Revisiting the Legendary Radio Serial
Fareeha Farheen Qureshi
Radio Kashmir Srinagar’s famous Kashmiri drama that came up in the late 1960s “Sindbad Machama” has been so popular among masses that people still remember Srinagar’s “Zoon Dab”, “Sindbad Machama” was one of its kinds to initiate the entertainment programs via the medium of radio in pure Kashmiri language. The program was later published into a book adding to the shelves of Kashmiri literature. ‘Machama’ meaning all-round best or a mixture of sourness and sweetness is played by its very own scriptwriter Pushkar Bhan who comes out to be the protagonist of the drama. All the characters in the play are not introduced to listeners in the very beginning but with just a few major ones beginning the program. Bhan’s two friends Sulla Gota and Rahman Dadda have been equally important in the construction of the plot. Later we are introduced to some supernatural elements too playing their part in drama in the form of ‘Tua’ – a jinn bachha or Tua’s father, the main jinn played by Shariefudin and Bhansi Raina respectively. We are further introduced to two love-sick jinn hoorie sisters ‘Zingari and Singari’ who keep the play alive. These comic elements have been enough strong to steal the attention of the listeners widely. The interesting thing is how these two female jinn characters are being played by two male voices as Zingari’s voice is actually given by Makhan Lal Saraf and Singari’s voice given by P.L.Handoo shows how radio comes up with talented performers who can perform in a single confined room called ‘studio’ making it feel real to the audiences.
The sound effects created in a room the way helicopter is hovering, the storm, the waves and a ship in the sea, earthquake in the island is totally spellbinding.
The story starts with Machama’s dream of becoming rich as he falls asleep while reading a book ‘Sindbad-The Sailor’ at bedtime makes him long for a journey with his friends is how Bhan has created the highest form of imagination. The play starts with the journey of three friends towards the island where they are encountered with different characters on the way. Some elements prove to be a stumbling block in reaching their destination while some help them reach the same. Pushkar Bhan has showed how human nature evolves when it comes to materialism. It would be wrong if we compare this feature of human nature to Kashmiri’s only. Greediness is definitely a curse and develops in a human being without asking for caste, creed and community. Bhan has been successful in portraying how humans deteriorate the innocence of the people in other world where different creatures have shown their love for them although in an unusual manner. Zingari having fallen in love with Rahmana alias ‘Shogaa’ and Singari in love with Sulla called by her as ‘Bul-Bulla’ is something that humans are unable to realize when obsessed with worldly pleasures. This is where humans misuse their power by virtue of being humans in the land where only love and affection is seen while it’s the King himself who has provided them with all the facilities they require in this journey. Be it a ship, helicopter, ration for one month, servicemen or a signal box, everything is being provided to them. The way trio is being given a guard of honor while they leave for island is where we could relate it to the present scenario. The way Machama lectures in the island assigning portfolios to its very own people. His father ‘kaak’ becomes the head of the island while his wife ‘Khatji’ is given the charge of women welfare. It’s where humans try to start their law and order in the place to benefit their own selves and pockets.
Bhan has actually tried his way of showing how hierarchy was in place even in the old times where a layman is corrupted in the process of political machinery as these unusual creatures in the land are being made to act like humans losing their identities behind. Perhaps it is Bhan’s far-sighted vision where he believed in the birth of the elite class that could be seen somewhere in near future exploiting people of their innocence when jinns inform them about the presence of jewels and diamonds in another island creating their strong urge for wealth. Soon Machama holds the legs of ‘Raakh’ a giant bird into the island of jewels which is introduced to us in the middle part of the drama while Sulla and Rahmana are waiting for him eagerly. The way this obsession for wealth creates a rift between the trios give us an impression how greediness could even degrade relationships. Machama leaving the island thinks of grabbing all the wealth by him while his two friends kill ‘Raakh’ as they think Machama was eaten by the same and reach the island after him who was actually saved by Zingari and Singari from that giant creature.
The program has successfully touched all the chords and has created an imprint in the minds of the people all over. The element of satire and sarcasm in it is totally hypnotic making its audience glued to the radio sets to know the future course of action. The minor characters in the play have given a perfect meaning to what is today called as farce comedy. There are some elements that could have been eliminated which do not help in bringing the action in the plot in any case but adds to the duration of the program which makes it difficult for the listeners as they lose the plot sometimes. Ignoring that part and appreciating the rest of work is what has made this program worth remembering even after almost 50 years.
Fareeha Farheen Qureshi is a Kashmiri journalist working with the Citizen.