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Shiv Dutt, J&K’s pioneer documentary and filmmaker, and a votary of Dogra culture bid adieu in a dramatic manner. True to his lifelong passion for celluloid his departure though shocking was nothing but filmy: He suffered a heart attack while shooting a crowd scene involving more than 50 actors for a documentary on Dogra leader Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, at Mubarak Mandi, on last Monday, 27th May 2018.
The news of the death of Shiv Dutt, the numero uno Film and ‘Tele Man’ of J&K, first triggered an incessant chain of phone calls, amongst fans, friends, relatives and umpteen number of people from different regions, stations, and backgrounds, whose lives he had touched in one way or other. Then homages began springing up on social media soon after the family confirmed his passing away at Narayana Hospital where doctors allegedly seemed to have botched up in reviving his ailing heart.
Shiv Dutt, who as the producer and director of first Pahari film Lakeer, had acquired an iconic status in J&K, Punjab, PoK, and the UK, was born in 1953, in the traditional Dogra Brahmin family of Pandit Amar Chand of Samba and Dhan Devi. He was brought up in a disciplined atmosphere. His father a staunch Sanatani followed a lifestyle based on Sanskrit scriptures, religious rituals, observances, pure vegetarian food as per Ayurvedic tenets, and with marked preference for seasonal desi vegetable and fruits.
As a child, he recited Sanskrit shlokas as part of daily routine. Shiv Dutt was also made to join a gurukula for some time. His father popularly called as ‘Guruji’ opened a school at his own sprawling premises at Maheshpura, Jammu. It was in this house full of medicinal and therapeutic trees like Aamla, Behr, and Bael that Shiv Dutt grew as a young man.
During college and university days, he was drawn to literary and cultural activities. As a budding Hindi writer, he joined Hindi Sahitya Sabha, formed a registered cultural group Yuvak Kala Sangam and organized cultural programs. Shiv Dutt’s inclination towards cultural fields came as a disappointment to his father who wanted him to become a scholar/teacher. The growing distance between father and son led Shiv Dutt to stand on his own feet. He tried a hand at many a business ventures till he found footing in manufacturing and supplying of furniture to Super Bazaar branches at Jammu and later at Srinagar.
In the 1980s, when he was hopping between umpteen Government offices at Jammu, Srinagar, and Leh, the visits to Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar, in connection with the supply of furniture, proved for him a life-altering experience. Infected by the glamorous world of small screen, he, drawing upon his literary and stage experience, landed up in the job of casual TV anchor/comparer. After conducting and arranging a number of programs for Srinagar TV station, he purchased his first camera and got registered as a TV News Stringer. Thereafter he graduated to become the first outside director for in-house productions of DD Srinagar.
After that, there was no looking back. His commissioned program of ‘chitrahaar’, recorded professionally at Bombay, emerged as the signpost of artistic approach for his future endeavors where he always made it a point to involve the best available talent and technical resources.
All along his personal journey and evolution as a filmmaker, he remained committed to showcasing richness and diversity of age-old Dogra culture, art, and lifestyle. For which he created an NGO Abhiyaan, and remained its chief functionary till death. He made special efforts to revive and showcase traditional Dogra cuisine and rituals.
He was the first TV producer in J&K to own a full-fledged studio with facilities for shooting, editing, dubbing, recording, mixing etc. Soon his banner ‘Tele Man Films’ became a Mecca for young aspirants interested to find a vocation in allied fields of making TV films, serials, and documentaries. These included actors, scriptwriters, screen playwrights, poets, lyricists, music composers, singers, directors, cinematographers, art directors, make-up persons, sound recordists, light boys etc.
With Shiv Dutt as one man institution, his Tele Man Films emerged as a de facto film and TV school, which became instrumental in training almost everyone, including most of today ’s senior professionals working in different fields of Film and TV Production in Jammu. Shiv Dutt always roped in best of literary talent of Dogri, Gojari, and Pahari to write serials and short films and documentaries. He led others to emulate him, desire like him.
From the journey which started with Musical tele-film on Dogra marriage songs under the title ‘Babal De Behda’, which is still one of the best in its genre and is very popular with NRJs (Non-Resident Jammuites), Shiv Dutt produced a large body of work that always had his characteristic stamp.
Shiv Dutt had a special ear for music which gave wings to his talent for picturizing songs. He produced and directed more than 150 songs in which reputed playback singers rendered their golden voices. These included singers like Kumar Sanu, Mahendra Kapoor, Suresh Wadekar, Dilraj Kaur, and Kavita Krishnamurti.
Some of the well-known and popular serials produced and directed by him for Kashir channel, are Baba Jitto, Kaastu, Naseeb, Parvartan, Britian. For DD Jammu, he produced Ab Kya Karein, Minjaran, and Phull Bina Dali, and for DD Shimla-Vipasa Ki Lehar. Other serials include Rain Basera, Ik Musibat Hor, Aurrat, Jeena Paharein Da, Qalam ka Souda, Pehchan, Faisla, Savera, Ishaq se Pehale.
He directed tele-films like Bahu Bhi Beti Thi, Kaho Kaisi Rahi, Kaise Kaise Log, Aas Kiran, Guest House, Kinara and, Intezar, Jasoos No 1 and Phull Bina Dali. He produced more than 200 documentaries on varied subjects including Heritage of Dogras, Ladakh, for DD Jammu, DD Srinagar, Kashir Channel, DD Bharti, Doordarshan’s National hookup, private channels, and state governments of Himachal, Punjab, and Haryana.
His magnum opus was Lakeer, the first ever Pahari film which became an instant hit with masses due to the masterful portrayal of the human condition. The unprecedented public response to the film Lakeer, encouraged many a local young producers and director to make locally produced films in regional languages.
The one who never rested on his laurels, Shiv Dutt had recently expanded the sphere of his film and documentary production work to the states of Punjab and Haryana and even had built a house in Chandigarh. He had also completed the paperwork for a film in Dogri titled ‘Kastu’ and was all set to start the shooting. Alas, the silent hands of fate had the final design for him.
The untimely death of Shiv Dutt, the renowned filmmaker, a friend and a teacher, and a Dharti-Putra has not only created a vacuum in the film sphere of this state but also lost a staunch votary of Dogra culture. He is survived by wife Smt Kamlesh, daughter Himani, and son, Himanshu, who trained by his father, is a ad-film and documentary maker in his own right.
It is high time that State bodies like J&K Academy of Art, Culture, and Language, pay due homage to Shiv Dutt by holding a festival of documentaries and film made by him and to institute an annual best film and documentary award in his memory. Also, steps have to be taken to create an archive of his work for the reference of posterity.