Bonding Bharat in Nehruvian Colours
I had resolved to pen a few things about the radio industry but when I sat down to writing this column on 27 May 2019, the gravity of the date being the 55th death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru made me change my track. I was struck by the fact that the visionary architect of modern India had been the source of inspiration for the Hindi cinema with his idea of socialism and if our films still provide stories of humanitarian understanding, much of the credit must go to the great statesman. I felt a homage to this humanitarian leader was justified for his exemplary upholding of the democratic values of freedom, equality and justice that influenced Hindi filmdom for a long time.
 
I accept that the many of the Hindi screen tales can be sordid, indecent or even ludicrous: yet it is irrefutable that they have constantly spread the message of love, friendship and harmony. Hindi films have shaped not just ideals of peaceful co-existence but also our morality, language, fashion and life styles that are generally acknowledged as “Hindustaaniyat” (Indianness). 
 
Our constitution makers acknowledged the composite culture for India and if millions are practicing secularism in their daily lives today, it is in a large measure due to the overriding impact of Nehru’s benevolent spirit on our films. 
 
Nehru’s gift of secular democracy was a much needed adhesive for national survival since India had a divergent culture of multifarious languages, life styles, customs and practices. 
 
While none can deny the contribution of patriotic countrymen, , one has to nevertheless admit that Hindi films have helped unite this nation more than anything else and if the concept of one nation is still alive, it is thanks to enormous contributions by the Nehruvian brand of cinema.
 
Despite foolish decrees of religious leaders, irresponsible and acerbic barbs of political bosses as well as legacies of religious and communal conflicts, Hindi films have retained sanity to spread ideals of universal brotherhood. 
 
From mediocre to sublime and avant-garde, Hindi films have steadfastly preached the need to live together and the message from “Dharamputra”, “Seema”, “Godaan”, “Garam Coat” to “Lagaan”, “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” and “Chak De India” is that irrespective of cultural and religious differences, we are one and hatred or killing are not tenets of any religion.
 
 
According to economic and political analyst Surendra Modi, “The kind of gigantic monetary and social upheavals that India has undergone since independence could have been catastrophic for any other country but Nehruvian ethics ensured India’s progress was inclusive and safe for all.” 
 
Despite its spectacular diversity, Indian secularism has endured only because of common citizens but the roots of faith and goodwill have been well nourished by several on screen characters like Sher Khan (“Zanjeer”), Harnam Singh (“Roti Kapda Aur Makaan”), Mrs. D’Sa (“Anari”) and Bharat (“Upkaar”) that castigate the rigid caste system and evil dogma with great ferocity. Author Shashi Tharoor says, “Nehru will be remembered for not abandoning vast sections of society” in India’s quest for economic progress and our worst of Hindi pot boilers vindicate that Nehruvian vision of inclusivity embraced everyone.
 
 
As the nation’s conscience keeper, Nehru stood for an India that honoured every religion, caste, ethnicity and language. But if his “unity in diversity” became the most sacred tenet of independent India, it is all thanks to the stirring lyrics of our film songs. 
 
Unlike the hypocritical utterances of politicians, phenomenal poetic renditions like “Insaan Bano” (“Baiju Bawra”), “Pyaar Ki Raah Dikha Duniya Ko” (“Lambe Haath”) to “Allah Tero Naam, Ishwar Tero Naam” (“Hum Dono”) and “Zindagi Hai Kya Sun Meri Jaan” (“Asli Naqli”) strengthened not just our secular framework but also inspired the “Ganga – Jamuni” tehzeeb (composite culture) wherein goodness and humanism are ranked higher than religious and communal practices. 
 
 
Recovering from the traumatic grief of the partition, Nehru’s compassion motivated millions to give up violence while also encouraging film makers to exhibit the common thread of our shared heritage. Providing a universal colour to festivals like Eid, Raakhee, Holi, Diwali and Christmas, our films helped improve the trust quotient in civil society while also weaving a fabric of good will and harmony.  
 
Nehru’s nationalism was synonymous with secularism whereby everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, belief or religion was accepted as equal. Inspired by the Nehruvian philosophy, Hindi filmdom consistently spoke for the ostracized or marginalised citizenry with its exposition of feudal landlords (“Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam”) or the helplessness of labour class (“Do Bigha Zameen”), while also pleading justice for physically and mentally challenged (“Dosti”, “Shor” to “Taare Zameen Par”) as well as farmers’ distress (“Mother India” and “Gunga Jamuna”).
 
 
In a way, Hindi cinema pioneered several praiseworthy initiatives too that apart from advocating inter-caste betrothals (“Julie”) also ranged from denouncing child marriage to raising a voice for widow remarriage (“Prem Rog”) while also trouncing untouchability (“Achoot Kanya”) and exploitation of child labour (“Boot Polish”), orphans (“Sujata”) and prostitutes (“Pakeezah”).
 
It would take several pages to list out the whole battery of film makers and artistes who were inspired by the iconic leader and incorporated Nehruvian legacy in their creations. The composite culture of filmdom enthused Hindus like HS Rawail and B.R. Chopra in depicting authentic Muslim culture in films (“Mere Mehboob” & “Nikaah”) and Muslim artistes (Naushad, Shakeel Badayuni and Mohammad Rafi) to create the profoundest bhajans for Hindus! Our political class needs to learn a lot from sublime artistes like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Sunil Dutt as well as Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Sahir, Shailendra and Khayyam who rose beyond labels of caste, community and religion by being human! 
 
If they could excel with Nehruvian philosophy, couldn’t politicians too work wonders with our development if they discarded their petty prejudices against the noble leader? It is pertinent to note that Jesus Christ was crucified for all the wrong reasons yet he ‘lives’ and hence, attempts at tarnishing Nehru will only make him live eternally. And who knows, someday, somewhere a gifted film maker might even validate Nehru’s legacy on screen forever! 
 
(Deepak Mahaan is a well-known Documentary Film Maker, Writer and Commentator)
 
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    COMMENTS

    Bapoo Malcolm

    2 months ago

    MAhaan Musings are really MAAHAN. More to come? We need them in this atmosphere of tension and hatred. Back to happier times of idealism and love. I have my own story on the bogus Sanjay Gandhi "Maruti". Not the Suzuki implant used as a face saver. Am talking of the one that was sent to the Ahmednagar test track in a truck, from Gurgaon, and approved after a couple of laps; ones that apparantly no one remembers. The one lemon over which Kushwant sing sang songs. "How come you are not in jail?", my father would ask me during the Emergency, I being a severe critic of the so-called people's car.

    gcmbinty

    2 months ago

    Such articles must be read by each member of the Nehru-Gandhi family again and again to educate themselves about Bonding Bharat in Nehruvian Colours. They will feel the necessity of their being on the political scene of India, and to thwart the challenges of being secular. Secular means following the policy of the middle path taking in all from the extreme right and extreme left of the political make up. Also, the NehruGandhi family must interact behind the scene with the commoners to understand the path of middle lane.

    Shehar Aur Sapna (1963): Scorned for Reality
    KA Abbas passed away on 1 June 1987. A great script writer with a bevy of such successful films as Awara, Bobby and Heena behind him, Abbas suffered from directorial incompetence. To his credit, he managed to release 14 films that were directed by him.
     
    Some of them won awards (may be due to his proximity to two Prime Ministers). However, none of his films were box office successes. Abbas always liked to call himself as a journalist.
     
    People had forgotten about him after his death but in 2014, some of his relatives and acquaintances managed to organize a festival of his films on the occasion of his birth centenary.  Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, born in Panipat in 1914, belonged to a Muslim family that chose to stay back in India after the partition. He was the grandson of Altaf Hussain, who was a close associate of celebrated poet Mirza Ghalib.
     
    There is no denying that Abbas was a creative genius who could conceive great plots from simple, real life incidents. But as a director he failed to translate his vision on celluloid. Almost all his movies were crowd funded with money borrowed from friends and relatives. He ensured that his artistes got paid equally, thanks to his socialistic leanings.
     
    Some of his movies were funded by the state machinery like the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) of India. But the FFC refused to fund “Shehar aur Sapna”. He is also famously known as the man who introduced Amitabh Bachchan to Bollywood.
     
    It remains a mystery why Abbas was always starved of funds despite writing blockbusters for the legendary showman Raj Kapoor.
     
    “Shehar aur Sapna” won the National award and the prize money of Rs25,000 was equally distributed among 15 members of the unit including lead actors debutants Surekha Parker and Dileep Raj. It was 1964 and Nehru was seriously unwell; so the entire unit travelled to Delhi to receive the purse from Nehru. Abbas was a Nehru acolyte and he later wrote two autobiographies on Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi.
     
    “Shehar aur Sapna” was loosely based on a serial story “One thousand nights on a bed of stones” that Abbas wrote in “The Blitz”. Abbas wrote a column for the Blitz for 46 years without a break. This is a tremendous achievement in itself though his writings lack the finesse and literary merit that one would associate with a paper like “Blitz” that was edited by Russy Karanjia. His stories like “Sparrow” and “Sardarjee” are read-worthy but by no stretch of the imagination can you call them “classics”.
     
    In “One thousand nights…” 
     
    Abbas highlights the trials and tribulations of pavement dwellers in Mumbai, then Bombay. A Haryanvi jat lands up in Mumbai and soon has to seek refuge on a footpath. He keeps on swapping places in different parts of Mumbai (including the Taj) even as he continues with his day job in an import-export firm. He falls in love with Champa, a beggar girl who has a dog to protect her against all the male predators on the footpath.
     
    But the dog is poisoned. The government announces free housing for all pavement dwellers and our hero shares this news with Champa. Tragedy strikes as Champa is killed by a car that is driven by a drunk man at the wheel (the story was written in the late 50’s). The story ends with the protagonist dreaming of Champa and his three children and how life would have been had they been gifted accommodation by the government. The story was narrated in first person account.
     
    In the film, the protagonist is named Bhola (debutant Dileep Raj) from Hissar who lands up in Mumbai in search of employment. He seeks refuge in a chawl but the tenant (whom he had been referred to) has already passed away and Bhola lands on the pavement. The village bumpkin soon learns the tricks of the trade and becomes friendly with Anwar Husain (a stage actor), David Abraham (a wrestler) and Nana Palshikar (a violinist).  
     
    The narrative’s pace gets slackened by unnecessary chatter of the supporting cast and introduction of characters who are in no way connected with the plot. Relief comes in the form of Radha (Surekha Parkar, the Marathi actress who is known for acting in films like Mumbaicha Javai) who lives in a drainage pipe. Bhola is forced to take refuge in the pipe during a heavy downpour.  Radha has run away from home when she is unable to accept the fact that her father has to mortgage the house for paying her dowry. Soon enough, Bhola and Radha get married.
     
     
    Bhola and Radha have a blissful existence in the water pipe until one fine day they have to vacate the pipe due to impending construction work. They soon land in a slum and to their pleasant surprise, the wrestler, the stage actor and the violinist all become their hosts. The only good thing about the movie is that the scenes between Bhola, Radha and the three character actors are endearing. Palshikar playing the violin at the most inappropriate moments sounds too jarring. David doesn’t sound convincing as a wrestler considering the avuncular roles that he has played on the screen. Surprisngly, Palshikar won the Filmfare award in the best supporting actor category.
     
     
    Radha is pregnant and on the day when she is in labour, the slum owner decides to demolish all the hutments. The bull dozer arrives along with the owner’s crony Rashid Khan. Bhola and his accomplices inform him that a child is about to be born and that he should give them at least 4 days’ time to vacate the hut. Khan has a change of heart and tells the slum owner (Asit Sen in a two minute role) that the bulldozer is under repair and that it will take 4 days for it to get repaired.
     
     
    After 4 days, Bhola and Radha walk on the tracks with their new born. Their old home (the pipe) is now being laid underground and as if in a trance they walk into another drainage pipe that has a “palna” (cradle) for the child and a beautiful cot for the couple. Radha asks Bhola, “Which city is this?” and Bhola replies, “This is not a city. It is a dream”.
     
    Both Dileep Raj and Surekha have done justice to their characters. If the otherwise lurid film is watchable it is only due to the lead pair. We don’t see Dileep and Surekha – we endear ourselves to Bhola and Radha. However, I am not sure how many Indians watched this movie in 1963 and how many would watch it now. I have doubts whether the film had a theatrical release at all.
     
    Music by JP Kaushik has only one song (Hazar Ghar, Hazar Dhar) by Manmohan Krishna, a mad poet, who roams around the streets of Bombay. The poem was written by Sardar Jaffrey.
     
    Here are some trivia about the movie
     
    1.    Dileep Raj was the son of old timer P Jairaj who acted in Hatim Tai and other stunt movies in the 50’s. He didn’t have much of a career (“Asman Mahal”, “Kanyadaan” were the few films that he starred in). Abbas was great friends with Jairaj and so Dileep landed this role. Dileep had a nasty property dispute with his father a few years before the latter’s death.
     
    2.    Dileep was chosen because of his rustic looks and his physique.
     
    3.    Surekha did many Marathi movies but she didn’t have any career in Bollywood. She was relegated to playing sister roles in B grade movies like “Thokar”. Then she vanished without a trace.
     
    4.    Dharmendra approached Abbas for the role of “Bhola”. But Abbas politely declined saying that he had already promised the role to Dileep Raj and that he could not renege on his promise.
     
    5.    The outdoor shots were filmed in Andheri-Juhu-Vile Parle belt. The shots in the slum were in a real slum in Andheri near the railway station.
     
    6.    One of the film’s technicians was Surekha’s neighbor in Byculla. That is how she landed the role.
     
    7.    Abbas was about to catch a tram while he was walking in the Crawford Market area. It started raining all of a sudden. Then he witnessed a couple taking shelter in a drainage pipe. He was also forced to take refuge in a pipe and it is here that the idea of “Shehar aur Sapna” germinated.
     
    8.    The Film Finance Corporation refused to fund the film.
     
    9. Dileep Raj and Surekha travelled by bus to the shooting spot to get a feel of how it is to be a commoner in a harsh city like Bombay.
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
     
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    Ramesh Poapt

    2 months ago

    great!!! thanks!

    Beeti Na Bitai Raina: Revisiting “Parichay” the 1972 classic
    Had he lived, R D Burman would have celebrated his 80th birthday on 24 June 2019.  But R D, the son of legendary music composer S D Burman, passed away at the age of 55 years. When R D Burman composed music for his last movie "1942 - A Love Story", Bollywood had undergone a drastic transformation.
     
    Burman's music was no longer in vogue as other younger music directors had taken centre stage (Annu Malik, Nadeem Shravan,Anand Milind etc). Rumour mills insisted that Vidhu Vinod Chopra who produced 1942- A Love Story didn't accord the respect to Pancham (R D Burman's pet name) that a music composer like him deserved. 
     
    To make matters worse, Pancham's relations with his second wife Asha Bhosale had hit rock bottom and they had clearly drifted apart. Reports even appeared in the media suggesting how Pancham used to spend the evenings in his Santa Cruz bungalow sitting in the verandah all by himself. He longed to meet his friends but few turned up. 
     
    Though Pancham has been widely criticised for lifting tunes from the West or from the Middle East, there were some compositions that remain immortal to this day.
     
    Pancham had a good working equation with Gulzar and this reflected in the tunes that he composed for Gulzar's films like Khushboo, Kinara and Parichay. Here we review the classic movie "Parichay" that was released on 18 October 1972. Burman's music added to the film's appeal.
     
    The Sound of Music (1965), the American classic that featured Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer spawned many remakes in India. The American movie was actually shot in Austria. The mind blowing locales shown in the movie still haunt you. “Shanthi Nilayam” (1969) a Tamil movie that starred Kanchana and Gemini Ganesh was based on The Sound Of Music and achieved stupendous box office success.
     
    Veteran film maker Gulzar used his creativity and ingenuity to write a script that is loosely based on The Sound Of Music leaving an everlasting impact. However the message in all the remakes remains the same - Love Conquers All. Children need to be treated as friends and one has to demonstrate a greater level of empathy while dealing with them.  Today when we have to deal with millennials this message becomes even more relevant. Millennials are supposedly hyper sensitive and behavioural experts say that one has to be careful not to hurt their feelings.
     
    The film begins with two friends (Jeetendra and Vinod Khanna) sharing a paying guest facility and talking about their precarious financial condition and joblessness.
     
    Vinod Khanna makes a friendly appearance in the movie. This may have been his attempt to show his gratitude to Gulzar for casting him in the lead role in the golden jubilee hit “Mere Apne” (1971) that also starred Meena Kumari and Shatrughan Sinha.
     
    Ravi (Jeetendra) receives a letter from his uncle asking him to come to the village to take up the job of a tutor in a retired army major’s palatial mansion. Incidentally, Jeetendra’s original name is Ravi Kapoor.
     
    Ravi leaves for his uncle’s village to meet the major but his first meeting with the disdainful major (Pran) is nothing short of a disaster. Ravi is not so hopeful of landing the job. The major is a strict, no nonsense disciplinarian and Ravi is not so sure about meeting his expectations. Ravi’s aunt (Leela Mishra) warns him that the kids that he is supposed to teach have earned a bad reputation in the village due to their boorishness. 
     
    The kids are unruly and have managed to drive away all the tutors who had come to teach them. They are simply not interested in learning. Despite getting a feeling that his job is akin to cleaning Augean stables, Ravi’s intuition tells him that he can achieve success in the job with his fortitude and mental tenacity.
     
    The major and his sister Sati Devi (veteran actress Veena in a brief role) try to be strict with the children but to no avail.  The children are adamant, full of acrimony and they are tacitly supported by their elder sister Rama (Jaya Bhaduri) who is equally cantankerous.  To Ravi’s pleasant surprise he lands the job as a tutor. 
     
    The faithful and loyal servant of the household (Asrani) cautions him against being lenient with the children as then they would take advantage of that situation. But Ravi manages to silence him and says that he knows how to handle the situation.
     
    Mention has to be made of the superb acting by A K Hangal and Leela Mishra as Ravi’s uncle and aunt. Hangal has been a regular in Gulzar’s films and he doesn’t disappoint you. But Mishra is a surprise. Here she gets more screen time and makes full use of the opportunity. You start longing for having an aunt like her. That is the impact of her performance.
     
    Children play truant with Ravi – damaging the chair assigned to him or dipping his towel in black colour. Rama is indignant when Ravi enters the room without asking permission. But Ravi is unfazed. He manages to handle all this with a cool temperament and even apologises to Rama. 
     
    Ravi manages to successfully change from a city youth aspiring for a job to a private tutor in a mansion. Within no time, his forgiving nature and cherubic demeanour wins the hearts of the children.
     
    Ravi’s approach is different from the other tutors. He teaches the children the importance of values in life, takes them for an outing and plays indoor games with them. The transformation in the children does not miss the attention of the major.
     
    When there are skirmishes between his sister Sati Devi and Ravi, the major takes the side of Ravi as he believes in Ravi’s abilities to transform the children for the better.  Ravi capitulates to the children’s demands but he knows where to draw the line.
     
    Eventually Ravi learns about the tragedy in the major’s life from the faithful servant. The major’s son Nilesh (Sanjeev Kumar in a brilliant cameo) is a great lover of music, much to the consternation of his father. But the major’s cavalier attitude puts him off. Despite the fact that Nilesh doesn’t agree with his father, he loves and respects him. There is no trace of animosity here.  When his father chooses a bride for him, Nilesh resents it and leaves home to pursue his passion for music.  He returns after a while with his new bride (Geeta Siddharth in a miniscule role).
     
    Though the major blesses them and things seem hunky dory for a while, reality soon emerges.
     
    In one of the classic scenes between the father-son duo, the father subtly indicates to the son that he should branch out on his own and not depend upon his father.
     
    The expression on Sanjeev Kumar’s face in this scene is ample evidence of his versatility as an actor and his legendary histrionic abilities. It is clear that the father’s hubris is hurt and he chooses a benign way of demonstrating it. The father and son never meet again for 17 years.
     
    After 17 years, Nilesh writes a letter to his father to take care of his children after his death.  On receiving the letter from his son, the major rushes to his son’s aid.
     
    Alas, his son has already passed away. With great difficulty the distraught major manages to convince the children to accompany him. The children are resentful that their grandfather did not take care of them when they needed him the most.
     
    Ravi unearths all this information and he educates the children about their grandfather’s plight. He also tells Rama that she should appreciate her grandfather’s predicament and develop a greater sense of empathy towards him. 
     
    The children begin respecting and loving their grandfather now. Soon enough the major has to leave on an exigency for a few days and he manages to entrust the responsibility of managing the household to Ravi.
     
    Ravi’s positive approach and kindness endears him to the children. Much to their chagrin, Ravi gets a letter informing that he has landed a job in the city. He has to leave immediately to take up the new job. Ravi leaves the mansion but not before entrusting the responsibility to Rama who has now begun to develop a soft spot for him.
     
    The rest of the movie is about how the major senses that Ravi and Rama like each other and his attempts to unite them. The last scene in the movie is poignant reflecting Gulzar’s inimitable directorial competence and his chutzpah as an avant garde script writer. The characterizations in the movie are well-etched out and each actor performs his or her role with the sincerity demanded by the script.
     
    This is one of Jeetendra’s best performances ever (alongside other memorable performances in films like Khushboo, Kinara, Jeene Ki Raah, Caravan and Mere Hamsafar). It is rather unfortunate that the actor never got enough opportunities to take up similar roles that could do justice to his acting talent.  Kudos to Gulzar for showing to the world that even Jeetendra can act when presented with an opportunity.
     
     Asrani, Veena, Leela Mishra and A K Hangal lend good support. The narrative though slow in the beginning manages to gain momentum soon after. Jaya Bhaduri is at her usual best. None can deny that she is one of the most talented actresses on the Bollywood skyline and the best student that FTII has produced. 
     
    Pran delivered one of his career best roles and the scene where he thanks Ravi for reintroducing his grandchildren to him stands out. Thus the film’s title “Parichay” gets justified. The child actors have performed well but mention must be made of master Raju and his childish antics.
     
    The music is by R D Burman. The film boasts of evergreen and immortal songs like “Saare Ke Saare”, “Beeti Na Bitai Raina” and “Musafir Hoon Yaaro” that will continue to be popular a hundred years from now.  After watching Parichay, one wonders why such scripts are missing now? 
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
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    COMMENTS

    Ramesh Poapt

    3 months ago

    a good ball, after a no ball! B.S. pl continue to write on offbit, undervalued
    movies. what about 'anuradha'?

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