Despite living under hardships in Kashmir- which is engulfed in the conflict for decades now, women have made their name in the radio. Initially, it was difficult for any girl or woman to enter any media channel. They were looked down upon as inferiors due to which very few females came forward to contribute to this field of media. Family pressure and societal expectations were another reason that a few women were found on air, at least initially. Back then, people were hardly aware of the benefits of the radio and what opportunities it could provide for women. However, with the passage of time many women came forward and various artists have flourished and are widely celebrated today.
Since its inception in 1948, Radio Kashmir Srinagar has been entertaining and educating people through numerous channels. The contribution of women in this area has been commendable. Radio Kashmir has produced some very talented women artists in the form of announcers, drama artists and singers. With their presentation skills, the female announcers or presenters make the programmes effective. Adding beauty to the lyrics, the women singers would make the songs more soothing and similarly the drama artists would make dramas even more interesting.
It was Shanta Koul, the first female announcer of Radio Kashmir Srinagar, who became the role model for prominent announcers like Girja Waatal, Surja Sahib and many others. Shanta Koul was a drama artist as well. “For children she was ‘Aapa Jaan’ as she would host many programmes for children,” says Bashir Arif, Deputy Director General, Radio Kashmir. She is also remembered in radio as ‘Khatiji’ of famous drama ‘Machaam’ written by Pushkar Bhan. However, announcers like Surja Sahib have left the valley because of turmoil long before and work in All India Radio (AIR) Delhi now.
Other commendable announcers who have served in radio Kashmir are Arifat Jan and Tahira Noor. They are regular announcers and their knowledge adds to their presentation skills. Arifat Jan joined radio as a child artist, and would sometimes participate in quiz programmes in Yuva Vani. Announcers such as Chasfeeda Khan broadcast certain programmes to be aired and sometimes also announce the news headlines in the mornings. Programmes like Bazme-Niswan are quite popular and are meant mainly for the women folk. Rabia Rasool, one of the promising ladies has the credit of presenting this programme along with Sameena Shah. Nayeema Mehjoor is another famous broadcaster in the category of announcers who currently works for BBC. She is the one who played the character of ‘Nann Koor’ in ‘Zoon Dabb’, one of the most famous dramas aired by Radio Kashmir Srinagar. It was this drama in which Raj Begum played the role of ‘Aga Bai’ and gained popularity.
Known as ‘Nikki Appa’, Uma Khosla was another artist of Radio Kashmir. It was in the programme ‘Vadi Ki Awaaz’ in which she was known as ‘Nikki Appa’. Her voice was a treat for listeners. Artists like Usha Nehru (Nosh in Zoon Dabb) have been an important part of radio Kashmir. In fact various female play rights like Taj Begum Renzoo and Shamla Mufti have made unforgettable contributions to the radio industry. It was Taj Begum who introduced other talented artists like Maryam Begum and Nabla Begum. According to Bashir Arif, Nabla Begum has worked in dramas like Weyath Ruuz Pakaan and Daeen Therr. Similarly many other artists like Prana Shangloo (associated with Zoon Dabb), Reeta Jalali (currently working in Mumbai), Haseena Akhtar Sofi, Bharti Zaroo, Asha Zaroo, Daisy Naqeeb have played prominent roles in various dramas.
Radio Kashmir has produced some promising singers along with drama artists and announcers. It was Raj Begum initially who gained fandom because of her soothing voice. She made wonders in the field of music with her first song, Maqbool Shah Kralwari’s ‘wesye gulon awye bahar’. Naseema Akhtar, a close companion of Raj Begum was another lady who achieved laurels in the genre of Ghazals, Chakri and Rouf. Singers like Aarti Tikoo, Jahan Ara Janbaz, Kailash Mehra were ones trained in music and fine arts. Many women have worked in Doordarshan along with Radio Kashmir. One such lady is Gul Akhtar. She was famous for Chakri and Rouf in folk style, besides which she sung ghazals and songs. Considered to be the celebrated singer of the modern folk music, Mehtab Begum’s contribution to radio is definitely also worth mentioning. Similarly, singers like Shameema Azad, Zoon Begum have made many listeners their devoted fans and gained an important status in singing.
It can be said that women have been in the broadcasting field ever since its inception. Though less in number, their role is unforgettable and they continue to serve the society by entertaining and educating people through the radio.