A film maker from Kashmir, who started his career during the time when people preferred to stay aloof from the show business. The timing was not right, but the sheer determination not just only removed the hurdles, but paved the way forward.
Excerpts from an interaction with Indraneel Mukherjee.
Coming from a business family background, what made you opt for a career in media?
M. Bala: Change is something which is constant and that is exactly what happened in our family, I took a different line as far as my career was concerned. The factor behind the decision of treading a different path was actually the zeal I had for creativity. This fire for creativity made me to opt for career in media, instead of toeing the traditional line of business which was well established by the elders in family.
Normally, when one takes on a new profession, especially in the media line, the initial assignments matter a lot. What was the situation in your case?
M. Bala: I am in full agreement with you on this point. As it is, I was kind of blessed, I started with some theme based short films which revolved around the social, regional and cultural aspects of our Kashmir. Also the content of the assignment which I got initially were close to my upbringing, therefore, it was natural for me to slip into or you can say align myself with the initial projects.
You directed your first Tele serial way back in 1994. Times were not good in Kashmir. What were the challenges and what was your experience?
M. Bala: It was a great challenge as the situation at that time was very hostile and the atmosphere was not at all conducive for any professional venture, especially in the field of film making. As I have said earlier that God’s hand was always over me, therefore, I had the determination to test the turbulent waters and I tried to overcome every underline apprehension in my mind that could hinder my path. As far as the experiences are concerned they were very thrilling as I was trying to fly against the wind and such adventures do have the thrills to offer which I took with a broad smile on my face. During this time the learning was much more then it would have been in normal times.
We spoke about Television & films, besides these two formats, did you ever tried any other media also?
M. Bala: Yes, I did some theatre and some work in print media also.
The programs which were done for Doordarshan Srinagar were always shrouded due to ‘quality’ issues. During those days was this a façade or a reality?
M. Bala: Yes this was the stark reality at that time. The quality of the programmes during the turbulent times in Kashmir was very low. The reason for such a drop in the low quality of program was due to the fact that everyone and anyone came forward impersonating as a professional. But obvious the results were and are quite evident. Without any hesitation, I can say that the period gone by was professionally a dark era of Kashmir television industry and there are so many angles of this whole façade. However, we should not ignore the fact that a good number of people who were professionally and technically sound gave their best shot at maintaining the basic standards of programs at least.
Did your production ever faced any social issues keeping in mind the state of affairs in the Valley of Kashmir?
M. Bala: No, my priorities always were to portray Kashmir and its affairs with a positive approach and I was never swayed away by the myths and the rhetoric’s that was the order of the day during that period. Since majority of the people appreciate maintaining the professional grace and upholding the truth attached to every story be it social, cultural or at times political, I always gave priority to the projection of glory of the things instead of the distorting the facts.
As a Kashmiri what are the most challenging situation you have faced outside the State of Jammu and Kashmir?
M. Bala: Kashmiriyat is embedded in Indianness, so the challenge situations were the same for me as they were for the other people of the country.
Taking you back in the past. Do share some interesting anecdotes from your school day ?
M. Bala: It was way back in the 1970s, at Oberoi Palace Hotel in Srinagar. There were number of Films stars staying there and on that particular day they were filming in the lawns of the Hotel. There were some school students who were taking autographs from film stars I was standing close by them and some students came up to me for my autograph.I without thinking took the pen and signed autographs. Mr Shashi Kapoor who noticed me giving autographs said to his Co-star “Kashmiri Bada Chalu hai” (This Kashmiri is streetsmart).
What are the projects which you are working on now?
M. Bala: For the last two years I have been busy with a television serial called “Yeh Zindagi Hai Gulshan’, it is being telecast every twice in week (Saturday & Sunday) on DD National at 8:30 PM. In addition to this I am working on television adaption of one of the works of Quratulain Hyder titled “Agle Janam Mohe Metia Na Kijio”.
What do you miss of those days when Kashmir had both the communities living in harmony?
M. Bala: I miss all the colours of the beautiful painting called “Kashmir”. I am reminded of the mutual trust, brotherly relations and above all the dignity of being a Kashmiri during those glorious times of my life.
You are also credited with the making of the film “Budshah”. Any out of place experience you had during the making of this Kashmir film?
M. Bala: You have taken me backin time. Not just me, but the whole crew will never ever forget the making of ‘Budshah. We were shooting a war sequence at Pahalgam during night time and all of the sudden gun fire shots were heard from a close distance. At that point of time, in the night, it was quite scary. Some crew members from Mumbai were too scared and we had to stop the filming and later on shot the sequence at a different local. The mystery of those shots still remains and still gives me goosebumps.
Do you have any message for the young generation of Kashmiris?
M. Bala: Although, I am not a politician that I will pass on a message to the younger generations of Kashmir who often confront this shade or that shape of a message. But as a media professional I would like to share with them that the world is very large. Life is beautiful and there is a lot to be done. They should come forward and take the legacies of Kashmir further.
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