HUMOUR RUNS in the bloodline of Shushant Chakoo, son of part-time actor and theatre artist Rattan Chakoo. Since December last year, Shushant, 18, and his team, comprising his father and cousin have been producing short comical and satirical videos on social media under the name Koshur Humour. The series has been an instant hit, bringing appreciation for the young Kashmiri Pandit boy. “I was inspired by my father, the most humorous person I know. Our main motive to start Koshur Humour was to keep alive Kashmiri culture and its particularities among Kashmiris, in Jammu or elsewhere, ” says Shushant.
The Chakoos are among the nearly 800 Kashmiri Pandit families who never left the Valley, even though violence against the minority community in the 1990s forced most of them to migrate to Jammu and other parts of India. They live in their ancestral home in Ganpatyar, Habba Kadal, Srinagar, along with five other Pandit families. Koshur Humour has garnered nearly 18,000 likes on its Facebook page and some 6,000 subscribers on YouTube over four months. Each of the over 40 YouTube videos has had 35,000-45,000 views, he says. “Our videos are based on reality. We use Kashmiri humour to tell a story about modernisation and its impact on mindsets, especially father-children relationships,” says Shushant.
The video titled Papa Ke Taane (Father’s Taunts), takes a dig at how Kashmiri fathers respond to their children’s ideas and dreams, especially with their classic cure for all problems: “Mobile phone chodo and subah jaldi utho (Leave cellphones and wake up early)”. This became a theme of the video, Koshur Dad vs Mobile Phones vs Modernisation, getting nearly 43,000 hits on YouTube. “We wanted to show what every teenager goes through in a Kashmiri household. We have received messages from people who said they have had similar experiences, which are often always funny,” Shushant says.
These videos have not only brought laughter to the Kashmiri society but has given Shushant an opportunity to display a side of Kashmir that’s not shown usually in the media. “We want to show that Kashmir is a normal place and our message is of peace. Outsiders believe Kashmir is just one thing, it is not,” he says.
Shushant believes that the ’90s children born in Kashmir, like him, are living in more danger than the soldiers at India–Pakistan border. “We have lived in dangerous times and have seen so much that it is important to have laughter to make it easier,” he says.
Koshur Humour also attempts to break stereotypes by taking a satirical view of how Kashmiri society, in general, weighs different professions. In the video, Professions vs Parents, a Kashmiri boy is singing in his room when his father appears and criticises him in a typical Kashmiri fashion. “Cze chui wane bande pather karrun, cze wan bi soazath kuni khandras peth, ropyi dah ti zyeanakh (Are you going to do Bande Pather now? Tell me now so that I can send you to sing at some weddings, you will be making money also).”
Initially, Rattan wasn’t supportive of his son doing these videos on social media but when a Kashmiri Pandit woman Viyomi Sarup from America approached Shushant through social media offering help, he had something to show to his father. “She was a Kashmiri Pandit woman based in the US who ran a production house called VU Productions and understood what I was doing,” says Shushant.
Sarup offered to produce the videos and get the equipment for the team. “VU productions produced the videos, did the advertisements for us and also got us equipment. I belong to a middle-class family and couldn’t have afforded that. It was a great help,” says Shushant. This way Shushant believes he created a connection between Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits living in exile.
Social media brought in appreciation from migrant Kashmiri Pandits as well. “Kashmiris have messaged me from Canada and Russia and they tell me that my videos are bringing laughter to their fast-paced lives. It makes me very happy,” Shushant says. In February, when Shushant was in Jammu, a middle-aged Kashmiri Pandit man, who had seen his work, invited him to his home. “He told me the videos helped him reconnect with his past in the Valley,” says Shushant.
Rattan believes that laughter is one of the potent ways to heal wounds and forget old sorrows — inflicted by 28 years of conflict, bitter blame games and discord between the two communities — Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. The Chakoos says that they want to forget old sorrows and start a new, happy life. “It’s not for the Kashmiri Pandit community alone, but we want to bring happiness to the whole of Kashmir irrespective of caste or creed because we are one,” says Shushant.
Through shared jokes, the Koshur Humour videos have established a direct connect between the two communities. “Our Muslim neighbours are very happy at what we are doing and they want to be part of our initiative. We have two Kashmiri Muslim boys as part of our group — Suhail and Aijaz,” says Shushant. Rattan, who shares the view, recently came across a Muslim man at a bank who recognised him from the videos. “He told me the videos reminded him of his father, who was dead, and who would do the same things with him. The videos allow him to forget his sorrow for a moment and remember happy times,” says Rattan.
Shushant, a first year BCA student, writes the script for the videos, which he jointly directs with his cousin Sunandan Handoo, who also features in some of them. The team wants to continue producing videos to bring happiness to the community. “Our new videos will be on environmental issues and we are also doing one on the Kashmiri version of the popular song Despacito,” says Shushant.