Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar
Ifra Kak, naturally took to the ‘waters’ of the theatre-world with an ease, that is inborn. A Masters degree holder in Performing Arts (Theatre), from Hyderabad Central University, she has acted in a number of plays and has now emerged as the first woman director, in the vast repertoire of Jammu and Kashmir’s vibrant theatre scene. It is perhaps no mean achievement for a young woman, that too in a male dominated society of her home turf and irrespective of the spate of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, that took most of her teenage and formative years, this 26-year old theatre professional, continued to traverse her chosen paths to follow her inherent passion for theatre productions.
In her candid talk with RASHMI TALWAR, Irfa talks about her achievements, her challenges ahead and how she is ready to go the extra mile, to become a name in the International theatre scene.
Q1: Ifra, you have been awarded by JKFMAC (Jammu &Kashmir Film Makers &Artists Cooperative) as the first woman director theatre director of the State of Jammu &Kashmir, what next?
Ans 1: Awards are an acknowledgement of one’s work. But they give one more responsibility to prove again and again that one had deserved it. By no means have I felt that an award is going to make me slack and rest on my laurels, instead, I would like to work doubly hard. I have made my way to the prestigious ‘International Performance Research Programme’ at University of Warwick, UK and I am the first ever woman from Jammu &Kashmir to be selected for such a programme. My dream is to bring my work to the level of International Theatre and to be reckoned in my field. My father Mushtaq Kak is already a noted name in theatre circles worldwide. Considering that aspect, I feel fortunate. But I want to travel my paths on my own merit.
Q2: What are your current projects, do they involve the Kashmir situation?
Ans 2: Presently, I am working on two theatre projects Ariel Dorfman’s “Widows” and a concept performance of “Sordid Tales of Suffering” based on Euripides’ “Trojan Women”. I consistently try to motivate Kashmiri women to participate in theatre and focusing on this aspect, I also conduct theatre workshops for them in Jammu & Kashmir. I am particularly perturbed over the plight of ‘Half Widows in Kashmir’. “Sordid Tales..” – is a concept performance on the atrocities on women in Kashmir. Apart from that, I have done the dramatization of Lydia Avilov’s autobiography “Chekhov in my life” which ‘ was awarded ‘Mahindra Excellence Award’ and was recognized as Best of the Year, production by Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi.
Q3: Do you think theatre can be therapeutic, have you given this aspect a try? How was your experience?
Ans 3: Yes, theatre as an art form can be therapeutic. For this, I had done a fortnight long, spot devised project of a theatre workshop with the inmates of ‘Kot Bhalwal Central jail’ Jammu & Kashmir, which is one of the most sensitive jails of the country. I was the first person of J&K to take that step. It was an experience of a lifetime. I saw inmates from many countries there including from Pakistan and Afghanistan. An unnatural environment of confinement naturally evolves unnatural behavioural patterns of being disturbed, in depression, low self esteem, aggression, silent or rigid.
Someone told me at the outset of the workshop, that Azhar Masud – hardcore terrorist, exchanged for release of passengers of flight IC-814 in 1999 had been housed here. It gave me goose-pimples but after that I concentrated on my task of relieving some of the pent up emotions of many of these hapless prisoners who were remorseful and longed for freedom. The medium of theatre helped them. I particularly remember a young boy who had accidentally committed a murder and for days he did not speak while we conducted the workshop. Then about a week later, his eyes shone, his silence broke and he voluntarily came forward to participate and derive joy from acting. This gave me a big sense of achievement.
Besides this I have also worked with the orphans of Rainbow Home, Hyderabad and Deaf and Dumb children of Ahuti Centre, Hyderabad with good results.
Q4: Have you also been able to widen your creative dimensions through world theatre?
Ans 4: I was fortunate to participate in twelve (12) major workshops in the field of theatre, both before and during my university education. These include -Children’s Theatre Workshop- Dr Sudhir Mahajan, Forum Theatre Workshop-Sruthi Bala (London) -, Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London & India)-, Theatre Management Workshop- Kunt (Norway), Theatre Design Workshop-David Whittan ( Secretary General, IFTR, England)- 2010, Invisible theatre Workshop- Devendra Nath Sankaranarayan; Scenography Workshop- Robin Das (NSD); Acting Workshop- Douglas-Complicite (London)-2010, Community Theatre- Ola Johanson-Switzerland-2010, Advanced Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London& India), Forum Theatre Workshop- Mark- USA-2010, Acting Workshop- Rajesh Tailang- besides various workshops of National School of Drama . I participated in the Bharat Rang Mahotsav which is the biggest International Theatre Festival, conducted by the NSD and also got the opportunity to act in the plays directed by many eminent directors, not only on my home turf , but also outside. Apart from this photography is my other companion.
Q5: Can you name some of the plays that you acted in?
Ans 5: As a child artist I worked in various serials of Doordarshan such as “Habba Khatoon”, “Shikast”, “amma”, “Aastha”, “Rasoolmeer” and others. I have also acted in nearly 14 plays some of which are Mother’s Courage – Sreejith Ramanan; Satya Harischandra – Supriya Shukla; Iphigenia – Satya Brat Rout; Dooth Ghadotkach – Bhoomikeswar Singh; Reflection – Noushad Mohd; Alberts’s Bridge – Mohan Maharshi; “Jameela” – Gargi (NSD); “Accidental Death of an Anarchist- Vijay Kapoor ;’Kanjoos’-play-Neeraj Kant-; and two solo performances in ‘Mantri ji ki Moochh’ and ‘Ram Khilawan’
Q6: How does it feel to work in a man’s world especially in Jammu and Kashmir where ideas of women working in theatre are still very orthodox?
Ans 6: Frankly, it is very difficult. It is very difficult to get a female cast for my plays. I try to motivate women in theatre, not only as a means to creativity but also as an alternate way of livelihood, but the conservative string plays a spoilsport. However, I am not about to give up and shall keep trying to inspire and motivate them.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON December 15, 2012 http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/15122012/default.asp