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Showing posts with label प्रकाश के रे. Show all posts
Showing posts with label प्रकाश के रे. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Popular Melodramas of 1950s and their Engagement with the Nehruvian Politics - Prakash K ray

चवन्‍नी के पाठकों के लिए प्रकाश के रे का यह लेख.... 
“..planning does not mean industrialization alone; on the other hand, it embraces the entire national life.”                -Nehru (Nehru’s speech at Delhi University, in The Hindustan Times, 15 February, 1939.)

It is often argued that the popular melodramas of the 1950s failed to portray the reality of India in an apt manner since the film industry was too busy in projecting the nationalist myths created by the new government under the leadership of Nehru. The Centenary Year of Indian cinema offers an opportune occasion to revisit the cinematic scenario of the Nehruvian era, that is widely considered our cinema's Golden period. Realizing the great potential of mass media, particularly film, the government established various institutions and ordered vast set of rules and regulation. In 1949, the Film Enquiry Committee called upon the film industry to contribute to the responsibility in the course of nation building and strengthen the government. The government expected that Indian cinema will work for ‘national culture, education and healthy entertainment’ towards ‘a national character with its multifaceted aspects.’ The government also tried to control cinema through economic measures and control and of course, censorship. B.V. Keskar, perhaps the longest serving minister (for 10 years) of I&B even stopped the broadcasting of film music on AIR.

I argue that, in spite of these guidelines and restriction, the popular films of 1950s engaged with the Nehru era in a mature manner. I base my paper on these films- Sri 420, Awaara, Do Bigha Zameen, Pyaasa, Mother India and Naya Daur. On one hand, some of these films overtly endorse the nationalist discourse of the state while others bitterly critique it. But I will assert that the endorsement is very careful and positive. In the beginning, I will discuss the ideas of the era which is commonly known as the era of hope. Later, I will examine the narrative structures of the films and their engagement with Nehru’s politics and policies.

The foundation of Nehru’s politics is his work The Discovery of India which is an effort to invent tradition in the realm of modern nationalism. The book claims that the Indian civilization is superior and there is a continuity of thousands of years and despite vast diversity ‘[S]ome kind of a dream of unity has occupied the mind of India since the dawn of civilization.’ 

According to Partha Chatterjee, the ideological reconstruction of Nationalism under Nehru’s leadership ‘is an ideology of which the central organizing principle is the autonomy of the state; the legitimizing principle is a conception of social justice’. In order to provide social justice for all under this nationalism it was needed ‘to create a new framework of institutions which can embody the spirit of progress or, a synonym, modernity’. Nehru writes in 'The Discovery of India'-
“It is the scientific approach, the adventurous, and yet critical temper of science, the search for truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, the reliance on observed fact and not on preconceived theory, the hard discipline of the mind- all this is necessary, not merely for the application of science but for life itself and the solution of its many problems.”

Nehru, right from the formidable years of struggle for Indian Independence, supported heavy industrialization to solve the problems of poverty and strengthen the political foundations of the independent nation. He asserted ‘any argument as to the relative merits of small-scale and large-scale industry seems strangely irrelevant today, when the world and the dominating facts  of the situation that confront it have decided in favour of the latter.’

Nehru, after meeting a group of peasants in 1920 realized a grave ‘responsibility’ and felt ashamed and , at his ‘own easy-going and comfortable life’ and ‘petty politics of the city’; he also felt distressed at ‘the degradation and overwhelming poverty of India’.

This responsibility directed the policies of his government which were firmly based on scientific and technological projects and concepts.

Nehru’s belief in ‘the spirit of the age’ drove his planning and policies. But Nehru was also open to the challenges. Modifying his earlier views on industrialization, he said, in a Congress meeting in 1957, ‘planning essentially consists in balancing: the balancing between industry and agriculture, the balancing between heavy industry and light industry, the balancing between cottage industry and other industry. If one of them goes wrong then the whole economy is upset.’

To remove the obstacles or thwart the protests against his policies, Nehru was not averse to use force- ‘everything that comes in the way will have to be removed, gently if possible, forcibly if necessary. And there seems to be little doubt that coercion will often be necessary. But… if force is used it should not be in the spirit of hatred or cruelty, but with the dispassionate desire to remove an obstruction.’ So the state violence became a rational instrument for the progress of the new nation.

Sunil Khilnani has opined that the real achievement of Nehru’s rule was the establishment of the state at the core of India’s society. Enlarged state ‘aspired to infiltrate the everyday lives of Indians, proclaiming itself responsible for everything they could desire: jobs ration cards, educational places, security, and cultural recognition. The state thus etched itself into the imagination of Indians in a way that no previous political agency had ever done.

The state and its charismatic leader were convinced and confident about their mission and achievements. Nehru exhorted at the sight of Bhakra-Nangal dam- ‘Probably nowhere else in the world is there a dam as high as this… As I walked round the site I thought that these days the biggest temple and mosque and gurudwara is the place where man works for the good of mankind. Which place can be greater than this, this Bhakra-Nangal?

And this fascination of new temples, mosques and gurudwaras compelled India to fall in love with the concrete in the 1950s.

The ambition of the Nationalist state under Nehru’s leadership to transform Indian society was scripted in the cities and taken to the countryside. This modernity took India and its habitants to an arena of complexities and contradictions. Khilnani observes, ‘India’s cities house the entire historical compass of human labour, from the crudest stone breaking to the most sophisticated financial transactions. Success and failure, marble and mud, are intimately and abruptly praised against one another, and this has made the cities vibrate with agitated experience. All the enticements of the modern world are stacked up here, but it is also here that many Indians discover the mirage-like quality of this modern world. This experience has altered beliefs, generated new politics, and made the cities dramatic scenes of Indian democracy: places where the idea of India is being disputed and defined anew.’

And this changing landscape of the cities compelled the filmmakers to look for complex narratives told in simple fashion of melodrama. It was not only nostalgia for simple and virtuous life in the countryside or in cities but also a quest for the lost innocence and an assertion of an art form for its place in the grand festival of nation building.

It is remarkable that a tramp like hero dressed in clumsy clothes, of Shree 420 represented the politics of Nehru, who was suave, neatly dressed in the most forth right manner. The song ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’ says:
nikal pade hain khuli sadak par apna seena taane…
hai manzil kahaan, kahaan rukna hai, upar waala jaane…
naadaan hain jo baeth kinaare poochhen raah watan ki
chalna jeewan ki kahani
Rukna maut ki nishaani…

This reminds of the famous speech of Nehru at midnight of 14-15 August, 1947-
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?”
At the outset the belief about city is reflected through the number 420 written on the milestone. The number in Indian Penal Code is related to bluff, cheating and forgery. The use of this popular metaphor indicates to the common belief about the city, about Bombay in particular, as a crooked place.
In the very first scene, the city is chaotic and in a mess. Seeing everyone rush, Raju exclaims- ‘is everyone residing in Bombay deaf!’ His initial encounters with the city show his uneasiness and his ‘innocence’ looks incompatible with the city culture. It seems that the boy from Allahabad, which is the central city of Indian nationalist movement, and the financial capital of India are incompatible. The beggar places his observation in direct words- ‘these blind and deaf men do not see anything except money. Here, buildings are made of concrete and hearts are made of stones’. Throughout the saga of survival, the film emphasizes the importance of virtue and goodness. The city is alienating but the protagonist is hell-bent to make it own and that too, without loosing his noble sensibility.
Then there are migrant homeless labourer who provide the shelter to the protagonist. Solidarity is made on the basis of shared misery. The provincial solidarity among the migrants is depicted metaphorically as ‘ganga mai ke bachche sab bhai bhai hain’. The name of benevolent old lady, herself a migrant and ‘resident’ of footpath is Ganga. This name evokes two kinds of memory- one, about the native place i.e. the United Province, and another of the shared heritage. It is also a quest for sacredness in the sea of darkness.  The talk among these people dreams of ‘bhookhe nango ka raaj’. The name of the protagonist is Raaj or Raju who brings a new lease of life on the footpath. The song ‘dil ka haal sune dil waala’ talks about the lives of poor people in the city and tells how the rich and the police create hurdles for them. The song and scenes immediately after depict the plight of the homeless.

The female lead, Vidya, is an epitome of virtue. Her modest house has two pictures on the wall apart from her late mother’s- a big framed picture of Nehru and a smaller one of Vivekananda. For the new nation, these two figures are the ideals that the nation is set to follow.

In one sequence, a politician cum corrupt businessman talks about the greatness of swadeshi, dharma, sanskriti, man ki shanti, atma, and desh. But Raju talks about Hindustani dil and the need of bread. This is definitely an endorsement of Nehruvian outlook but it is also one of the main principles of the national movement.

The name of other lady character that is fond of Western/ Modern/ de-cultured is Maya. In the song rammaya vasta vayya, the labourers compare their villages and the city.

The street is the arena where loss, gloom, and also romance find a place to unfold and to get expressed.

The housing is presented as a central problem in the city. The corrupt businessmen try to make money by fooling poor people on the pretext of providing cheap houses. The poor people after realizing this go for cooperative project. The film ends with the image of a new colony which is planned and fit with essential amenities. The end image of the film profoundly asserts Nehru’s planning and his politics of social justice. The film despises the corrupt and anti people elements of the society that were considered the greatest enemy of the country by Nehru.

The tramp of Sri 420 is again present in Awaara with his vision of new India. This film also depicts the slum life and asserts that the lack of basic facilities compels the poor to commit crime. The film also highlights the problem of unemployment in the city. The song ‘awaara hoon…’ presents the everyday happenings in market and streets. Once again the villains are criminal elements and old values. The city of Bombay here, like the previous film, is divided between the haves and the haves not. Using mythological metaphors, Raj kapoor highlights the plight of women in the song ‘zulam sahe bhaari janakdulaari.’

But the films are always not cozy with Nehru’s idea of the new India. Do Bigha Zameen unearths the darker side of the model and its class nexus. The protagonist of the film, like the previous two films, migrates to the city, this time Calcutta, to earn some money. Influenced by rumours of opulence produced by modernity, the lead character says- ‘kalkatta mein paise hawa mein udte hain’. This city is again chaotic and unfriendly to the villager. Homelessness is again the big problem and solidarity among the homeless migrants is highlighted. The vigilance by the government agencies over poor people sleeping on footpath or in public spaces is underlined. This aspect is depicted in Rajkapoor’s films too. Through the fight over water, the film represents the toughness of life in slums. Poverty and alienation of the city is reflected in the words of the lead- ‘paise ke bina saans lena bhi mushkil hai’. The plight of the poor is also represented through the handicapped labourer, old rickshaw-puller, child-workers etc. The film shows the continuous struggle of survival for the weaker sections in the city but, unlike, the previously discussed films, this film does not provide any ‘tryst with destiny’ solution.
Through the song ‘Ghazab teri duniya’ the working class articulates its grievances to god against the powerful. All three films consider the city as pardes and the native place as des. It denotes the uncomfortable relation with the ideas of modernity. 

Another mega hit of the decade is Naya Daur. Its narrative centers on the debate over mechanization of the traditional industries. The film begins with a quote of Mahatma Gandhi praising the labour of man. The film presents a village in its entire colours. The film does not consider the city differently from the above three films. The son of the village industrialist is a city-returned person and obsessed with modernization and profit. He brings trained people to operate machine from the city and now unemployed villagers go to the city in search of jobs. When the son advises them to go to the city for better life, the lead character says- des waalon ko pardes bhejna chahte ho. The presence of the reporter from Bombay is a sane representation from the city while the son represents badness of the city and modernity adopted by the state. The film ends with the call for a balance between the traditional skill and machine. As I have mentioned earlier, by this time, in 1957, Nehru was also considering a balanced approach.

The film also hits out at religious orthodoxy which comes in the way of development. In the sync with Nehru’s secular and humanist politics, the protagonist opposes the plan to build a temple in the way of the road. He accuses the upper class of using religious and communal feelings for their own vested interests. He emphatically asserts- ‘aadmi ke raste mein bhagwan bhee ayega to bhi main rukunga nahi’. He describes religion as something which shows the way, not the one which obstructs it.

Pyaasa, like Do Bigha Zameen, is bitter. It criticizes the affairs going on around and provides no sweet answer. The gloom of the era is presented through hunger, unemployment, despair at brothel, beggary. The song ‘jinhe naaz hai hind par wo kahan hain..’ directly accuses the power and the society for the miserable condition of prostitute.

The super hit film of the decade, Mother India is considered cinematic translation of the Nehruvian politics. Through the trio of women, farmers and development, the film despises mahazani system and violent rebellion against the oppressive structure of the society. For being so close to the ideals and policies of Nehru, the film is even called ‘ the cinematic Discovery of india’.

While discussing these films, we should also keep the melodramatic characteristics in mind- the indulgence of strong emotionalism, moral polarization, overt villainy, extreme actions and situations, overt expressions and a judgement in favour of virtue. With the polarization of good and evil, the melodrama reveals the presence and operation of good and evil as real forces around us and calls upon to confront and expel the evil to maintain the social order.The use of song and dance and other elements from various artistic tradition also must be underlined.

It is right that the nation was in the owe of Nehru and hoped that a new era would unfold under his leadership but it should also be noted that various political forces were supporting Nehru and also criticizing him when need. The role of left-leaning artists and influence of IPTA should not be overlooked.
The study a person like Nehru who was “greater than his deeds and truer than his surroundings”and the cinematic representation of his policies demand more rigorous language and analysis. It can be said that Nehru’s mission was noble but not the path and cinema engaged with him in solidarity as well as critically. And before going after these films, we must consider the time and the limitation of the medium. If we cut the film from its time and specific context, we may loose the importance of it as an art form and as an instrument in the process of social change.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Artist’s domain is his work’-Balraj Sahni

Balraj Sahni (1 May 1913–13 April 1973) was one of the most respectable film and theatre personalities of India.  This is the reproduction of his address delivered at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) Convocation in 1972. We are grateful to Prof Chaman Lal, Jawaharlal Nehru University for making this text available.
Balraj Sahni
About 20 years ago, the Calcutta Film Journalists’ Association decided to honour the late Bimal Roy, the maker of Do Bigha Zameen, and us, his colleagues. It was a simple but tasteful ceremony. Many good speeches were made, but the listeners were waiting anxiously to hear Bimal Roy. We were all sitting on the floor, and I was next to Bimal Da. I could see that as his turn approached he became increasingly nervous and restless. And when his turn came he got up, folded his hands and said, “Whatever I have to say, I say it in my films. I have nothing more to say,” and sat down.
There is a lot in what Bimal Da did, and at this moment my greatest temptation is to follow his example. The fact that I am not doing so is due solely to the profound regard I have for the name which this august institution bears; and the regard I have for yet another person, Shri P.C. Joshi, who is associated with your university. I owe to him some of the greatest moments of my life, a debt which I can never repay. That is why when I received an invitation to speak on this occasion, I found it impossible to refuse. If you had invited me to sweep your doorstep I would have felt equally happy and honoured. Perhaps that service would have been more equal to my merit.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to be modest. Whatever I said was from my heart and whatever I shall say further on will also be from my heart, whether you find it agreeable and in accordance with the tradition and spirit of such occasions or otherwise. As you may know, I have been out of touch with the academic world for more than a quarter of a century. I have never addressed a University Convocation before.
It would not be out of place to mention that the severance of my contact with your world has not been voluntary. It has been due to the special conditions of film making in our country. Our little film world either offers the actor too little work, forcing him to eat his heart out in idleness; or gives him too much —so much that he gets cut off from all other currents of life. Not only does he sacrifice the pleasures of normal family life, but he also has to ignore his intellectual and spiritual needs. In the last 25 years I have worked in more than one 125 films. In the same period a contemporary European or American actor would have done 30 or 35. From this you can imagine what a large part of my life lies buried in strips of celluloid. A vast number of books which I should have read, I have not been able to read. So many events I should have taken part in, have passed me by. Sometimes I feel terribly left behind. And the frustration increases when I ask myself: How many of these 125 films had anything significant in them? How many have any claim to be remembered? Perhaps a few. They could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And even they have either been forgotten already or will be, quite soon.
That is why I said I was not being modest. I was only giving a warning, so that in the event of my disappointing you, you should be able to forgive me. Bimal Roy was right. The artist’s domain is his work. So, since I must speak, I must confine myself to my own experience to what I have observed and felt, and wish to communicate. To go outside that would be pompous and foolish.
I’d like to tell you about an incident which took place in my college days and which I have never been able to forget. It has left a permanent impression on my mind.
I was going by bus from Rawalpindi to Kashmir with my family to enjoy the summer vacation. Half-way through, we were halted because a big chunk of the road had been swept away by a landslide caused by rain the previous night. We joined the long queues of buses and cars on either side of the landside. Impatiently, we waited for the road to clear. It was a difficult job for the PWD and it took some days before they could cut a passage through. During all this time, the passengers and the drivers of vehicles made a difficult situation even more difficult by their impatience and constant demonstration. Even the villagers nearby got fed up with the high-handed behaviour of the city-walas.
One morning, the overseer declared the road open. The green- flag was waved to the drivers. But we saw a strange sight. No driver was willing to be the first to cross. They just stood and stared at each other from either side. No doubt the road was a make-shift one and even dangerous. A mountain on one side, and a deep gorge and the river below. Both were forbidding. The overseer had made a careful inspection and had opened the road with a full sense of responsibility. But nobody was prepared to trust his judgment, although these very people had, till the day before, accused him and his department of laziness and incompetence. Half an hour passed by in dumb silence. Nobody moved. Suddenly, we saw a small green sports car approaching. An Englishman was driving it; sitting all by himself. He was a bit surprised to see so many parked vehicles and the crowd there. I was rather conspicuous, wearing my smart jacket and trousers. “What’s happened?” he asked me.
I told him the whole story. He laughed loudly, blew the horn and went straight ahead, crossing the dangerous portion without the least hesitation.
And now the pendulum swung the other way. Every body was so eager to cross that they got into each other’s way and created a new confusion for some time. The noise of hundreds of engines and hundreds of horns was unbearable.
That day I saw with my own eyes the difference in attitudes between a man brought up in a free country and a man brought up in an enslaved one. A free man has the power to think, decide, and act for himself. But the slave loses that power. He always borrows his thinking from others, wavers in his decisions, and more often than not only takes the trodden path.
I learnt a lesson from this incident, which has been valuable to me. I made it a test for my own life. In the course of my life, whenever I have been able to make my own crucial decisions, I have been happy. I have felt the breath of freedom on my face. I have called myself a free man. My spirit has soared high and I have enjoyed life because I have felt there is meaning to life.
But, to be frank, such occasions have been too few. More often than not I had lost courage at the crucial moment, and taken shelter under the wisdom of other people. I had taken the safer path. I made decisions which were expected of me by my family, by the bourgeois class to which I belonged, and the set of values upheld by them. I thought one way but acted in another. For this reason, afterwards I have felt rotten. Some decisions have proved ruinous in terms of human happiness. Whenever I lost courage, my life became a meaningless burden.
I told you about an Englishman. I think that in itself is symptomatic of the sense of inferiority that I felt at that time. I could have given you the example of Sardar Bhagat Singh who went to the gallows the same year. I could have given you the example of Mahatma Gandhi who always had the courage to decide for himself. I remember how my college professors and the wise respectable people of my home town shook their heads over the folly of Mahatma Gandhi, who thought he could defeat the most powerful empire on earth with his utopian principles of truth and non-violence. I think less than one per cent of the people of my city dreamt that they would see India free in their lifetime. But Mahatma Gandhi had faith in himself, in his country, and his people. Some of you may have seen a painting of Gandhiji done by Nandlal Bose. It is the picture of a man who has the courage to think and act for himself.
During my college days I was not influenced by Bhagat Singh or Mahatma Gandhi. I was doing my MA in English literature from the most magnificent educational institution in the Punjab— the Government College in Lahore. Only the very best students were admitted to that college. After independence my fellow students have achieved the highest positions in India and Pakistan, both in the government and society. But, to gain admission to this college we had to give a written undertaking that we would take no interest in any political movement—which at that time meant the freedom movement.
This year we are celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of our independence. But can we honestly say that we have got rid of our slavish mentality—our inferiority complex?
Can we claim that at the personal, social, or institutional level, our thinking, our decisions, or even our actions are our own and not borrowed? Are we really free in the spiritual sense? Can we dare to think and act for ourselves, or do we merely pretend to do so—merely make a superficial show of independence?
I should like to draw your attention to the film industry to which I belong. I know a great many of our films are such that the very mention of them would raise a laugh among you. In the eyes of educated intelligent people, Hindi films are nothing but a tamasha. Their stories are childish, unreal, and illogical. But their worst fault, you will agree with me, is that their plots, their technique, their songs and dances, betray blind, unimaginative, and unabashed copying of films from the west. There have been Hindi films which have been copied in every detail from some foreign film. No wonder that you young people laugh at us, even though some of you may dream of becoming stars yourselves.
It is not easy for me to laugh at Hindi films. I earn my bread from them. They have brought me plenty of fame and wealth. To some extent at least, I owe to Hindi films the high honour which you have given me today.
When I was a student like you, our teachers, both English and Non-English, tried to convince us in diverse ways that the fine arts were a prerogative of white people. Great films, great drama, great acting, great painting, etc., were only possible in Europe and America. The Indian people, their language and culture, were as yet too crude and backward for real artistic expression. We used to feel bitter about this and we resented it outwardly: but inwardly we could not help accepting this judgment.
Balraj Sahani with his wife Damayanti, 1936
The picture has changed vastly since then. After independence India has made a tremendous recovery in every branch of the arts. In the field of film making, names like Satyajit Ray and Bimal Roy stand out as international personalities. Many of our artistes, cameramen and technicians compare with the best anywhere in the world. Before independence we hardly made ten or fifteen films worth the name. Today we are the biggest film producing country in the world. Not only are our films immensely popular with the masses in our own country, but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, the Eastern Republics of the Soviet Union; Egypt, and other Arab countries in the Far East and many African countries. We have broken the monopoly of Hollywood in this field.
Even from the aspect of social responsibility, our Indian films have not yet degenerated to the low level to which some of the western countries have descended. The film producer in India has not yet exploited sex and crime for the sake of profit to the extent that his American counterpart has been doing for years and years-thus creating a serious social problem for that country.
But all these assets are negated by our one overwhelming fault—that we are imitators and copyists. This one fault makes us the laughing stock of intelligent people everywhere. We make films according to borrowed, outdated formulas. We do not have the courage to strike out on our own, to get to grips with the reality of our own country, to present it convincingly and according to our own genius.
I say this not only in relation to the usual Hindi or Tamil box office films. I make this complaint against our so-called progressive and experimental films also, whether they be in Bengali, Hindi, or Malayalam. I do not lag behind anyone else in admiring the work of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Sukhdev, Basu Bhattacharjee, or Rajinder Singh Bedi. I know they are highly and deservingly respected; but even then I cannot help saying that the winds of fashion in Italy, France, Sweden, Poland, or Czechoslovakia have an immediate effect on their work. They do break new ground, but only after someone else has broken it.
In the literary world, in which I have considerable interest, I see the same picture. Our novelists, story writers, and poets are carried away with the greatest of ease by the currents of fashion in Europe, although Europe, with the exception of the Soviet Union perhaps, is not yet even aware of Indian writing. For example, in my own province of the Punjab there is a wave of protest among young poets against the existing social order. Their poetry exhorts the people to rebel against it, to shatter it and build a better world free from corruption, injustice, and exploitation. One cannot but endorse that spirit wholeheartedly, because, without question, the present social order needs changing.
The content of this poetry is most admirable, but the form is not indigenous. It is borrowed from the west. The west has discarded meter and rhyme, so our Punjabi poet must also discard it. He must also use involved and ultra-radical imagery. The result is that the sound and fury remains only on paper, confined to small, mutually admiring literary circles. The people, the workers and the peasants who are being exhorted to revolution, cannot make head or tail of this kind of poetry. It just leaves them cold and per The content of this poetry is most admirable, but the form is not indigenous. It is borrowed from the west. The west has discarded meter and rhyme, so our Punjabi poet must also discard it. He must also use involved and ultra-radical imagery. The result is that the sound and fury remains only on paper, confined to small, mutually admiring literary circles. The people, the workers and the peasants who are being exhorted to revolution, cannot make head or tail of this kind of poetry. It just leaves them cold and perplexed. I don’t think I am wrong if I say that other Indian languages too are in the grip of “new wave” poetry.
I know next to nothing about painting. I can’t judge a good one from a bad one. But I have noticed that in this sphere also our painters conform to current fashions abroad. Very few have the courage to swim against the tide.
And what about the academic world? I invite you to I look into the mirror. If you laugh at Hindi films, maybe you are tempted to laugh at yourselves.
This year my own province honoured me by nominating me to the senate of Guru Nanak university. When the invitation to attend the first meeting came, I happened to be in the Punjab, wandering around in some villages near Preet Nagar—the cultural centre founded by our great writer S. Gurbakhsh Singh. During the evening’s gossip I told my villager friends that I was to go to Amritsar to attend this meeting and if anyone wanted a lift in my car he was welcome. At this one of the company said, “Here among us you go about dressed in tehmat-kurta, peasant fashion; but tomorrow you will put on your suit and become Sahib Bahadur again.” “Why,” I said laughingly, “if you want I will go dressed just like this.” “You will never dare,” another one said. “Our sarpanch Sahib here removes his tehmat and puts on a pyjama whenever he has to go to the city on official work. He has to do it, otherwise, he says, he is not respected. How can yon go peasant-fashion to such a big university?” A jawan who had come home on leave for the rice sowing added, “Our sarpanch is a coward. In cities even girls go about wearing lungis these days. Why should he not be respected?”
The gossip went on, and, as if to accept their challenge, I did make my appearance in the Senate meeting in tehmat-kurta. The sensation I created was beyond my expectation. The officer—perhaps, professor—who was handing out the gowns in the vestibule could not recognize me at first. When he did he could not hide his amusement, “Mr Sahni, with the tehmat you should have worn khosas—not shoes,” he said, while putting the gown over my shoulders. “I shall be careful next time,” I said apologetically and moved on. But a moment later I asked myself, was it not bad manners for the professor to notice or comment on my dress? Why did I not point this out to him? I felt peeved over my slow-wittedness.
After the meeting we went over to meet the students. Their amusement was even greater and more eloquent. Many of them could not help laughing at the fact that I was wearing shoes with a tehmat. That they were wearing chappals with trousers seemed nothing extraordinary to them.
You must wonder why I am wasting your time narrating such trivial incidents. But look at it from the point of view of the Punjabi peasant. We are all full of admiration for his contribution to the green revolution. He is the backbone of our armed forces. How must he feel when his dress or his way of life is treated as a matter of amusement?
It is well-known in the Punjab that as soon as a village lad receives college education, he becomes indifferent to the village. He begins to consider himself superior and different, as if belonging to a separate world altogether. His one ambition is to somehow leave the village and run to a city. Is this not a slur on the academic world?
I agree that all places are not alike. I know perfectly well that no complex against the native dress exists in Tamil Nadu or Bengal. Anyone from a peasant to a professor can go about in a dhoti on any occasion. But I submit that the habit of borrowed and idealized thinking is present over there too. It is present everywhere, in some form or degree. Even 25 years after independence we are blissfully carrying on with the same system of education which was designed by Macaulay and Co. to breed clerks and mental slaves. Slaves who would be incapable of thinking independently of their British masters; slaves who would admire everything about the masters, even while hating them; slaves who would consider it an honour to be standing by the side, of the masters, to speak the language of the masters, to dress like the masters, to sing and dance like the masters; slaves, who would hate their own people and would be available to preach the gospel of hatred among their own people. Can we then be surprised if the large majority of students in universities are losing faith in this system of education?
Let me go back to trivialities again. Ten years ago, if you asked a fashionable student in Delhi to wear a kurta with trousers he would have laughed at you. Today, by the grace of the hippies and the Hare Rama Hare Krishna cult, not only has the kurta-trousers combination become legitimate, but even the word kurta has changed to guru-shirt. The sitar became a star instrument with us only after the Americans gave a big welcome to Ravi Shankar, just as 50 years ago Tagore became Gurudev all over India only after he received the Nobel Prize from Sweden.
Can you dare to ask a college student to shave his head, moustache, and beard when the fashion is to put the barbers out of business? But if tomorrow under the influence of Yoga the students of Europe begin to shave their heads arid faces, I can assure you that you will begin to see a crop of shaven skulls all over Connaught Circus the next day. Yoga has to get a certificate from Europe before it can influence the home of its birth.
Let me give another example—a less trivial one.
I work in Hindi films, but it is an open secret that the songs and dialogues of these Hindi films are mostly written in Urdu. Eminent Urdu writers and poets-Krishan Chandar, Rajinder Singh Bedi, K. A. Abbas, Gulshan Nanda, Sahir Ludhianwi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, and Kaifi Azmi are associated with this work.
Now, if a film written in Urdu can be called a Hindi film, it is logical to conclude that Hindi and Urdu are one and, the same language. But no, our British masters declared them two separate languages in their time. Therefore, even 25 years after independence, our government, our universities, and our intellectuals insist on treating them as two separate and independent languages. Pakistan radio goes on ruining the beauty of this language by thrusting into it as many Persian and Arabic words as possible; and All India Radio knocks it out of all shape by pouring the entire Sanskrit dictionary into it. In this way they carry out the wish of the Master, to separate the inseparable. Can anything be more absurd than that? If the British told us that white was black, would we go on calling white black for ever and ever? My film colleague Johnny Walker remarked the other day, “They should not announce ‘Ab Hindi mein samachar suniye‘ [Now listen to the news in Hindi] they should say, ‘Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye‘ [Now listen to Hindi in the News]
I have discussed this funny situation with many Hindi and Urdu writers—the so-called progressive as well as non progressive; I have tried to convince them of the urgency to do some fresh thinking on the subject. But so far it has been like striking one’s head against a stone wall. We film people call it the “ignorance of the learned”. Are we wrong?
Lastly, I would like to tell you about a hunch I have, even at the risk of boring you. A hunch is something you can’t help having. It just comes. Ultimately it may prove right or wrong. May be mine is wrong. But there it is. It may even prove right—who knows?
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has admitted in his autobiography that our freedom movement, led by the Indian National Congress, was always dominated by the propertied classes—the capitalists and landlords. It was logical, therefore, that these very classes should hold the reigns of power even after independence. Today it is obvious to everyone that in the last 25 years the rich have been growing ‘richer’ and the poor have been growing poorer. Pandit Nehru wanted to change this state of affairs, but he couldn’t. I don’t blame him, because he had to face very heavy odds all along. Today our Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, pledges herself to take the country towards the goal of socialism. How far she will be successful, I can’t say. Politics is not my line. For our present purposes it is enough if you agree with me that in today’s India the propertied classes dominate the government as well as society.
I think you will also agree that the British used the English language with remarkable success for strengthening their imperial hold on our country.
Now, which language in your opinion would their successors, the present rulers of India, choose to strengthen their own domination? Rashtrabhasha Hindi? By heavens, no. My hunch is that their interests too are served by English and English alone. But since they have to keep up a show of patriotism they make a lot of noise about Rashtrabhasha Hindi so that the mind of the public remains diverted.
Men of property may believe in a thousand different gods, but they worship only one—the God of profit. From the point of view of profit the advantages of retaining English to the capitalist class in this period of rapid industrialization and technological revolution are obvious. But the social advantages are even greater. From that point of view English is a God-sent gift to our ruling classes.
Why? For the simple reason that the English language is beyond the reach of the toiling millions of our country. In olden times Sanskrit and Persian were beyond the reach of the toiling masses. That is why the rulers of those times had given them the status of state language. Through Sanskrit and Persian the masses were made to feel ignorant, inferior, uncivilized, and unfit to rule themselves. Sanskrit and Persian helped to enslave their minds, and when the mind is enslaved bondage is eternal.
It suits our present ruling classes to preserve and maintain the social order that they have inherited from the British. They have a privileged position; but they cannot admit it openly. That is why a lot of hoo-haw is made about Hindi as the Rashtrabhasha. They know very well that this Sanskrit-laden, artificial language, deprived of all modern scientific and technical terms, is too weak and insipid to challenge the supremacy of English. It will always remain a show piece, and what is more, a convenient tool to keep the masses fighting among themselves. We film people get a regular flow of fan mail from young people studying in schools and colleges. I get my share of it and these letters reveal quite clearly what a storehouse of torture the English language is to the vast majority of Indian students. How abysmally low the levels of teaching and learning have reached! That is why, I am told preferential treatment is being given to boys and girls who come from public schools i.e. schools to which only the children of privileged classes can go.
A still from ‘Garm Hawa’
This was my hunch and I confided it one day to a friend of mine who is a labour leader. I told him that if we are serious about doing away with capitalism and bringing in socialism, we have to help the working class to consolidate itself on an all-India scale with the same energy as the capitalist class is doing. We have to help the working class achieve a leading role in society. And that can only be done by breaking the domination of English and replacing it with a people’s language.
My friend listened to me carefully and largely agreed with me.
“You have analyzed the situation very well,” he said, “but what is the remedy?”
“The remedy is to retain the English script and kick out the English language,” I replied.
“But how?”
“A rough and ready type of Hindustani is used by the working masses all over India. They make practical use of it by discarding all academic and grammatical flourishes. In this type of Hindustani, “Larka bhi jata hei” and “Larki bhi jata hei“. There is an atmosphere of rare freedom in this patois and even the intellectuals indulge in it when they want to relax. And actually this is in the best tradition of Hindustani. This is how it was born, made progress, and acquired currency all over India. In the old days it was contemptuously called Urdu—or the language of the camps or bazaars.
Today in this bazaari Hindustani the word ‘university’ becomes univrasti—a much better word than vishwa vidyalaya, ‘lantern’ becomes laltain, the ‘chasis’ of a car becomes chesi, ‘spanner’ becomes pana, i.e. anything and everything is possible. The string with which the soldier cleans his rifle is called ‘pullthrough’ in English. In Roman Hindustani it becomes fultroo—a beautiful word. ‘Barn-door’ is the term the Hollywood lights man uses for a particular type of two blade cover. The Bombay film worker has changed it to bandar, an excellent transformation. This Hindustani has untold and unlimited possibilities. It can absorb the international scientific and technological vocabulary with the greatest of ease. It can take words from every source and enrich itself. One has no need to run only to the Sanskrit dictionary.”
“But why the Roman script?” my friend asked.
“Because no one has any prejudice against it,” I said. “It is the only script which has already gained all-India currency. In north, south, east and west, you can see shop signs and film poster in this script. We use this script for writing addresses on envelopes and post cards. The army has been using it for the last thirty years at least.”
My friend, the labour leader, kept silent for some time. Then he smiled indulgently and said, “Comrade, Europe also experimented with Esperanto. A great intellectual like Bernard Shaw tried his best to popularize the Basic English. But all these schemes failed miserably, for the simple reason that languages cannot be evolved mechanically; they grow spontaneously.”
I was deeply shocked. I said, “Comrade, Esperanto is just that Rashtrabhasha which the Hindi Pandits are manufacturing in their studies, from the pages of some Sanskrit dictionary. I am talking of the language which is growing all round you, through the action of the people.”
But I couldn’t convince him. I gave more arguments, including the one that Netaji Subhash Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru were both strong advocates of Roman Hindustani, but that too failed to convince him. The question is not whether the comrade or I was right. Perhaps, I was wrong. Perhaps, my thinking was utopian, or “mechanical” —as he called it. As I said before, you can never say whether a hunch is going to be right or wrong. But the fun lies in having it, because to have a hunch is a sign of independent thinking. The comrade should have been able to appreciate that, but he couldn’t, because it was difficult for him to get out of the grooves of orthodox thinking.
No country can progress unless it becomes conscious of its being—its mind and body. It has to learn to exercise its own muscles. It has to learn to find out and solve its own problems in its own way. But whichever way I turn I find that even after twenty-five years of independence, we are like a bird which has been let out of its cage after a prolonged imprisonment-unable to know what to do with its freedom. It has wings, but is afraid to fly into the open air. It longs to remain within defined limits, as in the cage.
Individually and collectively, we resemble Walter Mitty. Our inner lives are different from our outer lives. Our thoughts and actions are poles apart. We want to change this state of affairs, but we lack the courage to do anything different from what we have been doing all along, or different from what others expect us to do.
I am sure there must be some police officers in this country who in their hearts want to be regarded as friends rather than enemies of the public. They must be aware that in England the behaviour of the police towards the public is polite and helpful. But the tradition in which they have been trained is not the one which the British set for their own country but the one which they set for their colonies. So, the policeman is helpless. According to this colonial tradition, it is his duty to strike terror into anyone who enters his office, to be as obstructive and unhelpful as possible. This is the tradition which pervades every government office, from the chaparasi to the minister.
One of our young and enterprising producers made an experimental film and approached the government for tax exemption. The minister concerned was being sworn into office the next day. He invited the producer to attend the ceremony, after which he would meet him and discuss the matter. The producer went, impressed by the informality with which the minister had treated him. As the minister was being sworn in, promising to serve the people truly, faithfully, and honestly, his secretary started explaining to the young producer how much he would have to pay in black money to the minister and how much to the others if he wanted the tax exemption.
The producer got so shocked and angry that he wanted to put this scene in his next film. But his financiers had already suffered a loss with the first one. They told him categorically not to make an ass of himself. In any case, if he had insisted in making an ass of himself the censors would never have passed the film, because it is an unwritten law that no policeman or minister is corrupt in our country.
But there is something which strikes me as being even funnier. Those same people who scream against ministers every day cannot themselves hold a single function without some minister inaugurating it, or presiding over it, or being the chief guest. Sometimes the minister is the chief guest and a film star is the president, or else the film star is the chief guest and the minister is the president. Some big personality has to be there, because it is the age old colonial tradition.
During the last war, I spent four years in England as a Hindustani announcer at the BBC. During those four years of extreme crisis I never even once set my eyes on a member of the British cabinet, including Prime Minister Churchill. But since independence I have seen nothing else but ministers in India, all over the place.
From left Mohinder Singh Randhawa, Balraj Sahni and Mohan Singh/ Chandigarh/ 1973/ Photographer unknown
When Gandhiji went to the Round Table Conference in 1930, he remarked to British journalists that the Indian people regarded the guns and bullets of their empire in the same way as their children regarded the crackers and phataakaas on Diwali day. He could make that claim because he had driven the fear of the British out of Indian minds. He had taught them to ignore and boycott the British officers instead of kowtowing to them. Similarly, if we want socialism in our country, we have firstly to drive out the fear of money, position, and power from the minds of our people. Are we doing anything in that direction? In our society today, who is respected most — the man with talent or the man with money? Who is admired most—the man with talent or the man with power? Can we ever hope to usher in socialism under such conditions? Before socialism can come, we have to create an atmosphere in which possession of wealth and riches should invite disrespect rather than respect. We have to create an atmosphere in which the highest respect is given to labour whether it be physical or mental; to talent, to skill, to art, and to inventiveness. This requires new thinking, and the courage to discard old ways of thinking. Are we anywhere near this revolution of the mind?
Perhaps, today we need a messiah to give us the courage to abandon our slavishness and to create values befitting the human beings of a free and independent country so that we may have the courage to link our destinies to the ones being ruled, and not the rulers — to the exploited and not to the exploiters.
A great saint of the Punjab, Guru Arjun Dev, said,
jan ki tehl sanbhakhan jan sio uuthan baithan jan kai sanga
jan char raj mukh mathai laagi aasa puuran anant tharanga
[I serve His humble servants, and speak with them, and abide with them.
I apply the dust of the feet of His humble servants to my face and forehead;
my hopes, and the many waves of desire, are fulfilled]
It is my earnest hope and prayer that you, graduates of Jawaharlal Nehru University, may succeed where I and so many others of my generation have failed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

मणि कौल का साक्षात्कार

सौजन्‍य-प्रकाश के रे

श्री मणि कौल का यह साक्षात्कार यूनेस्को कूरियर के जुलाई-अगस्त 1995 के सिनेमा के सौ साल के अवसर पर विशेषांक में पृष्ठ 36 -37 पर छ्पा था.

आप सिनेमा से कैसे जुड़े और यह लगाव किस तरह आगे बढ़ा?
सिनेमा से मेरा परिचय होने में कुछ देर लगी क्योंकि बचपन में मैं ठीक से देख नहीं पाता था. तेरह साल की उम्र में डॉक्टरों को मेरी आँखों की बीमारी का ईलाज समझ में आया. वही समय था जब दुनिया को मैंने पाया- जैसे बिजली की तारें, इन्हें मैं पहली दफ़ा देख सकता था. और फिर सिनेमा. जहाँ तक मुझे याद आता है जिस फ़िल्म ने मुझे सबसे पहले प्रभावित किया वह थी अमरीकी कॉस्टयूम ड्रामा - हेलेन ऑव ट्रॉय.

शुरू में मेरी इच्छा अभिनेता बनने की थी. स्वाभविक रूप से यह मेरे पिता को पसंद न था. कुछ समय बाद मैंने एक डॉक्यूमेंट्री देखी जिससे मुझे यह ज्ञान हुआ कि फ़िल्में बिना अभिनेताओं के भी बन सकती हैं. इसने मेरी आँखें खोल दी. मुझे अब भी याद है कि वह फ़िल्म कलकत्ता शहर के बारे में थी.

सौभाग्य से मेरे एक चाचा बंबई में फ़िल्म निर्देशक हुआ करते थे जो कि काफी जाने-माने थे. उनका नाम महेश कौल था. मैं उनसे मिला और उन्होंने मेरे पिता से निवेदन किया कि वे मुझे फ़िल्मों में जाने दें. उन्होंने यह भी सलाह दी कि मुझे पुणे के फ़िल्म स्कूल में भेज दिया जाये. मैंने वहाँ (पुणे में) तीन साल बिताया और अब भी मेरे पास वहाँ की ढेर सारी यादें हैं. ख़ासकर मुझे एक विलक्षण शिक्षक की याद है- ऋत्विक घटक, जो ख़ुद भी फ़िल्म निर्देशक थे. मैंने उनके मार्गदर्शन में पढ़ाई की और मेरे ख़्याल से मैं उनका सबसे प्रिय छात्र था. लेकिन मैं उन्हें धोखा दिया. जब मैंने रॉबर्ट ब्रेसों की पिकपॉकेट देखी तो उसने मेरा नज़रिया ही बदल दिया. उसके बाद तो बस मैं ब्रेसों में ही रम गया. एक अरसे बाद मैं उनसे पेरिस में मिला. वह दिन मेरे लिये स्वर्णिम था.

उन्हीं दिनों एक भारतीय फ़िल्म ने मुझे गहरे तक प्रभावित किया. वह फ़िल्म अबरार अल्वी की साहिब, बीबी और गुलाम थी जो उन्होंने गुरुदत के साथ बनायी थी. मैंने इस फ़िल्म को करीब बीस बार देखा. जयपुर मेरे दोस्त का सिनेमाघर था. इस फ़िल्म में एक ज़मींदार परिवार की बरबादी बयान की गयी है. पूरे भारत में यह फ़िल्म बड़ी हिट हुई थी. मैंने कई अमरीकी फिल्में और दिग्गज भारतीय फ़िल्मकारों की फिल्में भी देखी.

मैंने फिल्में बनाने की शुरुआत डॉक्यूमेंट्री फ़िल्मों से की जो कमीशन की जाती थीं. 1968 में मैंने पहली फीचर फ़िल्म का काम शुरू किया. कई महीनों की हड़ताल के कारण इसे पूरा होने में दो साल लग गए. इसके बाद भी मुझे जब भी मौका मिला मैंने डॉक्यूमेंट्री फिल्में बनाई. अपनी फ़िल्मों में थियेटर, संगीत और भारतीय गीतों में अपनी रूचि का पूरा इस्तेमाल किया. अपने रुझानों को किनारे किये बिना मैंने दर्शकों से सम्बन्ध बनाने का भी मैं पूरा ध्यान रखा जो हम फ़िल्मकारों के लिये अपरिहार्य है.

भारत में टेलीविज़न पर आपकी क्या राय है?
इसकी शुरुआत तो 1960 के दशक के शुरू में हो गयी थी लेकिन 1982 के एशियाई खेलों का प्रसारण बड़ी घटना थी. इंदिरा गाँधी के दौर में टेलिविज़न को शिक्षा का माध्यम समझा जाता था. सबकुछ राज्य के अधीन था. ऐसा लम्बे अरसे तक रहा. हर हफ़्ते बस एक फ़िल्म दिखाई जाती थी. बाकी कार्यक्रम ज़्यादातर कृषि और उद्योग से जुड़े होते थे (कम्युनिस्ट देशों की तरह). कुछ कार्यक्रम संगीत, योग और विज्ञान के भी होते थे. इसका सिनेमा से किसी भी तरह की कोई प्रतियोगिता नहीं थी.

1984 में यह सब बदल गया. इसका पहला कारण था पाईरेट वीडियो का आना. कॉपीराईट की व्यवस्था के अभाव ने इसे खूब बढ़ावा दिया. ख़राब स्थितियों में बनायी गयीं नक़ली कापियों को दिखाने वाले वीडियो हॉल देश भर में खुल गए.

इसी समय टेलीविज़न भी बदला. इसने धारावाहिक बनाने शुरू कर दिए और इसमें निजी पूंजी का निवेश होने लगा. पाईरेट वीडियो के बाद यह दूसरा ख़तरा था. इससे सिनेमा को भारी झटका मिला. बड़ी संख्या में फ़िल्मों को नुकसान हुआ जो कि अब तक नहीं होता था.

आज आमतौर पर पच्चीस चैनल दिखाए जा रहे हैं और यह संख्या बढ़ती जा रही है. सी एन एन और एम टीवी जैसे अमरीकी चैनलों के साथ कई विदेशी चैनल भी उपलब्ध है. इससे भारतीय लडकियां अपने पारंपरिक वेश-भूषा छोड़ जींस और अन्य पश्चिमी परिधान वहान्ने लगी हैं.

सिनेमा और टेलिविज़न दोनों का दर्शक भी बदला है. अश्लीलता और हिंसा बाकी जगहों की तरह यहाँ भी बढी है. और ये निजी चैनल सब एक जैसे ही हैं. सब कमोबेश एक जैसे कार्यक्रम ही दिखाते हैं.

क्या अब पहले से कम फिल्में बन रही हैं?
नहीं. आश्चर्य है कि फ़िल्मों की संख्या पर कोई असर नहीं पड़ा है और फ़िल्म-निर्माण का भूगोल भी नहीं बदला है. कुल पच्चीस राज्यों में से चार राज्यों में आधे से अधिक फिल्में बनती हैं. सबसे अधिक फिल्में तमिलनाडु (तमिल) और तेलुगु में बनती हैं. हिंदी फ़िल्मों का स्थान तीसरा है. आंध्रप्रदेश भी एक बड़ा निर्माता है. इन जगहों में कोई भी एक फ़िल्म बनती है तो बाकी तीन भाषाओं में इनका तुरंत अनुवाद हो जाता है.
(अनुवादक: तेलुगु आंध्रप्रदेश की भाषा है. यहाँ श्री मणि कौल का मतलब कन्नड़ से हो सकता है. कर्नाटक फिल्मोद्योग भी समृद्ध है)

मुख्य धारा में गतिहीनता के साथ भारतीय भाषाओं में डब की गयी अमरीकी फ़िल्मों की आमद से सबसे बड़ा ख़तरा है. यह हमला शुरू हो चुका है. हमें समझ में नहीं आ रहा है कि हम इनका कैसे मुक़ाबला करें. हमने अपनी दीवार को मज़बूत किला समझ लिया था. लेकिन अपनी शक्तिशाली विशिष्टता के बावजूद भारत के सामने एक बड़ा ख़तरा है- वास्तविक भारतीय छवियों, शब्दों और सिनेमा के धीरे-धीरे खोते जाने का, पहचान को खो देने का.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

बी आर चोपड़ा का सफ़र-प्रकाश के रे


नया दौर (1957) बी आर चोपड़ा की सबसे लोकप्रिय फ़िल्म है. इस फ़िल्म को न सिर्फ़ आजतक पसंद किया जाता है, बल्कि इसके बारे में सबसे ज़्यादा बात भी की जाती है. नेहरु युग के सिनेमाई प्रतिनिधि के आदर्श उदाहरण के रूप में भी इस फ़िल्म का ज़िक्र होता है. पंडित नेहरु ने भी इस फ़िल्म को बहुत पसंद किया था. लेकिन इस फ़िल्म को ख़ालिस नेहरूवादी मान लेना उचित नहीं है. जैसा कि हम जानते हैं नेहरु औद्योगिकीकरण के कट्टर समर्थक थे और बड़े उद्योगों को 'आधुनिक मंदिर' मानते थे, लेकिन यह फ़िल्म अंधाधुंध मशीनीकरण पर सवाल उठती है. और यही कारण है कि इसकी प्रासंगिकता आज भी बनी हुई है. बरसों बाद एक साक्षात्कार में चोपड़ा ने कहा था कि तब बड़े स्तर पर मशीनें लायी जा रही थीं और किसी को यह चिंता न थी कि इसका आम आदमी की ज़िंदगी पर क्या असर होगा. प्रगति के चक्के के नीचे पिसते आदमी की फ़िक्र ने उन्हें यह फ़िल्म बनाने के लिये उकसाया.

फ़िल्म की शुरुआत महात्मा गांधी के दो कथनों से होती है जिसमें कहा गया गया है कि मशीन मनुष्य के श्रम को विस्थापित करने और ताक़त को कुछ लोगों तक सीमित कर देने मात्र का साधन नहीं होनी चाहिए. उसका उपयोग मनुष्य की मदद करने और उसकी कोशिश को आसान बनाने के लिये होना चाहिए. नेहरु के विचार इस सन्दर्भ में गांधी के उलट थे और दोनों ध्रुवों के बीच आज़ादी की लड़ाई के दौरान लगातार बहस होती रही थी. नेहरु ने एक बार कहा था कि अक्सर हम उनके (गांधी) विचारों पर बात करते हैं और हँसी-मजाक में कहते हैं कि आज़ादी के बाद उनकी 'सनक' को तरज़ीह नहीं दी जायेगी. पूरी फ़िल्म इन दो विचारों के बीच बहस करती चलती है. आश्चर्य है कि बी आर चोपड़ा नेहरु के समर्थक थे किन्तु इस फ़िल्म में 'खलनायक' का चरित्र काफी हद तक नेहरूवादी है. यह भी एक दिलचस्प संयोग है कि जिस वर्ष यह फ़िल्म प्रदर्शित होती है उसी वर्ष यानि 1957 में नेहरु उद्योग-समर्थक अपने कट्टर विचारों में संशोधन कर रहे थे. इंदौर में उस वर्ष 4 जनवरी को कॉंग्रेस की एक बैठक में उनका वक्तव्य उल्लेखनीय है: "योजना मूलतः संतुलन है- उद्योग और कृषि के बीच संतुलन, भारी उद्योग और लघु उद्योग के बीच संतुलन, कुटीर और अन्य उद्योगों के बीच संतुलन. अगर इनमें से एक के साथ गड़बड़ी होगी तो पूरी अर्थव्यवस्था पर बुरा असर होगा". तबतक 'सामुदायिक विकास' की अवधारणा भी लायी जा चुकी थी जिसके मुताबिक गाँव में ही रोज़गार के अवसर पैदा करने की कोशिश होनी थी. दूसरी पञ्च-वर्षीय योजना में लघु और कुटीर उद्योगों पर ख़ासा ध्यान दिया गया था.

फ़िल्म का अंत इसी तर्ज़ पर होता है और इस हिसाब से, और सिर्फ़ इसी हिसाब से, यह फ़िल्म नेहरूवादी कही जा सकती है. हालाँकि अंत पर भी गांधी की छाप है जहाँ उद्योगों के विभिन्न रूपों, पूंजी और श्रम के साझे की बात कही गयी है. लेकिन यह अंत ऐसा भी नहीं है कि इसे पूरी तरह से सुखांत कहा जाये. शंकर के तांगे से हारा कुंदन कहता है- "ये गाँव बरबाद होके रहेगा. आज जिन मशीनों को तुम ठुकरा रहे हो, देखना, एक दिन उन्हीं मशीनों का एक रेला उठेगा और तुम सब कुचल के रख दिए जाओगे". ये धमकी-भरे शब्द फ़ायदे के भूखे भारतीय बुर्ज़ुवा के थे जो ग्रामीण ज़मींदारों के साथ साथ-गाँठ कर अगले पचास सालों तक बड़े उद्योगों का जाल बिछानेवाला था जिसका परिणति भयानक ग़रीबी, पलायन और सामाजिक असंतोष के रूप में होनी थी. और यह सब होना था समाजवादी भारतीय राज्य के बड़े-बड़े दावों के बावज़ूद. नया दौर के तेवर और उसकी बहुआयामी राजनीति उन समझदारियों को ख़ारिज़ करते हैं जिनका मानना है कि मेलोड्रामाई पॉपुलर सिनेमा अराजनीतिक होता है और पारंपरिक मूल्यों को अपने स्टिरीयो-टाइप फॉर्मूले में ढोता है.

1957 का साल हिन्दुस्तानी सिनेमा के इतिहास में एक मील का पत्थर है. इस साल नया दौर के अतिरिक्त प्यासा (गुरु दत्त), मदर इंडिया (महबूब खान), दो आँखें बारह हाथ (व्ही शांताराम) जैसी फ़िल्में आयीं थीं जिन्होंने व्यावसायिक सफलता के साथ साथ फ़िल्मों के दार्शनिक-सामाजिक महत्व को एक बारफ़िर स्थापित किया. इतना ही नहीं, इन फ़िल्मों ने फ़िल्म-निर्माण के शिल्प और कौशल के मानक भी गढ़े. 1950 का दशक बंबई सिनेमा का स्वर्ण युग है तो 1957 का साल उस स्वर्ण युग का कोहिनूर है. इन क्लासिकल फ़िल्मों के अतिरिक्त उस वर्ष की अन्य सफल फ़िल्में भी उल्लेखनीय हैं. नासिर हुसैन कीतुमसा नहीं देखा ने शम्मी कपूर जैसा सितारा पैदा किया. देव आनंद और नूतन की पेईंग गेस्ट (सुबोध मुखर्जी), किशोर कुमार और वैजयंती माला कीआशा (एम वी रमण), बलराज सहनी और नंदा की भाभी (आर कृष्णन व एस पंजू), राज कपूर और मीना कुमारी की शारदा (एल वी प्रसाद) और दिलीप कुमार, किशोर कुमार एवं सुचित्रा सेन की मुसाफ़िर (ऋषिकेश मुखर्जी) इस साल की सफलतम फ़िल्मों में शुमार थीं. मुसाफ़िर बतौर निर्देशक ऋषिकेश मुखर्जी की पहली फ़िल्म थी और इसे ऋत्विक घटक ने लिखा था. इन सारी फ़िल्मों का उल्लेख ज़रूरी है क्योंकि इनके बीच बी आर चोपड़ा की नया दौर ने सफलता के मुकाम चढ़े और मदर इंडिया के बाद यह साल के सबसे बड़ी फ़िल्म थी. नया दौर बी आर फ़िल्म्स के बैनर तले बनने वाली दूसरी फ़िल्म थी.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

बी आर चोपड़ा का सफ़र- प्रकाश के रे

भाग- छह

1951 की फ़िल्म जांच समिति ने सिर्फ़ फ़िल्म उद्योग की दशा सुधारने के लिये सिफ़ारिशें नहीं दी थी, जैसा किपिछले भाग में उल्लिखित है, उसने फ़िल्म उद्योग को यह सलाह भी दी कि उसे 'राष्ट्रीय संस्कृति, शिक्षा और स्वस्थ मनोरंजन' के लिये काम करना चाहिए ताकि 'बहुआयामीय राष्ट्रीय चरित्र' का निर्माण हो सके. यह सलाह अभी-अभी आज़ाद हुए देश की ज़रूरतों के मुताबिक थी और बड़े फ़िल्मकारों ने इसे स्वीकार भी किया था.

बी आर चोपड़ा भी सिनेमा को 'देश में जन-मनोरंजन और शिक्षा का साधन तथा विदेशों में हमारी संस्कृति का दूत' मानते थे. महबूब, बिमल रॉय और शांताराम जैसे फ़िल्मकारों से प्रभावित चोपड़ा का यह भी मानना था कि फ़िल्में किसी विषय पर आधारित होनी चाहिए. अपनी बात को लोगों तक पहुंचाने के लिये उन्होंने ग्लैमर और मेलोड्रामा का सहारा लिया.

निर्माता-निर्देशक के बतौर अपनी पहली फ़िल्म एक ही रास्ता में उन्होंने विधवा-विवाह के सवाल को उठाया. हिन्दू विधवाओं के विवाह का कानून तो 1856 में ही बन चुका था लेकिन सौ बरस बाद भी समाज में विधवाओं की बदतर हालत भारतीय सभ्यता के दावों पर प्रश्नचिन्ह लगा रही थी. सौ बरस बाद ही 1956 में विधवाओं को मृतकपति की संपत्ति पर अधिकार मिल पाया था. उसी बरस चोपड़ा ने यह फ़िल्म प्रदर्शित की. हालाँकि फ़िल्म में संपत्ति-संबंधी अधिकारों का उल्लेख नहीं था, किन्तु विधवाओं की नैतिकता और पवित्रता को लेकर समाज में व्याप्त पूर्वाग्रहों पर सवाल उठाया गया था.

फ़िल्म की कहानी पंडित मुखराम शर्मा ने लिखी थी और गीत मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी के थे. सुप्रसिद्ध गायक और संगीतकार हेमंत कुमार ने संगीत दिया था. फ़िल्म के गीतों को तब काफ़ी सराहा गया था. मीना कुमारी पर फ़िल्माया गया और लता मंगेशकर द्वारा गाया गया 'बेकस की आबरू को नीलाम कर के छोड़ा' औरत के दर्द को बड़े मार्मिक ढंग से बयान करता है. यह आज भी बेहद लोकप्रिय गीत है. एक अन्य गीत 'सो जा नन्हे मेरे' भी दर्द भरा गीत है जिसे हेमंत कुमार और लता जी ने गाया है. 'चमका बन के अमन का तारा' गीत भारत और उसके नेता जवाहरलाल के शांति के सन्देश को गाता है. एक अन्य बहुत लोकप्रिय गीत 'चली गोरी पी से मिलन को चली' इसी फ़िल्म का है जिसे हेमंत कुमार ने गाया है. 'सांवले सलोने आए दिन बहार के' एक अन्य सुंदर गीत है.

यह फ़िल्म उस साल की सफलतम फ़िल्मों में से थी और इसी के साथ बी आर फ़िल्म्स का बैनर की सफल यात्रा शुरू हो गयी. अगले साल चोपड़ा की नया दौर प्रदर्शित हुई जिसने सफलता के सारे रिकॉर्ड तोड़ डाला और आज तक की बेहतरीन फ़िल्मों में उसकी गिनती होती है.

(अगले हफ़्ते ज़ारी)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

बी आर चोपड़ा का सफ़र- प्रकाश के रे


बी आर चोपड़ा के साथ आगे बढ़ने से पहले 1950 के दशक में फ़िल्म-उद्योग की दशा का जायजा ले लिया जाये. 1951 में सरकार द्वारा गठित फ़िल्म जांच आयोग ने फ़िल्म-उद्योग में व्याप्त अराजकता के ख़ात्मे के लिये एक परिषद् बनाने की सिफ़ारिश की थी. कहा गया कि यह केन्द्रीय परिषद् सिनेमा से संबंधित हर बात को निर्धारित करेगा. लेकिन इस दिशा में कुछ भी नहीं हो पाया और पुरानी समस्याओं के साथ नयी समस्याओं ने भी पैर पसारना शुरू कर दिया. स्टार-सिस्टम भी इन्हीं बीमारियों में एक था. आम तौर पर स्टार मुख्य कलाकार होते थे, लेकिन कुछ गायक और संगीतकार भी स्टार की हैसियत रखते थे. ये स्टार फ़िल्म के पूरे बजट का आधा ले लेते थे. तत्कालीन फ़िल्म उद्योग पर विस्तृत अध्ययन करनेवाले राखाल दास जैन के अनुसार 1958 आते-आते स्टार 1955 के अपने मेहनताने का तीन गुना लेने लगे थे. हालत यह हो गयी थी कि बिना बड़े नामों के फिल्में बेचना असंभव हो गया था और वितरकों को आकर्षित करने के लिये निर्माता महत्वाकांक्षी फिल्में बनाने की घोषणा करने लगे थे. इस स्थिति के प्रमुख कारण थे- स्वतंत्र निर्माताओं की बढ़ती संख्या, काले धन की भारी आमद, बॉक्स-ऑफिस का दबाव. हालांकि स्टारडम के पीछे के सांस्कृतिक और मनोवैज्ञानिक कारकों को भी हमें नज़रंदाज़ नहीं करना चाहिए.

एक तरफ स्टार मालामाल हो रहे थे, वहीं फ़िल्म-निर्माण से जुड़े अन्य कलाकारों और तकनीशियनों को नाम-मात्र का मेहनताना दिया जाता था. 1956 की फरवरी में जूनियर कलाकारों ने काम रोकने के साथ राज कपूर, सत्येन बोस, श्याम किशोर साहू जैसे बड़े निर्माताओं के घरों के सामने भूख हड़ताल भी की थी. अख्तर मिर्ज़ा, जिन्होंने नया दौर लिखा था, ने कहा था कि कहानी लिखने वाला क्रेडिट और मेहनताने के मामले में कोई औक़ात नहीं रखता. 1958 में जब संगीत से जुड़े कलाकारों ने अधिक पैसे की मांग की तो निर्माताओं ने कुछ दिनों के लिये रेकॉर्डिंग ही बंद कर दिया. उधर निर्माताओं की शिकायत थी कि वितरक और सिनेमा हॉल के मालिक फ़ायदे का बड़ा हिस्सा ले जाते हैं, किन्तु नुक़सान निर्माताओं पर थोप देते हैं. क़र्ज़ देनेवाले पचास फ़ीसदी तक सूद वसूलते थे. कुछ बाहरी मुसीबतें भी थीं. सेंसर का बड़ा दबाव था. हद तो तब हो गयी जब ऑल इण्डिया रेडियो ने फिल्मी गाने बजाने बंद कर दिए. फ़िल्म के रील तब विदेशों से आयात होते थे और निर्धारित मात्र में ही निर्माताओं को उनकी आपूर्ति की जाती थी. इससे भ्रष्टाचार को बढ़ावा मिलता था और छोटे-मझोले निर्माता इसके सबसे बड़े पीड़ित थे. बी आर चोपड़ा ने तब इसे स्टारडम से भी बड़ी मुसीबत बताया था और इन परेशानियों के बारे में पत्रिकाओं में लगातार लिखा भी था. इन लेखों में चोपड़ा ने फ़िल्म-निर्माण के लिये बेहतर स्थिति बनाने की ज़रुरत पर ज़ोर दिया था.

फ़िल्म-उद्योग की ऐसी हालत में चोपड़ा ने जैसे-तैसे ज़रूरी धन का जुगाड़ किया औरएक ही रास्ता की शूटिंग शुरू कर दी. इसमें मुख्य कलाकार अशोक कुमार, मीना कुमारी और जीवन थे. अशोक कुमार की सलाह पर चोपड़ा ने नवोदित सुनील दत्त को मौका दिया था. तब तक उनकी कोई फ़िल्म प्रदर्शित नहीं हुयी थी. विधवा विवाह के विषय पर बनी इस फ़िल्म की कहानी पण्डित मुखराम शर्मा ने लिखी थी. हेमंत कुमार ने संगीत दिया था और गाने लिखे थे मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी ने. यह फ़िल्म १९५६ में प्रदर्शित हुई और उस साल की सबसे कामयाब फ़िल्मों में थी. मशहूर फ़िल्मी पत्रिका फ़िल्म इण्डिया ने लिखा था कि फ़िल्म बॉक्स-ऑफिस को ध्यान में रख कर बनायी गयी है लेकिन इसकी समझदारी भरे विषय-वस्तु के लिये इसकी सराहना की जानी चाहिए.

(अगले हफ़्ते ज़ारी)