Kashmiri people have always been fond of entertainment. They inaugurated their love and appreciation on the artists who made them laugh and giggle. Artists like Nazir Josh and Ahed Raza in their heyday were the icons of comedy in the Valley. But then there was a lull and the pleasure seemed to have turned into forbearance. Now a new generation of comedians backed by a few veterans are stepping onto the stage to bring the cheers back to public faces. In today’s Sunday report, Lubna Reshi tried to shed some light on some of the Valley comedians who tickle the funny bones of Kashmiris through their acts.
With his flowing Kashmiri, Behzad Malla sweeps the internet through his sharp comedy videos.
Behzad is becoming a new Kashmiri social media sensation. An airline professional, Behzad has visited many events and it was there that he was able to show his true talent.
“I used to perform at corporate events earlier and was an expert joker from early childhood.”
Sopore, a village in northern Kashmir, his hometown, played a big role in shaping Behzad’s mindset.
“People are quite funny in Sopore. There’s a fun element to even simple conversations there.”
Taking this factor into account, one day during the lockdown, Behzad made a humorous video.
“At that time, everything seemed so negative. Everything had stopped. And then this idea of making a comedy video clicked me,” Behzad says.
He started working on it and uploaded it the same day. The video went viral. Her work was so well received that viewers started demanding the next video in the series.
“I had no idea I would get such an overwhelming response from people.”
After his first video, Behzad realized that people were missing humor.
“Locally, there is no humor in Kashmir. Artists like Ahad Raza and Nazir Josh are absent from the scene. Artists in this sector are now retired or deceased. People’s entertainment needs are not not satisfied,” Behzad said.
He started uploading more and more videos and within days he gained popularity.
“I know what tickles the funny bone of a simple man in Kashmir. From childhood, I have observed my elders and try to bring that essence into my videos.”
It was only in the space of six months that he was followed by 75,000 people, which he considered huge.
His comedy is based on situations, circumstances and their impact on a common Kashmiri household
“My fan base is growing every day and I consider myself lucky enough to entertain people.”
Behzad aims to take the Kashmiri comedy outside as he thinks people outside believe Kashmiri people have no ‘humor’.
“If I’m planning a stand-up comedy, the idea behind it is to change people’s perception of Kashmiris. I want to show how much humor is in us.”
Locally, he says, people leave no room for comedians, while outside they are very well received.
“I asked many cafe owners to give me a space to perform in open mic, but they were hesitant. They are ready to accept Kashmiri comedy. They think it is outdated to perform in the Kashmiri language.”
Behzad’s work has been so well accepted by the people that he is considering making it a full-time career.
“I plan to have my own YouTube channel and go into stand-up comedy and move to different locations.”
He believes that while there is uncertainty in making it a full-time career, it is worth taking a risk.
“All my stuff is internet based. I know I won’t be anywhere if the internet isn’t there. And in Kashmir it’s a common problem. So yeah, there’s uncertainty and a lot of risk , but beyond that, I’m clear in my head.”
Behzad also wants to make it to television beyond the national level.
Right now he is working on his next video which is based on schools and colleges opening after lockdown and the next one would be about Pandit Muslim relationship. He is also going to perform a stand-up comedy in Bangalore.
It takes him a day to make a video.
“I meticulously work on a video. I write it and rewrite it until I think it has that punch that would entertain people.”
Besides comedy, Behzad is also into writing freelance content. He is also releasing a book called “Son of a Gun”.
A Talha Jahangir
For the past 25 years, Talha Jahangir has been entertaining people with her stand-up comedy.
His concerts include political and social satire. There were so many incidents where he used his satire against politicians and famous personalities that he not only gained appreciation but created a niche for Jahangir in the comedy world.
Jahangir has done over 100 stage performances during his 25-year career.
He is the most preferred choice of the Kashmiri people when it comes to stand-up comedy.
Not only is he a comedian, but also a screenwriter, broadcaster and satirist.
Her journey began by performing in a school play.
“At the insistence of my teachers, I performed in one of the school plays and there and then I learned that I had the talent.”
After that, he performed in many plays and formed a club where they would perform in school plays.
“I would say that I was prone to satire and humor since childhood.”
Then the radio came along and he started writing and acting in plays. He received so much encouragement that he never looked back.
“The public gave me the title ‘King of Laughter’ such was their love for my work.”
Talha always created her pieces with her audience in mind. He says he never crossed the boundaries set by Kashmiri society.
“I always make my tracks with societal reservations in mind. My tongue is my tool and I’ve never used expletives. I will never do any piece that society doesn’t allow.”
Talha Jahangir faced obstacles at many times in his life, but he forged ahead to find his place.
“My shows like Zaffran Zar, Aasiv Ti Lassiv were so well accepted by people that they never wanted me to stop. I also faced many obstacles but I knew my goal and I am remained focused on it. Therefore, today I am happy and content.”
Jahangir hasn’t played lately due to various blockages, but he still gets invites from time to time.
While encouraging young people to take over, he says, “Young comedians should know the difference between harassing someone and satirizing. They do very well, but they have to keep in mind the norms of society.
Making everything else a prop, Vijdan makes a call and begins speaking in his typical style – pure, flowing cashmere mixed with words in Urdu or English.
In a very short time, Vijdan has mastered the art of sketch comedy. Sometimes he acts as a matchmaker and other times as a truck driver. All his humorous videos carry a message and entertain the public to the fullest.
“I always look forward to his videos,” says one of his followers.
Vijdan’s satire touches on politics, culture and society.
“Kashmiris are very depressed due to the two back-to-back lockdowns. My goal is to relax them so they feel better,” says Vijdan.
Vijdan started creating videos during the lockdown period.
“Creating content is not easy and needs to be curated in a very creative way. So during lockdown when I was at home I turned the camera towards me and started creating little videos .”
His sketch comedy got him a lot of reactions and it started going viral.
Vijdan knows Kashmir quite well and uses Kashmir one-liners in his videos.
“People love my video, I have a good bank of Kashmiri words and understudy and I use them wisely in my videos. For this I get a good response on my social media account. »
Vijdan feels that the people of Kashmir are quite depressed by the circumstances. So it aims to give them something they can make people laugh at.
“I want to make people laugh in a minute and the idea behind it is to celebrate the concept of unity.”
Vijdan creates content with the mood of his audience in mind.
“I have to take care of my audience and keep an eye on their needs. There is versatility in our audience. It’s about demand and supply. What the public wants is for me to work from that.”
When Faizaan gave his first stage performance to a huge crowd at the University of Kashmir, butterflies fluttered in his stomach.
“There were dozens of people and it was my first performance on stage. Although I have been doing stage work since I was a child, but I have been doing stand-up comedy, this time was my first and it caused a lot of huge applause.
Faizaan, 17, from Anantnag district in south Kashmir, is few among the new age comedians in Kashmir.
Faizaan was inspired by Zaid Ali, a famous Pakistani YouTuber.
“When 4G came to Kashmir and I got internet, I was watching videos of Zaid Ali and then creating my own videos. He was my inspiration.”
He got a lot of text messages from people to try his hand at stand-up comedy.
“At first, I had no idea what stand-up was. But when people told me about it, I realized it was something I had been doing since I was a kid.”
Everyday situations, jokes, politics, etc. became a subject of his stand-up comedy. Faizaan started getting offers and now he would be doing shows.
Faizaan has performed stand-up comedy in six to seven events on various topics so far.
“People know me now. They know there’s a comedian in Kashmir. And that’s how I got the offers.”
“Every other day I get text messages from one or the other asking how I create videos. What techniques do I use? It feels good to inspire young people.”
Although people are praising him, he has also received his share of hateful comments.
“Some people think I’m still a kid and everything I do makes no sense. There are people who are always there to criticize.”
But all this did not let Faizaan stop. Recently, he completed the second season of his talk show – in which he interviewed famous artists from Kashmir.
“The show is known as ‘Chai with Faizaan’ and is available on YouTube. The show had 12 episodes where I interviewed famous artists from Kashmir. The main element of the show was comedy. “
Although Faizaan’s first love is acting, he now wants to focus on his studies.
“I’ve also tried acting and would act too, but right now I’m studying law and focusing on that.”