Sunday, May 30, 2021




It is said that    Master Zinda Kaul ( 1884-1965 ), the well known Kashmiri  poet  always carried some  raisins (Kishmish ) or candy sugar pieces ( Nabadh)  in his pocket . As and when he would see  a child ,  even on roadside , he would put his  hand in the  coat or Pheran pocket and offer something to the child. A smile was all that he wanted to see on child’s face.

" Bhagwaan soan boozin
Assi aash tchaein roozin 
Hyaathh  vaansie maeji maalis
Luss myaani joogie raayo

( Master Zinda Kaul )

(Let God listen my prayers 
Let you always be in my hopes .
Carrying your father and mother with you 
 May  you live for a full age ,my  Yogiraj ……)

                        (Master Zinda Kaul )

I am told that Mahatma Krishen Joo Razdan would also give candy sugar or almonds to children and see  them  smiling. My friend Chaman Lal Razdan (advocate) who is from Mahatma Krishen Joo Razdan's clan , also keeps his pocket full of raisins or almonds. He gives this Prasada  to everyone who meets him. An act ,so pleasing and lovely from this gentle and affable   friend. 

( Avtar Mota )

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021



       ( Shriya Bhatt painted by artist Gokul Dembi)  

Shriya Bhatt of Kashmir.

Shriya Bhatt belonged to a family of Vaids or practitioners of Ayurvedic system of medicine  who earned love and affection of all sections of the then Kashmiri society .
Shriya Bhatt's family  was  witness to the death and  destruction brought upon   in Kashmir during the rule of Sultans especially Sultan Sikander Butshikan. However ,  Sultan Zain ul Abdin(  rule period 1420-1470), son of Sultan Sikander Butshikan  proved to be the most tolerant and benevolent ruler that Kashmir ever had. He completely reversed the policies of his father towards the Hindus of Kashmir. He removed the Jaziya and allowed them to pray in their temples and shrines. Historian Srivara writes this:

"Zain ul Abdin's rule  was ike the cooling sandal paste after the heat of a summer in a desert had departed.’"

Jonaraja writes this :

"As flowers are not obtainable in the month of Magha on account of the mischief by snow, even so physicians who knew about poisons could not at that time be found in the country owing to governmental oppressions. The servants of the king at last found out Shriya  Bhatt, who knew the antidotes of poisons and was well versed in the art of healing, but out of fear, he for a long time delayed to come. When he arrived, the king gave him encouragement and he completely cured the king of the poisonous boil. The king wanted to make munificent gifts to Shriya Bhatt. But the latter refused to accept any. But when pressed hard, he made a request which was to the effect that the Jaziya on the Brahmans be remitted and opportunities be assured to them to develop their mental and moral resources without any let or hindrance.”

During the rule of Sikander Butshikan, the family of Shriya Bhatt maintained a low profile yet  tried to help every Kashmiri in every possible way.

It so happened that Sultan Zain ul Abdin fell sick and suddenly turned critical. He had a poisonous boil on his body. His own Hakeems tried every medicine but his condition went from bad to worst. Someone in his court suggested the name of Vaidhyaraj Shriya Bhatt  to the Sultan. With Shriya Bhatt's treatment , the Sultan not only recovered completely but also turned hale and hearty .

  Upon resuming his Darbaar, Zain ul Abdin wanted to make some valuable gift to Vaidhyaraj Shriya Bhatt. However, Shriya Bhatt refused to take it.  In the alternative Shriya Bhatt is reported to have said this:-

“The only gift I will receive, is the removal of all restrictions on the Pandits imposed by  your father Sultan Sikandar including the Jaziya tax. How good it shall be to bring them back to Kashmir from the heat and dust of plains or from hills and jungles where they are living in fear. ”

It is said that the  Sultan readily agreed to these requests and reversed all the policies of his father towards Hindus of Kashmir. The Sultan also sent his emissaries to the plains to bring back all the Hindus who had left their homes and hearths due to the  atrocities and persecution during the rule of Sultan Sikander  Butshikan. The Sultan inducted Shriya Bhatt to his Darbaar and granted him the status of a Vazir . The Sultan  also inducted Karpura Bhatt , another Ayurveda practitioner into his court .

Many  historians are of the view that Shriya Bhatt played a pivotal role that resulted in return of Kashmiri Hindus to their homes and hearths apart from creating conducive environment for their peaceful  living . Shriya Bhayt’s selflessness and the acceptance of his request by the Sultan proved a land-mark in the history of Kashmir. At the critical juncture of history,  Shriya Bhatt  proved a catalytic agent for the  peaceful resettlement  of persecuted Hindus of Kashmir .

Kashmiri Pandits have established a charitable  hospital in Jammu in the memory of Vaidhyaraj Shriya Bhatt .Artist Ravi Dhar and Gokul Dembi from Kashmir have drawn impressive portraits of  Vaidhyaraj Shriya Bhatt.

The  Sanjeevani Sharda Kendra of Jammu  organised Navreh celebrations on April  12th  , 2021 and  named it as" Tyaag Divas"  to commemorate  Vaidhyaraj  Shriya Bhatt. More than one hundred organisations of Kashmiri Hindus the world over joined this celebration.

In Hawal locality of Srinagar city, close to  the Ziyarat of Ahmed Sahib Machama ,a lane known as 'Shribhat Kocha'  still carries the name of  Shriya Bhat . It is believed by the local people that Vaidhyaraj Shriya Bhat lived in this locality.

( Avtar Mota)

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021




"May entire   humanity be  free from the Corona pandemic." My lord,my prayer...

( Kaanh vath..)

Kaanh vath kaeditav shaah akh hemahav
Vaeti vaeti pyath  vuchh Adam behaal ....
Akki akki aakashik peyi taarak
Latamonjji ya latsi gayi kam kam laal..

Sonna moharan guv qatrein hundh mol ,
Armaanan  laejmitch  mochhi mooran
Akhbaaran vuchhnas dil khotchaan
Prath lari vonn deut aem  saen tsooran

.......Kaanh vath kaedtav shaah akh hemahav"

In English,I would say this:

(Some way out)

Find some way out,
a deep breath we desire to have.
On every pathway
In every  lane over here,
Restless are human beings .
One after the other,
every star from the sky
has fallen to earth
and mingled with the dust.
Which bright star has not been trampled and fed to filth?

The gold  coins look like  pieces of broken earthenware,
Someone has rubbed every tender desire of this heart under his arrogant hands .
The news and the newspapers terrorise,
this burglar is  breaking open every door and every house .

....Find some way out,
a deep breath we desire to have.

(Avtar Mota......May 2021 ,Jammu)

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Saturday, May 22, 2021





( In above four videos, poet Radhey Nath Masarat is reciting his Kashmiri poems. Source.. YouTube)

RADHEY NATH MASARAT........(1939-2021)

He was from Zainpora ,Shopian and lived at Rainawari in Srinagar city for most part of his life. He was the gentlest person I have ever come across in my life. I knew him possibly since 1971. He had a cloth shop in Jogilanker Chowk .The shop was exactly opposite to the primary wing of DAV School in Jogilanker Chowk. His shop was possibly owned by the family of Basker Nath Raina ( government contractor ). Apart from selling cloth, he had a vast circle of friends in Rainawari that included poets, painters, writers , theatre artists ,teachers and social activists.

My mother bought white' Latha' quilt covers from him possibly in 1971. That is where I met him first. I vividly remember that day. After we finished our purchases,he asked me what I was doing. I told him about S.P.College, Bazm e Adab, Prof. Ghulam Nabi Firaq and Nadim Sahib. He felt amused. My mother told him this:

" I don't know what he writes. He writes and tears apart the paper. He comes to my Pooja room and reads everything including Ramcharitmanas . Whatever he does, I want him to get a bank job. You should also bless him."

My mother took the quilt covers and left the shop. I stayed back. Radhey Nath Ji asked me to recite something that I had written. I read some lines from my poem. I quote:

" Matah Kar tam vaeni gatti manz naash

Baeti chhus Haavaan doan tson gaash

Zaaatak haavikh tcham shehlaavikh

Me ti pretchhihe kaanh kyaa chhai raash"

( Why blow me out

in this darkness ?

I too show light,

may be to two or

may be to four travellers .

They got their horoscopes interpreted, reviewed

and satisfied themselves ,

Alas! none sought to know my zodiac sign or my fate.)

On hearing these lines, he felt very happy. I remember him saying this:

" Continue . You need no teacher. Keep coming . My blessings ."

Thereafter , I would visit his shop now and then. When my poem was published in Partap magazine , i went to him. He read it again and again. He asked me to keep the magazine with him. He read the poem to Farooq Nazki', Jawahar Beera, artist P.N. Kachru, Chaman Lal Abhay,Prof Mohan Krishen Kak ,J L Dhar ( Sita Travels) and some more people who regularly visited his shop.Prediman Ji Wattal, Surrender Kachru,J L Raina ( fondly known as  Jawa Sartre), poet Moti Lal Naaz, and Poet Muzaffar Azim would also visit him. And then one day, he took me to Vishwa-Bharati Women's college in our locality. A Mushaira was organised by Information Department in the college premises that evening. He introduced me to Nadim Sahib. Prof Firaq was also there. Firaq Sahib told him that he had found no issues of Radeef, Qaafiya and Wazan in what I wrote. He already knew me. He was directly associated with Bazm e Adab of S. P. College where he taught English.I kept visiting his shop. He got two of my poems published in Koshur Samachar that used to be published from Delhi. I also heard him recite his poem on 26th January from AIR ,New Delhi representing Kashmiri segment in the National Symposium of poetry held annually on Republic Day.


In 1974 , I moved to Jammu after I qualified the NIBM test and got allocated to PNB. I wrote him two letters. He responded. The last sentence was always Aashirwad. I got transferred to Kashmir in 1976. The ties became stronger. I helped him with his banking issues. He would come to PNB or handover cash to me for purchase of bank drafts for his suppliers based in Surat and Ahmedabad. Honesty, simplicity and truthfuness was ingrained in his DNA and he became a friend,philosopher and guide. He was there in my sister's marriage and our Mekhla ceremony performed in 1978. He gifted me some books , some issues of Sheeraza published by the Cultural Academy and some literary magazines.

He had fairly good knowledge of Marxism, Camus, Sartre, Kafka and Faiz . Sometimes, I would read Mahadevi Verma and Nirala to him. I vividly remember how interested he became in some french words that I had picked up from an old woman who taught us French for some period . He had fairly good knowledge of Sanskrit and Persian vocabulary. From these qualities , one could safely call him a polyglot.

From my conversations with him , I gathered that he was all praise for Nadim Sahib , G R Santosh, Pran Kishore ,Ali Mohammed Lone ,Shamim Ahmed Shamim and some more intellectuals. Once or twice ,I heard him bringing some Dohas of Kabir in his conversation. As news translator, he was also associated with AIR for more than four decades.


                    ( Poet Radhey Nath Masarat with his wife Krishna Ji )

He remains a noted Kashmiri poet with a distinct style. His vocabulary is unique and refreshing. Nazm was his forte .Impeccable style, impressive diction, metaphor usage and conceptual clarity ; these are some essential features of his poetry.. He deserved his rightful place in the literary hierarchy of his land. We failed in that effort. However , posterity will judge him and his work on merits and I am certain that he shall always remain taller. When translated, his poems achieve the status of universal thought and these become a part of world literature. Accordingly, there is an imperative need to make his poetry known to one and all. I am happy to find that his family has started making efforts in this direction. This is what Shantiveer Kaul told me about his poetry :-


I met him on many an occasion over the years. He was always  creatively active. His style was uniquely his own. I also translated some poems of Masarat Sahib into Hindi  for an institution connected with promotion of literature and art.  I am  struck by his use of a vocabulary that is pastoral and pretty musical - a vocabulary city dwellers are not familiar with straightaway.”

This is what eminent scholar and writer  Dr Shashi Shekhar Toshakhani told me about Radhey Nath Masarat:-

" I have translated his poems into Hindi for  the Sahitya Akademi  publications. His poem Vatee Paedh  was also translated by me and it was published in oct-Dec1992 issue of ' Contemporary Indian Literature' / Samkaaleen Bhartiya Sahitya ' book in Hindi . I still remember my opening line ' Jis chehre ki padi zaroorat ussey dikhaaya aur chale' . It is a beautiful poem. Another poem of Masarat Ji that I translated into Hindi shall never be forgotten by me. I' Tu naan bataaye bina kahaan se Sara hai, tu apna naam bataa,
Yuun naam bataaye bina kahaan Tu hasta hai,Tu apna naam bataa' . Now we have only m

His poem ‘assi von na kinhi ’ or ‘ not a word did we utter’  remains  one of the best poems representing fear, silence and plight of Kashmiri Pandits who were driven out from their homes and hearths in 1990.  In this poem,  Masarat is  forthright and direct in conveying the helplessness,  pain  and suffering of the people who were subjected to all sorts torment  and agony by armed militants and their cohorts .  I quote some lines from his poem ‘ assi von na kinhi ’ :-

(Sath paedh Ganz-ravith vethi taarikh aessi  vonn na kinhi...
Aeinn thopp dithh paantsalas khaarikh  aessi vonn na kinhi...

Kamzor zanaana adha  cheerikh
tim aarikash chhukh  last Panun,
Kaaras  ma vanhav aess maarikh
aessi vonn na kinhi...

Baarav dhyet dazavein naaran von
“Hey Saaf Kariekh” ,
Akhbaarav von “Naahaq maariekh”
Assi von na kinhi…..

Aessi thaasikh seenus deeniek kiell
taer khooni naalan braandhav peyth,
Aiess Issa zan Daaras khaarikh
Aessi vonn na kinhi....

Gaeli zeiv assi gayi aess kyaah vanahav
pyatha-kani aess  Shakuni Dhuryodhan ,
Zaareiv gyundh zaaras aess haariekh
Aessi vonn na kinhi…

Yeli Kiel thaasin mushkas sapidyov
Arssi haav  Ahimsa nav zagatas
Naeri pathkun thavi aessi Dyaka daarikh
Assi von na kinhi...

Yinna tohi baasiev vanunuyi pazihey
Yina ruswa baasivi paan panun,
Vaen vanhav vanhav kas maarikh
aessi Von na kinhi....)

I have translated the poem to simple English .

"After taking seven vows at the Satpadi,
we were driven across the  river Vitasta,
,not a word did we utter.
Blindfolded ,
they made us to go up
the  Pir Panchaal mountains,
not a word did we utter.

A frail and hapless woman was sawn
,what then ,
they are sawers and sawing  was their profession,
In this activity  if we are  killed ,
How dare we  say that they were killers,
Not a word did we utter.

The fire that burnt us,
kept complaining and crying :
“ Alas! they have been finished and wiped away”
The newspapers carried our story:
“ Innocents have been killed  ” ,
Not a word did we utter.

The  nails of the faith were hammered deep into our chests,
Our blood spilled in torrents on our doors and we crossed over.
Like Jesus, they nailed us to the gallows ,
Not a word did we utter.

We turned dumb,
What could we say otherwise
when Shakuni and Duryodhan became
masters of our destiny.
The dice players played their game
and lost us as their stake.
Not a word did we utter.

When hammering nails to innocents
became the order of the day,
a newer non-violence we taught to  the world.
Putting our hands behind our back,
We offered them our foreheads
Not a word did we utter

Don't ever feel that we didn't say anything,
complain not on this silence,
Who was there to listen to us?
To whom should we have told our woes.
Not a word did we utter."

The above  poem has been translated  into Hindi and sung by Lovely Chandra. The music has been scored by Brij Mohan.

( See at... )



In his book ‘Mehjoor And After ’ published by Sahitya Akademi , New Delhi  (ISBN 978-81-260-2533-6 Price Rs125/=) , T. N. Raina has included a beautiful poem  ‘ Liar ‘ written by  Radhey Nath Masarat. Appearing at   page 128 of the book , this beautiful poem has been translated from original Kashmiri by T. N. Raina , the author of the book  .




My father’s soul rest in Peace !

He left this world for his heavenly home .

His words to me as he lay dying

Are engraved upon my memory .

“ My son never tell a lie .Cling to the

Skirt of the truth ” , he said .

“ Truth is whole ;truth will bless you .”

From that moment to this day

I have stamped on falsehood with an iron heel ,

And always kicked it away from me .

I bared my chest to the darts of the truth

With bleeding feet and grim resolve

I dragged myself on every path –

But the promised blessing never came .

Reclined against my wall today ,

I find a thought disturbing me :

I must go to my father’s grave ,

And tell him in the loudest tones,

“ You were the greatest  liar ! ”


About the poetic style of Masarat , T. N. Raina writes this :-


" Masarat uses mainly free verse, portrays the sufferings of the people and the loneliness weighing on his own mind."


Unfortunately, after 1990, i lost track of him. He died some days back but the impressions of his simplicity ,truthfulness and affection are simply indelible from my mind. To conclude this tribute, I quote some lines from his post 1990 poem.

"Vath seytha path path chha draamitch koat gatchhakh

Vath voguv hish vatna-aamitch koat gatcchakh

Vaeti vaeti nerakh magar vaatakh na kun,

Vath chha vaeti vaeti tsatana aamitch koat gatchhakh."

( Radhey Nath Masarat)

( The paths have drifted farther and farther

Where shall you go now?

These paths have been wrapped up like the reed-mat(Voguv),

where shall you go now?

Even if you tread through the laid down path, you may reach nowhere,

At every turn,

our paths have been dug and blocked,

Where shall you go now?)

( Avtar Mota)


On 5th June,2021, poet Radhey Nath Masarat's poem "Aessi Von na Kinhi" was read by Anupam Kher in "Ek Sath" programme broadcast worldwide. The opening lines of the poem read this:-

                                "Sath paedh Ganz-ravith vethi taarikh aaessi  vonn na kinhi

Aeinn thopp dithh paantsaalas khaarikh  aaessi vonn na kinhi."

(After taking seven vows at the Satpadi,

we were driven across the  river Vitasta,

 ,not a word did we utter.

 Blindfolded , we were asked to go up the  Pir Panchaal mountains,

 ,not a word did we utter.)

No better tribute could have been paid to the memory of the poet who died in exile  far away from his motherland..

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 Shiva is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate believed to be the  controller of destruction to ensure orderly regeneration. Shiva is also the god of untamed passion, who at times becomes an ascetic abstaining from all worldly pleasures. As Maheshvara, Shiva is total- the Sakala and Nishkala, the Atman and Maya, all that is timed and all that is beyond time, the manifest and the unmanifest,  the ephemeral and the transcendental, the masculine and the feminine.
Rigveda mentions Shiva as Rudra . As Rudra, Shiva is Agni, who as Prana, energizes all things. As Bhuta- the Prakriti or matter is only his aspect, he is the entire existence. He creates out of him and is thus himself the creation. He is thus male as also the female. 

Shiva image- both the anthropomorphic and the symbolic Linga, has the pre-Vedic emergence. Excavations at Indus sites have revealed images of Shiva as Mahayogi and Pashupati and the Linga type objects suggestive of Shiva's manifestation as Linga and the cult of Linga worship. The remains of Hellenistic civilization also reveal traces of Linga worship. Ancient Egypt perceived its god Osiris in the form of Linga and worshipped it. These early images of Shiva do not so much reveal an iconographic perception of him but reveal quite significantly his divine dimensions, out of which developed his Sadashiva and Maheshvara and consequently the Ardhanarishvara forms. 

Ardhanarishvara is one of the most prevalent forms of the celestial  in Indian art since the ancient period. Some scholars have discovered an Ardhanarishvara type figure on the face of a Kushana period coin. It is believed that this could be the first-ever reported Ardhanarishvara image. Some art historians believe that the Ardhanarishvara form is an art perception, a product of man's remarkable imagination, an appealing composition seeking to reconcile the ever conflicting male and female elements into one divine form.
Traditionally, Ardhanarishvara is a form of Sadashiva, Adishiva and Adipurusha. Being the first, he is the Adishiva, and being always, he is the Sadashiva. Both as the Adishiva and the Sadashiva, Shiva has inherent in his being the male and the female, the positive and the negative, and thus his Ardhanarishvara form. 

Kashmir has a long history of sculpting or painting Ardhanarishvara. A beautiful concept of merging masculine and feminine energies by painting Shiva and Parvati as one entity existed in Kashmir since the ancient period. It finds mention in every important text like Kalika-Purana , Nilamata-Purana, Visnudharmotara-Purana , Kuttanimata of Damodaragupta, Kathasaritsagara of Somadeva , Rajatarangini of Kalhana and Jonaraja . There are many Tarangas in Rajatarangini where Kalhana is invoking directly Ardhanarishvara.In some texts of Kashmir, Ardhanarishvara is also referred to as Gaurisiva. I have seen some stone images of Ardhanarishwara in S.P.S. Museum, Srinagar. Some of these sculptures were obtained from Avantipura or Verinag in Kashmir. 

Kalhana writes this:-

“Glory to that formation of the body of lord ( Siva )which consisting of a female and a male half is fit for him, who embued with a fondness for diverse combination holds by his side the bow, constructed from the horns of the goat and a bull, as well as Gana ( Ganesa )whose body unites with the halves of a man and an elephant .” 

Damodaragupta in his Kuttanimata writes this:-

“Siva has accommodated Gauri in half of his body as though separation from his beloved was unbearable to him even for a moment .”

Somadeva in his Kathasaritsagara writes this :-

“ Glory to Siva, half of whose body is the moon-faced Parvati, who is smeared with ashes whiten as the rays of the moon, whose eyes gleam with fire like that of the sun and moon, who wears a half-moon on his head .”
Jonaraja write this:-

“ One half of Hara’s person has united with one half of Parvati as if they had become one through mutual affection. The other halves 
of their persons, adored in the three worlds have disappeared as if in sorrow, because they could not unite .”

A Tirtha of Ardhanarishvara existed at Village Naru in Kashmir. Stein has even located a small temple of ancient origin that was renovated during the Dogra rule in Kashmir. In this temple, an image of Siva as Ardhanarishwara was worshipped. It is worthwhile to mention that a stone Ardhnarishwara from Kashmir has reached New York’s ‘ Kapoor Galleries’ owned by the jailed international art smuggler.

 Known as Purusha and Prakriti, the Ardhanarishvara concept has also been brought into paintings by G. R. Santosh, the foremost practitioner of neo-Tantra art from Kashmir. His Aradhnarishvara finally settled down at a meditative torso in Padamasna . This image is  neither male nor female that bears the  essential Tantric symbolism of Prakriti and Purusha or Shiva and Shakti.

                                                    ( Ardhanarishvara in Indian sculpture )

 There is hardly any artist in India who has not been fascinated by the concept of Ardhanarishvara . The half male and half female are split down the middle with one half ( generally the right side ) as the male Shiva illustrating his traditional attributes. Some images influenced by the Shakti cult, have male Shiva on the left side. Ardhanarishvara image is drawn in Abhanga, Tribhanga and Atibhanga postures.

( Avtar Mota )

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Thursday, May 20, 2021




             ( Avtar Kaul )
   ( Avtar Kaul with friends sitting  on the steps leading to Jahangir Art Gallery,Mumbai)


Avtar was born in Kashmir . While his family moved to Delhi in 1949, he joined them later after completing his studies. Arriving in Delhi as a graduate, he joined Ministry of External Affairs in 1958 . In 1960, he moved to the US  and enrolled  to learn film direction  in a film institute in  New York city.In the US, he learnt everything about film making  .He returned to India in 1970, with his American wife Anne, and settled in Mumbai.  In India , he worked with Ivory Merchant production house . By now he had acquired wide knowledge of  world cinema, Indian films and the French 'New Wave Cinema' .

It was during this period ,  the Film Finance Corporation helped  Mrinal Sen to produce  Bhuvan Shome, Basu Chatterjee to make   Sara Akash and Mani Kaul for his Uski Roti.The trend that came to be known as 'Parallel Cinema 'had already become visible.  Avtar Kaul was keen on adding his name to this Parallel Cinema  . With the encouragement of FFC chairperson BK Karanjia, Kaul set out in 1972 to make his first film. He started looking for some good script.

The film is based on the Hindi novel Athara Sooraj Ke Paudhe, by Ramesh Bakshi. Avtar Kaul picked up the book from Delhi book shop. He liked the novel and decided to make a film based on the novel. That is how 27 Down was born. He sounded his younger brother , Predhuman Kaul about the project.Pradhuman Kaul quit his job with the Indian Air Force to help on a production that was a challenge for the brothers . Predhuman Kaul remembers  this :

“I had never seen a shoot before that. We shot on more than 40 actual locations. The film could be made only because the people involved with the film were all young.The most prominent crew member was Raakhee, who had already a movie star. Avtar  initially wanted to cast director Bimal Roy’s daughter Aparajita in the lead role. Rakhee came on the recommendation of FFC’s BK Karanjia. She accepted the role because she liked the storyline."

Avtar Kaul  signed Bansi Chandragupt as art director for the project. Bansi Chandragupt  worked with Satyajit Ray,  Jean Renoir, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Basu Chatterjee, Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and Aparna Sen. Narinder Singh ,the well known sound recordist was also signed for the project. Narinder Singh had also worked with Mrinal Sen.

The film had many  first-timers that  included A.K. Bir, the Film and Television Institute of India-trained cinematographer who was 22 years old at the time and had never shot a feature.The crew faced many problems. Raakhee was a known face, and the crew had to show her travelling in trains or walking through crowds . Shooting with her in public spaces and  platforms was difficult and tough.  For some   shots, the unit  had to seek the help of the police. However , everything kept rolling and moving in positive direction.

And Avtar had complete confidence in M.K. Raina who had already graduated from NSD and was noticed for his acting skills in some popular Hindi plays .

The production took nearly two years as  Kaul brothers ran out of money. Theyhad initially  pooled around three lakhs from their sources .The film cost them around eight lakhs and they had to raise a loan of about five lakhs.

As filmmaker, Avtar  was a hard taskmaster. He didn’t even spare his brother. “He would shout at me if I made a mistake,” Pradhuman Kaul said. “A unit member was combing his hair while recording sound. Avtar yelled, you should have a boom in your hand, not a comb"
The shooting at ever busy VT station  Mumbai was done in a secret manner  .Nobody knew that a film was being shot. M. K. Raina in his dress appeared like a genuine TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner).  Even people were seeking   information on trains from him. By the time people came to know about shooting, the team 27 Down  had packed up. The camera was placed away from public gaze.

My friend Yusuf Bhat told me this:

" Avtar was a very friendly person. I vividly remember he  had taken two rooms in YMCA, Mumbai Central and  used run his office from there. He used to live probably in Meher Apartments ,Anstey Road those days. Initially, Avtar Kaul had selected me as editor of the movie. I had signed the contract. The movie was named 58 Down. The name was subsequently changed to  '27 Down.' The film had Bansi Chandragupt as  art director. Then Narinder Singh, the sound recordist was also very brilliant. Avtar was very focussed. He made everyone give 100% to the film. He wanted me to be present at every shot whether indoor or outdoor. I had little time for that . Then we had arguments in the editing room .  The negatives were handled by me at the 'Famous Cine Laboratory ',Taradeo. He was thoroughly professional in his approach.  He didn't agree to some suggestions. I moved out from the project. But he was a great man. I was paid full remuneration as per the agreement. I believe I was paid 3500/- by him. That was a big amount those days.  I am talking of 1972 . Late Ravi Patnaik edited the film after I left.27 Down got Filmfare award but Avtar Kaul didn't live to receive it."


( Agreement copies of Yusuf Bhat , Editor )

The film was completed with MK Raina and Rakhee in lead roles. It created some sensation with its cinematography, direction, handling of the story and dialogues.Arvtar  Kaul was planning  to make another film with M K Raina in lead role.
27 Down was finally completed in 1973. It had been screened at the Locarno Film Festival the following year, where it was given an award .

July 20, 1974, Avtar Kaul was invited to dinner at a sea-facing bungalow in Walkeshwar in south Mumbai. A.K. Bir was at his rented apartment with a few friends. That night, Bir got a call from Delhi, informing him that 27 Down had won two National Film Awards. It was a time to celebrate. A.K . Bir remembers this:

“We were expecting Avtar to come and celebrate. However, at around 1am or so, I got a call from the police, asking me to identify a body.”
They learnt that  Avtar Kaul had gone to beach. He was sitting on a  parapet along with a friend who  lost  balance and slipped into the  Arabian Sea. Kaul dived in to save his friend , but neither survived. The roaring Monsoon waves proved fatal.
Avtar was taken first to one hospital and then to another, and he died on the way.

Praduman Kaul wasn’t in Mumbai at the time the tragedy struck the family. He had returned to Delhi to look after his ailing wife.  Predhuman remembers:

““It was shocking for all of us. We had heard that he was getting the award just the previous night.”

Avtar Kaul's wife , Anne, had lost her father around the same time, and couldn’t travel to India for the funeral. Anne, returned to the US halfway during the shoot.

Avtar Kaul’s untimely death was a great setback to his brother Predhuman.. He was deeply disturbed and could not do anything in cinema after that. He returned to Delhi and worked for a while with a theatre group and later joined an insurance company.

( Avtar Mota)

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