By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, March 3 : He always thought of his best-selling book ‘Refugee Camp’ as a celluloid spectacle, a story of Kashmir’s living tragedy, but aware of the cinematic challenges, author Ashish Kaul first wanted to establish the validity and acceptance of the story. “Therefore, the Herculean effort of reverse engineering Refugee Camp into a book format, and now a play.”
The play, based on the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in face of militant Islam was staged recently in Delhi. Serving as yet another ‘testing ground’ before the film adaptation, Kaul said it happened even as he was completing the bound script with dialogues for cinematic adaptation. Considering the challenge to direct the play during the peak of lockdown, the author roped in the capital-based theatre group Saksham Arts. “The group’s founder, Sunil Rawat supported front line direction till I could get to Delhi,” said Kaul.
Though originally planned to have its debut run in Bhopal, the author, after the production’s success in Delhi now plans to take it to several major cities including Jammu, Lucknow and Bhopal.
Stressing that his work takes a hard look at the injustice faced by the Valley’s Pandits, he added, “Everyone must know that when 31 years ago, Kashmir was burning and minorities were being terrorised, the government and civil society turned their heads away. Even after three decades, we cannot move freely there and are forced to celebrate our festivals under security cover.”
Even a his debut directorial film ‘Streedesh — the forgotten women of Kashmir’ is set to premiere on March 8 at the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts (IGCA), Kaul feels that ‘Refugee Camp’ is a kaleidoscope of justice, equality and a sense of belonging. “Four reprints were sold out in under 90 days.”
Also the author of ‘Didda: The Warrior Queen of Kashmir’, the author feels that though several major books have been written extensively on Kashmir in the past 15 years, much more needs to come out. “We must learn to differentiate between literature created to gain sympathy and the historically accurate one. Over the past few years, one has also witnessed an effort to legitimize terror, and separatist movements. It is almost fashionable to peddle stories of the Muslim majority’s sufferings at the hands of defence forces.”
For someone who has had long innings in the media at senior positions, Kaul now plans to write a book ‘The Inside Story’. “I played a key role in establishing the current media landscape in India, be it DTH, the 20-20 format in cricket etc. It would be interesting to take the readers on a never before journey of the politics of media and what I went through into launching some of the greatest media products of our times. It will also give you an insight into iconic battles I fought and witnessed among major media houses. Apart from this, I am also giving final touches to the story of the greatest con man – the legendary Natwar Lal.”