• Malik Nisar
  • Publish Date: Nov 20 2017 8:27PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 20 2017 8:27PM

The comedian Qayoom Badshah is a class act


The funny man is rather serious these days. He has to be, Qayoom Badshah says, for he is about to get married. The 42-year-old is at his uncle’s house, reveling in the festive mood of the preparations for a Kashmiri wedding, cracking jokes like they were flowing off an assembly line, much to the delight of children around. 

It has been quite a journey for Badshah, one of struggle, failure, rejection and eventual triumph. 

Born Abdul Qayoom Bhat in Tarzoo village near Sopore, Badshah is the oldest of four siblings. The gift of humour and comic timing stood him out even as a child but as he grew up, Badshah became conscious of his short stature, the result of dwarfism he was born with. 

“People would laugh at me because of my size,” he says. “But I hardly paid heed to anyone and took criticism on the chin like a man.” 

This early maturity helped him to single-mindedly pursue his dream: to take his funny side to the masses. He caught his big break in 1992, while still in high school. He went to audition for Doordarshan and landed a role in the TV serial Insaaf alongside the famed comedian Nazir Josh aka AhadRaza. “I have always loved films and acting,” he says. “I left no stone unturned in my struggle to become an actor. Acting is in my DNA.”

Badshah’s debut TV performance was well received and he hasn’t looked back. “Those days were quite happening,” he recalls. “I was new and rubbing shoulders with giants who had created a niche for themselves. But I was never made to feel that I was a rookie. I think that attitude from the senior pros helped me to grow as an artist.”

After the advent of cable TV in Kashmir in the early 2000s, Badshah took to playing funny characters in serials broadcast by the new stations. He delivered memorable performances in Chuk Mudur, Hartal, Boiler, Lalteen and became somewhat of a household name. Around that time, he also got to work in Rajasthani cinema. 

“I also got offers from Bollywood,” says Badshah, who enjoys a good rapport with the film star RajpalYadav. “But due to family reasons, I could not work there.” He did work in a few serials in Mumbai, though.

Yet, Badshah carries a sense of hurt. “I hate it when people say things like, ‘All dwarves know each other, right?’. I want to get mad, but I can’t because we do know each other.”

What hurts more though is that Badshah sees no future for acting in Kashmir. “I felt sorry about it. We have got abundant talent but it remains untapped due to our situation,” he says, referring to the conflict. If that wasn’t dire enough, he says, the government is not doing anything to groom talent and help the acting community. He is particularly concerned that artists are abandoned by both the government and their fans when they are no longer able to work due to ailment or old age. To hammer home his point, he pulls out two pictures of Seth Rafi – one from his prime, another from his ailing days. A brilliant and versatile Kashmiri comedian, Rafi suffered a stroke some years ago, rendering him speechless and partially paralysed. “Artists are often left on their own,” he says. “They have to struggle for even their bread and butter.”

When he is not acting, Badshah works in the Power Development Department, to which he was appointed by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah in 1997.

 “That job is my survival,” he says. “In Kashmir, you can’t survive on acting alone.”