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She screamed and the viewers ran for cover

india Updated: Dec 10, 2006 10:55 IST
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ASHA BROWNE is a very well-known name in theatre and broadcasting world. Her voice belies her age. She is agile even at 72 and some channels of electronic media use her voice in their programmes. Her sound background in Hindi, English and Urdu languages helped her to enrich her diction and pronunciation.

Asha retired from All India Radio, Allahabad as a selection-grade announcer in 1994. During her service period, she worked in different capacities in Ranchi, Delhi and Allahabad.

She started taking part in stage plays since her school days. She represented Allahabad University in both stage and radio plays in the First Inter-University Youth Festival, New Delhi in 1954. Asha bagged the prestigious Chancellor's Medal in 1955 for her superb performance in drama. Her first public performance was in Tagore's play 'Chir Kumar Sabha' in 1954. It was directed by Vijay Bose.

After this there was no looking back for her and she acted in many prestigious plays written by outstanding writers.

Dr Ram Kumar Verma, Upendra Nath Ashk, Dr Laxmi Narayan, Amrit Ray, Vimla Raina and Keshav Chandra Verma are some of the names she has worked with and knew them intimately. During her career in radio she got an opportunity to work with Gopal Kaul, Sadiqa Saran, Teji Bachchan, Vijay Bose and Yuktibhadra Dixit (who auditioned her for rural programmes recorded in the make-shift studios of Allahabad Agricultural Institute), Bipin Tandon AN Rizvi, Raja Zutshi, Mukta Shrivastava, Amal Bose, Kaushal Bihari Lal, Shobha Panjabi and Vipin Sharma.

The plays in which Asha took part were Tagore's 'Kabuliwala', Shaukat Thanvi's 'Party ke baad', 'Mulazema ki talaash' and 'Munshiji', Vimla Raina's 'Savera', 'Aaj sham ko', 'Roti aur kamal ka phool' and 'Teen yug', Keshav Chandra Verma's 'O mere sapne', BP Puri's 'Carbon copy', Dr Laxmi Narayan Lal's 'Raat ki rani', Amrit Ray's 'Shatabdi', Jayant Dalvi's 'Are shareef log' and Iqbal Ahmad Siddiqi's 'Paon lagi mehndi'. An 'A grade' drama voice, Asha is admired by many of her colleagues and contemporaries.

Excerpts from the interview:

Vimla Raina's play 'Savera' was first staged at Phulpur. The play aimed at highlighting Union Government's Five-Year Plan and removing illiteracy, untouchability and superstitions. The then district magistrate JMN Raina (husband of Vimla Raina) accompanied by many officials of the district administration and their families was present there. The block development officer of Phulpur had invited a large number of people from the nearby villages.

It was an open-air stage with a huge pandal and we were very excited, needless to say, a little tense too. When we took a peek outside and saw a huge crowd of villagers, it added to our nervousness.

My role was that of a village Thakur's wife, who used to pretend that she was visited by 'Bhawani' everytime she could not have her way with her husband and other family members. The role was very small and insignificant. I had worked on it and had not told anyone how I planned to enact it on the final day. When the time came neither Mrs Raina nor any of my co-actors were prepared for the loud scream that rent the night air.

For a moment there was absolute silence and then a stampede broke out as those sitting near the stage, got up and tried to run away fearing the visitation of Bhawani.

There was a chaotic situation and the organisers had to face a tough time in controlling the crowd. After my exit, my friends rallied round me and asked if I was all right. Some offered a glass of water while others fanned me. They were worried till I told them that it was all "acting."

That small role of 'Ramdaiya' became the highlight of 'Savera.'

Then there is that instance when I completely embarrassed a very well-known and revered poet of Allahabad. He was the bearded Janab Raaz Allahabadi. His fresh collection of poems, 'Dhadkanen' had just been published. He happened to visit AIR for a recording. As always, I went up to greet him and said: "Raaz saheb, apni 'Dhadkanen' mujhe de dijiye."

He was absolutely speechless and did not know where to look as there were others around too. They all laughed and the thing was forgotten. But, bless Raaz Saheb! the next time we met, he did bring the collection of his poems and gifted it to me with an added bonus -- there were some very nice things written for me in his own hand-writing. That's my very cherished possession till today.

Life has been kind and generous to me but there still lingers a hankering for "more" and here I take the liberty of quoting the great Mirza Ghalib:
"Hazaaron khwahishein aisi ki har khwahish pe dam nikley
Bahut nikley mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikley."