Pran Kishore 99: The living legend of Kashmir’s broadcasting and fiction

Story by  Ahmed Ali Fayyaz | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 30-11-2023
Pran Kishore (X)
Pran Kishore (X)


Ahmed Ali Fayyaz/Srinagar

Born in January 1925 in the densely populated Kashmiri Pandit neighbourhood of Mallapora, Habbakadal, legendary radio voice and actor Pran Kishore is just over a year short of his century. Five years after he retired from the Srinagar Station of All India Radio (AIR), then known as Radio Kashmir Srinagar-, Pranji had to leave the valley when an armed insurgency broke out. He is now settled with his family in Pune.

As a 23-year-old talent, Pranji joined Radio Kashmir when India’s first broadcasting station was set up in Srinagar in the thick of a war in 1948. After 37 years in radio, he was associated with the first two Kashmiri feature films Maanziraat andShayar-e-Kashmir Mehjoor and also some highly-rated serials for Indian television. 

He also wrote hundreds of radio plays and several books including the novel Gul Gulshan Gulfaam and his memoirs Radio Kashmir And My Days in Broadcasting.

Pran Kishore with his daughter and wife Shanta Koul (Extreme right) and legendary radio voice Uma Khosla

A versatile writer and director of theatre, television, and films, Pranji emerged as a doyen of broadcasting. He is to Kashmir what AIR’s Melville De Mellow, SSS Thakur, and Devki Nandan Pandey are to the rest of India. He enjoys the unparalleled distinction of having produced more than 2,000 radio dramas, features, and documentaries.

Winner of the coveted Akashvani Annual Award several times, Pranji was nominated as a member of the international jury for the 30th PRIX ITALIA, the most prestigious International Festival for Radio & Television, held in Milan, Italy, in 1978. In this very festival, his award-winning Kashmiri radio documentary ‘Aab Teh Hayath’ was also AIR’s official entry. Next year the same documentary was selected for the Asian Broadcasting Union Festival held in Kuala Lumpur.

A novel in Kashmiri titled ‘Sheen Teh Watapod’ won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1989. In 1987, Pranji scripted 45 episodes of Doordarshan National’s first serial based on Kashmir and portraying a Kashmiri family. It was a television adaptation of his novel ‘Gul Gulshan Gulfaam’ by the same title. Parikshit Sahni, Radha Seth, and NK Phull played the lead roles along with Neena Gupta, Pankaj Berry, and Kanwaljit Singh even as several Kashmiri artists like Upendra Khushu, Tariq Javed, Shadi Lal Kaul were also engaged in the serial.


Pran Kishore with Gyanpeeth recipient Kashmiri writer and poet Rehman Rahi

From a Silver Peacock for his 1965 Kashmiri film ‘Maanziraat’ to a Padam Shri in 2018, Pranji received many awards in recognition of his splendid contribution to broadcasting in which drama was his forte. For years, he associated himself with the Progressive Movement in Kashmir’s art, literature, and culture in the 1950s and 1960s.

Years after his migration, Pranji returned to Kashmir with a massive television crew for the shooting of his teleserial on the Mughal empress Noorjehan on the Dal Lake and the gardens around it. 

Pranji has the distinction of having directed the first Kashmiri film ‘Maanziraat’ which won President’s Silver in the National Film Festival as the best regional film in 1965. Later in 1971-72, he remained associated with Prabhat Mukherjee in the direction of Balraj Sahani’s biopic on Kashmir’s iconic poet Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor, titled ‘Shayar-e-Kashmir Mehjoor’.

Mukherjee, Director of AIR Lucknow, knew Pranji since 1948 when he was deputed to Kashmir for the audition of first group of artists and recording of some Kashmiri songs. Later, he resigned and worked full-time as a film director.

According to Pranji, it was in the year 1943 that he, along with Qaisar Qallandar, played a role in a stage drama, titled ‘Neelam’ at Srinagar’s Sri Pratap College. For this play, Prof. Raja Mohammad Maqbool changed his name from Pran Nath Kaul to Pran Kishore. From that day onwards, he remained known as Pran Kishore.

Pran Kishore receiving Padam Shri award from President Ram Nath Kovid

Apart from writing, directing, and producing hundreds of radio plays, Pranji gave his voice to the signature tune of Radio Kashmir’s longest surviving program Wadi Ki Awaaz which went on for 19 years. Though it was meant for the people of Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir it was popular across Jammu and Kashmir.

Pranji also directed several radio plays of Amar Malmohi, Shamsuddin Shameem, Autar Kishen Rehbar, Hriday Kaul Bharti, Moti Lal Keemu, and Rattan Lal Shant. He even translated Rajtaringini and presented it as a radio feature. His radio features on Kashmir’s iconic saints- poets Lal Ded and Nun Rishi remain unmatched to this day in terms of production, script, and presentation.

Nadim’s opera “Bombur Teh Yimberzal” was hugely appreciated by the Russian Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and Marshal Bulganin at Srinagar’s Nedous Hotel in 1955.

Pranji’s life partner Shanta Kaul, passed away in Pune at the age of 83 years in August 2012. She too was a celebrated writer and Radio Kashmir’s first female announcer.

 As Aapaa Jaan, the anchor of Radio Kashmir’s weekly children’s programme, Shanta Kaul remained a darling of the valley’s younger generations for over three decades. Her popularity transcended the national borders as the presenter of ‘Aap Ki Farmaish’, winning her a huge fan following even in Pakistan. Her collection of short stories in Urdu ‘Kali Raat Ka Suraj’ was released by the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Srinagar in 2011.