Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Power of a Progressive Pen - by Jaideep Sen

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Week S of the Authors' Tips Series is proving to be a pathbreaking one. 

In a second post for Alphabet S, Jaideep Sen writes about the significance of social messaging in films, particularly the kind of progressive writing as categorised in Master Screenwriter Salim Khan's films.

Read on...


When my writer friend, Adite Banerjie, mentioned that her blog is doing something called “Week S” which is celebrating any Phenomenon starting with the Alphabet S, I thought it was only apt that I did my next piece on Phenomenal Writer, Salim Saab.


Cinema breaks the time barrier, becomes timeless and its respect is etched in stone when along with the required ingredient of entertainment it also deals with socially relevant issues and progressive characters. This has been the hallmark of Salim Saab’s writing – both as an independent writer as well as in his writing partnership with Javed Akhtar.  
Satyen Kappu in Deewar
The dialogues spoken by Satyen Kappu Ji in Deewar: “Hamari shikayat yeh hain ki hamare aate ke kanastar khali kyon hain” and Kumar Gaurav in Naam:  “Zameer aur pet ki ladaai mein zameer sirf kitabon mein jit ta hain,haqiqat mein jeet pet ki hoti hain” bear testimony to that by equating social and economic disparity to hunger. This is the most raw, naked and hard-hitting expression that a pen can deliver. This outcry is born out of angst and progression out of sensitivity.


Kumar Gaurav in Naam
In their incredible body of work, perhaps the most progressive character that comes to mind is Thakur Baldev Singh in Sholay. On one side, he’s the man seeking revenge for the brutal massacre of his family and on the other we see him as the extremely understanding and sensitive father-in-law who not only senses his widowed daughter-in-law Radha’s sorrow and loneliness but also her tilt towards Jai. He proposes to her father that Radha should get married again.

This scene is remarkably overwhelming because Radha’s own father is hesitant and embarrassed at even the thought of her remarriage and how sensibly and sensitively Thakur Saab explains to him his reasons for the proposal and convinces the Father.
 
What has stayed back with me is how progressive this piece of writing is which can only be a product of extremely noble minds who through art influence society to become a better place to live in. This in turn raises the contribution and respect of cinema to a dignified pedestal.

Sanjeev Kumar and Iftekhar in Sholay
This quality of Salim Saab-Javed Saab’s inspirational writing found its voice in last season’s KBC TV show, where one of its contestants from Himachal Pradesh mentioned that one sad spot in their family was that her younger sister (who was in the audience along with their parents) had lost her husband at a young age and that though they were trying to get her remarried, they were finding it difficult because even today it’s not a very socially accepted norm. The family was in tears at this point and to reassure them Mr. Bachchan had mentioned how he and his fraternity of performing artistes try to do their bit for society through their films. He had also quoted none other than the Epic film Sholay and his track in the film with Jaya Ji as an attempt to create awareness that a widow is entitled to remarry and live a happy life once again.

This just shows how foresighted the Masters of Writing were -- what they wrote in 1973 (released in 1975) is even in 2019, and shall always be, the reference point of the power of a progressive pen. 

Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling












Monday, 13 May 2019

The First Screenwriter of Indian Films

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Welcome to Week S of Authors' Tips A - Z of Writing. 

If this is the first time you are visiting this series, here's a quick recap. 

Authors share their tips on writing fiction and each week we talk about various aspects of writing. This time, I'm doing a slightly different kind of piece. I hope you enjoy it. 

Screenwriting is to filmmaking what a story is to a novel. Without a script or screenplay you can't make a movie.

Indian screenplay writers have not enjoyed the limelight until a few decades ago. And perhaps the most celebrated film writers are Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar.

However, Indian movies have a long and chequered history. Films have been made in India for more than a hundred years. And while we know and have heard of the pioneer auteurs of Indian films -- such as Dhundiraj Govind Phalke who's better known as Dadasaheb Phalke -- rarely has the Independent Screenwriter (who was not also a director) been talked about.

I have been reading Mihir Bose's excellent book titled Bollywood: A History where I came across the person who might well be called the Father of Indian Screenwriting -- Agha Hashr Kashmiri. Born in 1879 as Muhammad Shah, he hailed from a family of Kashmiri shawl merchants. His first play Aftab-e-Muhabbat was published in 1897. At the tender age of 18, he began his career as a playwright in Bombay.

According to Wikipedia he joined the New Albert Theatrical Company and his first play for the company was an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale titled Mureed-e-shak. It was a big success and he went on to adapt many of Shakespeare's plays. So much so that he came to be known as the "Indian Shakespeare", writes Bose. Kashmiri also Indianized the adaptations by adding short songs and dialogues with local idioms.

Among his most popular plays were Sita Banbas based on the Ramayana and Bilwamangal, the story of a poet who falls in love with a courtesan, Aankh Ka Nasha, dealing with the themes of prostitution and treachery, and Rustom O Sohrab, a tragic Persian folk story.

In 1914, Hashr, joined one of the biggest film companies of the time, Madan Theatre in Calcutta. He adapted many of his plays into silent films and when the talkies era began, so did his career as an independent screenwriter.

One of his most popular plays was Yahudi Ki Ladki (The Daughter of a Jew) which was published in 1913 and became a classic of the Parsi-Urdu theatre circuit. It was adapted for silent movies and was made into films during the talkies era as well. The most prominent of these adaptations were Yahudi ki Ladki in 1933 by New Theatres, and in 1957 with the same title. Bimal Roy's film based on the same play, Yahudi,  released in 1958 and featured Dilip Kumar, Sohrab Modi and Meena Kumari in lead roles. (On a personal note, my father, Desh Mukerji, worked as an assistant art director in Roy's Yahudi).

Mihir Bose writes: "Such was his (Hashr's) prominence that Urdu, the linguistic product of the meeting of Islam and Hinduism, exerted a tremendous influence on early Indian films, both in terms of the language used and the techniques of the Urdu stage. Hashr also introduced an innovation that has remained to this day: of having a comic sub-plot in every Indian movie, even if the film itself is far from a comedy. By the time he died in June 1935, at the age of 56, his countrywide reputation was so immense that all studios and theatres closed for the day as a mark of respect."