional marriage system. Through this serial I tried to draw a comparison between the traditional marriage system and the need of the youth who wanted a change. The increasing demand of Inter-caste marriages, love marriages and match making through matrimonial classifieds in the serial of 39 episodes were screened to find a better way to deal with intricacies of married life. The secret of its popularity was that the younger generation found the serial as their voice to bring before society what all they need as a change. Bandhan is among few tele serials produced in the country which figures in the prestigious catalogue of selected serials and tele films & magazine Doordarshan the essence of India published by Prasar Bharti Broadcasting Corporation of India.

I have tried to address the youth and one short film Tanha Tanha depicted the plight of a son Ishrat who prefers to be an artist against the wishes of his father who wanted him to become a doctor. The conflict between man v/s man was the highlight of the film. It was the struggle of Ishrat and his genuine arguments that not only motivated the father to appreciate his son but also conveyed a strong message across the nation. The Film is among few films produced in the country which figures in the prestigious catalogue of selected serials and tele films & magazine Doordarshan the essence of India published by PBBCI. The film has been preserved in DD archives.

My another Tele-Film Lakeerien was also projected on social issues in which an educated couple turned to be the worst victim of misunderstanding and I as a filmmaker was keen to present the delicate issue of inconsiderate woman v/s self-centered man and the consequences of this conflict. A filmmaker is a good observer, his sensitivity and responsibility helps him in peeping through the narrow lanes of the society to purchase pulsating stories from the mazes and streets and from the suffering class. As a filmmaker I have always tried to be a serious representative of a society of which I am an integral part.  These films were screened on the National Channel of Doordarshan DD1 and are available on Youtube of Doordarshan, and as such I have been able to occupy much earned space in the archives of Doordarshan.

Q. Why do you rate Ancient Architectural Styles of Kashmir and Sufiana Music of Kashmir as your best contribution as a Director?

Ancient Architectural Styles of Kashmir was screened at the number of festivals such as 17thKolkatta Film Festival 2011, Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2012, 18thGenova Film and Poetry Festival 2012, 2ndRajasthan Film Festival 2016 and honoured with an Award . The film has also been honoured with J&K State Award 2014 ( J&K Academy of Art,Culture & Languages ). The film emphasized the architectural precision of Kashmir and the patterns of different architectural segments. The objective of the film was to display at world level the leading characteristics of both residential and monumental architecture of Kashmir and the journey of structural designs under various historical, social and cultural backgrounds, and the influence of Buddhist, Greek, Central Asia and Indian architectural styles. The film also starred Kapila Vastasyan, F.M. Hasan and INTACH Director Salim Beigh for expert opinions. Through this film I tried to link the younger generation with their history and that is why this film is of great significance for me as a Director and I was able to find a missing link that created senses of bridge to find the origin of our rich Architecture. This film was assigned to me by the Films Division Mumbai in 2010.

The film on Kashmiri Sufiana Music traced the history of Sufiana Music of Kashmir and through this film rich tributes were paid to leading Sufi musicians. The film was released at the festival of Kashmir arts and crafts in the capital by N.N. Vohra, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. I interviewed musicians like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Bhajan Sopori and G.M.Saaznawaz and renowned Professors like Fida Mohammad Hasnain, Professor Margoob Baanhali, Dr. Farooq Fayaiz, the then HoD of History at Kashmir University besides Professor Rehman Rahi and Farooq Nazki and Farhat Gilani.  This film too was a great success as it enabled us to know the intricacies of Sufiana music, the film traced the theme historically and as such the music which suits Sufiana music was arranged acoustically on divisions of different maquaams, the way Indian Classical music has ragas. My focus in the film was to present the exact scene of music as it was performed by the legends in the past to forward the originality of Sufiana music to the generations to come. The series comprised three films. In the first part I focused on Lyrics, the second part screened the art and format of Sufiana music which is fading fast in the Valley and in the last part, the music instruments were filmised. Mr. Gulzar Ganie played an important part in the film; he did a serious research and prepared the script. It was a great team work that brought such a delightful series to the public.  The film was screened in 15thKolkatta Film Festival , 2009 ,18th Genova Film and Poetry Festival 2012 & 15th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2018 and Cinemaking  International Film Festival Dhaka , Bangladesh 2021.

Q. Since a lot has changed, have you adopted the changes in your filmmaking like using modern gadgets?

Of course, change is the law of nature; one has to be ready to accept the challenge and to make the most of the modern gadgets. I have used drones for many short films covering Sinthen top, Kokernag, Manasbal, Verinag and Pahalgam. The need of the hour is to equip the studio with all modern gadgets to create earning opportunities for the people who know how to handle them. Our younger generation is very much interested in capturing events through their cell phones and as such there is a kind of exposure that might be utilized both at their personal level and social level. I am looking forward to seeing every school, college, University and every department to have their own archive section and the people around must contribute by preserving events for future use.

Q.  As an experienced filmmaker, tell our readers what is the scope of film making in Kashmir?

Film making is not limited to fiction, history and Science; one can make documentaries for the departments, private operators, mini theatres and above all films on Academics, Sports, Wild life, Agriculture, Mountaineering, Street shows and Festivals etc. There is no limitation in making a film; the only purpose is to present a genuine view before the public. I have made TV short films on Fort Bohu, Mansar Lake, Jammu University, Jammu Medical College, Wooden Furniture, Educational Institute for specially abled, Diary in Jammu, Industrial Development, Migrant Diary and segments for morning show Sadai Subah. I mean to say that one can make films on different themes provided one has passion and dedication. Nowadays a film maker has a big role to play in promoting Corporate Culture, one can make short Corporate films like I have done a few: A 10 minute film on Fashion, Fusion, Traffic awareness, Social awareness. There is no end to filmmaking Sky is the Limit.

Q. Which is your commercially important Production?

One of my favorite and commercially important Production is “Yeh Zindagi Hai Gulshan”.143-episode Soap Opera was completely shot at Mumbai with Bollywood stars in its cast like Raza Murad, Zarina Wahab, Pankaj Dheer & others. It was produced for DD NATIONAL (DD-I) under a Self-Finance commissioned scheme. This production has given me lifetime satisfaction in the field of filmmaking. This soap opera has been widely watched and appreciated by one and all. Apart from its telecast on DD National on prime time slot, it has been telecast repeatedly on DD-Urdu and DD-Kashir.

Q. What moments and achievements have you cherished in life?

A. The awards conferred on me for my productions. A few years back my serial “Bandhan” was slotted on DD National along with DD Classical serials from the archives along with “Bunyaad”, Byomkesh Bakshi, Circus, Alif Laila and others.

My three productions, Tanha Tanha, Lakeerien and Bandhan were incorporated in the list of selected Films and serials for international marketing by  PBBCI, DD.

Hoardings of my all-time hit TV Soap Opera “Yeh Zindagi Hai Gulshan” were installed throughout the country for its promotion.

Q What message would you like to give to the upcoming film makers of the Valley?

 I believe that hard work has no substitute. They must read, watch and research before taking up the projects. Film making is all about extensive research, keen observation, the best use of gadgets and above all accurate script and good direction. I wish them luck and pray to see them touching the peaks of excellence and to promote this wonderful land of saints. 

(As spoken to Mushtaque B.Barq)

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