Tilak Rishi's weblog

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Universal Will Needed To Fight Terrorism

“Many afternoons evenings and nights did one spend on the walks by the inked sea at this Promenade .. today one gets up with a heavy heart to hear and see its destruction and the trauma it undergoes ..
No words can even begin their journey to describe such devastation and remorse .. can we not just sit and talk it out and stop .. !!” (Big B Blog)

We certainly can sit and talk it out and stop, BUT, for this to happen we have to have the universal will to do it, especially amongst the mightiest of the mighty who have the means to launch a "shock and awe" bombing campaign that takes lacs of innocent lives, called collateral damage. I am giving here eye- witness accounts  to illustrate and elaborate on what I am trying to say:

Lahore always remained a living example of religious harmony where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians lived in absolute peace and calm without a single reported incident of communal clashes. People in Lahore generally were very broad-minded, who believed in Punjabi brotherhood rather than in religious divide. Promoters of Pakistan did not relish it as they saw it as a hinderance in their propaganda that Muslims would not be safe in the Hindu majority India after the independence. Disturbing the peace in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, was a dire necessity for them to demonstrate and prove their point of view that the two communities could never live together in peace. And it was not difficult to mastermind such a disturbance. They knew that even though the vast majority of the Hindus were secular, there still was a section amongst them who had hated Muslims for centuries for being the first invaders in history of the Hindu India. They only had to incite and trap this small section of the Hindus to start communal clashes in the city. They were still working on their strategy when an unfortunate incident provided them the opportunity to push their plans on a platter.

During a hockey match between two major teams, known arch rivals, heated arguments on a disputed goal got out of control and caused a fight between the two teams in which hockey sticks were freely used. Such incidents had happened earlier also, but this time it took an ugly turn as one player was killed in the clash. This was, in all probability, accidental, the hockey stick hitting some sensitive part of the body. However, since the boy who was killed was a Hindu and the one who hit, a Muslim, the incident started the rumor that communal rioting had started in the city with a Muslim student killing a Hindu. And in no time a Muslim student was stabbed to death in another part of the city, leading to a series of vengeful stabbing and arson in the city. Clearly, the extremist elements amongst the Hindus, who vowed to avenge every such killing, had fallen into the carefully laid trap of the fundamentalist Muslims, whose foremost agenda was to somehow shatter to pieces the prevailing peace between Hindus and Muslims in Lahore. And we saw what the result was - the Partition and in its aftermath millions uprooted from their homes and equal number of innocent lives lost on both sides of the border.
Lesson to learn: We must avoid at all costs falling into the trap laid by fanatic forces.

It was the last week in October of 1947, barely ten weeks after India became independent from the British rule. I was in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, and was an eyewitness to Srinagar's proud record in war against terror, when the city was saved by the triaumph of secular forces over the evil of communal fundamentalists. Tribal militias, backed by Pakistan military, had invaded Kashmir. Before the raiders had almost reached the outskirts of the city, all the Maharaja's men fled to Jammu and beyond. In the absence of any administration, the city's infrastructure had totally collapsed to leave us without water and electricity in our homes. It was then that the citizens of Srinagar experienced something very strange--a unique power to pull together, the vast majority of the Muslim population along with Hindus and Sikhs, to save the city from falling to the tribal invaders and to restore all the essential services in the city including law and order.
Imagine the scenario, Muslim fundamentalists, motivated to wage a 'Jihad', to capture Kashmir, pushing forward to within miles of Srinagar, the capital, could not cross the human barrier of brave men whose only weapon was their united stand for secularism and a strong will to overcome the forces of communalism. Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent struggle for India's independence was their inspiration, Pundit Nehru's passion for secularism provided the strength and Sheikh Abdullah's leadership gave the guiding light that led them to victory, and saved their beloved city, Srinagar. The saga of Srinagar is as relevant today as it was then, in war against terror and extremist forces anywhere in the world.
Lesson to learn: The only way to defeat the terrorists is to fight them unitedly - whatever be our beliefs or borders.

People can often overcome their deepest of differences, but it is the media environment where both sides treat each other with suspicion. You're just not likely to see it on television, but if you look at the  public as a whole, there is a "vast middle" of unengaged people who aren't very polarized. People are mostly quite social, as proved by the immense popularity of social networks. What is most important to most of us is our relationships. We are affected by others’ behavior toward us and what they say about us. We adapt to others and they adapt to us. We develop a way, or ways, of relating to others in different situations. We can see our lives from one point of view as adapting to and influencing others. I may learn something of great importance from you or impart some information that is helpful.

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” - Gandhi.

Bhaktikal - The Golden Era Of Hindi Literature

“Ordered a book referred in the media, ‘The Age of Genius The Seventeenth Century’ and run through some pages .. engrossed with the reason why the 17th century was the age of genius .. for it was then that reforms in mind and matter took place the most in the Western world ..” (DAY - 3029)

Being an old student of Hindi literature from Delhi University, the title of the book, ‘The Age of Genius The Seventeenth Century’ took me instantly to ‘Bhaktikal’ - from 1375 to 1700 - in which many a genius poets participated in Bhakti  movement that had a remarkable influence  on the development of Hindi literature. This period  laid emphasis on the importance of knowledge for the realisation of the Omnipresent. The 'Saint poets', Goswami Tulsidas, Kabir Das, Guru Nanak, Surdas, Mirabai and others of that period precisely belong to this genre in Hindi literature. Poets who conceived that love was the sole path to realise God, were referred to as Sufi Poets, a significant development in the advancing Hindi literature. Jayasi, Manjhan, Kutuban and Usman were the pioneers of this school of writing and belief. The Devotional Period or Bhaktikal in Hindi literature indeed had given rise to 'immortal literature' and is distinguished as the Golden Age of Hindi Poetry.

Tulsidas was the leading poet of the Bhaktikal. Shri Ramcharitmanas is an epic poem in Awadhi, composed by him. Shri Ramcharitmanas literally means "lake of the deeds of Rama". Tulsidas compared the seven Kandas of the epic to seven steps leading into the holy waters of a Himalayan lake (Manasa, as in Lake Manasarovar) which "purifies the body and the soul at once".  Tulsidas portrays Rama as the Ideal Man in his classical works Ramcharitmanas, Gitavali, Kavitavali and Vinay Patrika.He was acclaimed in his lifetime to be a reincarnation of Valmiki, the composer of the original Ramayana in Sanskrit. He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa, a popular devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman, the divine devotee of Rama. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in Hindi, Indian, and world literature. The impact of Tulsidas and his works on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in vernacular language Ramlila plays, Hindustani classical music, popular music, and television series.

In Priyadas' biography, Tulsidas is attributed with the power of working miracles. In one such miracle, he is believed to have brought back a dead Brahmin to life. While the Brahmin was being taken for cremation, his widow bowed down to Tulsidas on the way who addressed her as Saubhagyavati (a woman whose husband is alive). The widow told Tulsidas her husband had just died, so his words could not be true. Tulsidas said that the word has passed his lips and so he would restore the dead man to life. He asked everybody present to close their eyes and utter the name of Rama, on doing which the dead Brahmin was raised back to life.
In another miracle described by Priyadas, the emperor of Delhi, Akbar summoned Tulsidas on hearing of his bringing back a dead man to life. Tulsidas declined to go as he was too engrossed in creating his verses but he was later forcibly brought before the Emperor and was asked to perform a miracle, which Tulsidas declined by saying "It's a lie, all I know is Rama." The emperor imprisoned Tulsidas at Fatehpur Sikri, "We will see this Rama.” Tulsidas refused to bow to Akbar and created a verse in praise of Hanuman and chanted it ( Hanuman Chalisa ) for forty days and suddenly an army of monkeys descended upon the town and wreaked havoc in all corners of Fatehpur Sikri, entering each home and the emperor's harem, scratching people and throwing bricks from ramparts. An old Hafiz told the emperor that this was the miracle of the imprisoned Fakir. The emperor fell at Tulsidas' feet, released him and apologised. Tulsidas stopped the menace of monkeys and asked the emperor to abandon the place. The emperor agreed and moved back to Delhi. Ever since Akbar became a close friend of Tulsidas and he also ordered a firman that followers of Rama, Hanuman & other Hindus, should not be harassed in his kingdom.

In Priyadas' biography, Tulsidas is attributed with the power of working miracles. In one such miracle, he is believed to have brought back a dead Brahmin to life. While the Brahmin was being taken for cremation, his widow bowed down to Tulsidas on the way who addressed her as Saubhagyavati (a woman whose husband is alive). The widow told Tulsidas her husband had just died, so his words could not be true. Tulsidas said that the word has passed his lips and so he would restore the dead man to life. He asked everybody present to close their eyes and utter the name of Rama, on doing which the dead Brahmin was raised back to life.
In another miracle described by Priyadas, the emperor of Delhi, Akbar summoned Tulsidas on hearing of his bringing back a dead man to life. Tulsidas declined to go as he was too engrossed in creating his verses but he was later forcibly brought before the Akbar and was asked to perform a miracle, which Tulsidas declined by saying "It's a lie, all I know is Rama." The emperor imprisoned Tulsidas at Fatehpur Sikri, "We will see this Rama."[63] Tulsidas refused to bow to Akbar and created a verse in praise of Hanuman and chanted it ( Hanuman Chalisa ) for forty days[ and suddenly an army of monkeys descended upon the town and wreaked havoc in all corners of Fatehpur Sikri,[64] entering each home and the emperor's harem, scratching people and throwing bricks from ramparts An old Hafiz told the emperor that this was the miracle of the imprisoned Fakir. The emperor fell at Tulsidas' feet, released him and apologised.Tulsidas stopped the menace of monkeys and asked the emperor to abandon the place. The emperor agreed and moved back to Delhi. Ever since Akbar became a close friend of Tulsidas and he also ordered a firman that followers of Rama, Hanuman & other Hindus, should not be harassed in his kingdom.

“No virtue is equal to the good of others and
no vice greater than hurting others.”
  • Tulsidas in "A Garden of Deeds: Ramcharitmanas, a Message of Human Ethics", p. 37

Monday, July 11, 2016

Alwar Awaits "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan"

“As I drive by in the early hours of rain drenched surroundings, overcast skies and the shine and glitter of washed streets and plants, one does observe a certain effort towards cleanliness and efforts being made to keep it that way ..
So .. we appreciate and applaud the drives in other countries, but do not in ours .. its habit forming .. its education .. its discipline .. when they get together, achievement is not too far away ..”
(Big B Blog DAY - 3019)

Big B has rightly observed ‘ a certain effort towards cleanliness and efforts being made to keep it that way’. It is to a great extent the effect of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Mission) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and enthusiastic participation of people, especially the celebrities, to make it a success. However, the success of the mission so far is to be seen  in few metro and other big cities only and not so much, or, perhaps, not at all, in small cities and towns spread in large numbers throughout length and breadth of India. They, more or less, are where they have been for long - full of filth all over. No administrative or collective effort of residents is seen being made to make these cities cleaner to some extent at least. I give an example from my personal experience of living in Alwar (Rajasthan), the city we adopted to live after surrendering our government accommodation in New Delhi on retirement of my wife from government service in early nineties. As soon as we settled down there it looked like the Collectorate and the residents were competing to see who contributed more to make the city as dirty as possible. As was my hobby then, to write ‘Letters to the Editor’, I wrote one on the lack of sanitation and cleanliness in Alwar, which was prominently published in the Hindustan Times:

“It was in the late seventies, when I preferred the option of accepting a challenging job to manage the most modern foundry that was coming up in Alwar, Rajasthan, to being transferred from New Delhi to Bombay in my job of 20 years with Godrej, a reputed company. Although only 100 miles from New Delhi, due to bad condition of the road, it was beyond daily commuting. I would spend weekends with my family in New Delhi and return to Alwar on Monday mornings, to manage the factory located in the newly developed industrial area, 10 miles from the city.

Alwar, I soon found , was too sleepy to have any life. A grand historic city of the times of Maharajas, its grandeur and glory were all gone. The majestic palace built in marble was turned into the Collector's office, overlooking the over crowded district courts within its compound walls. The great fort on the hilltop, visible for miles around the city, was perhaps the most neglected of all the places that must have been once the pride of Alwar and its rulers. As for the city itself, the citizens regarded heaps of garbage and choked open drains with dirty stagnant water along the houses, as a way of life. They did not seem to care that they were living in perpetual danger of being afflicted by the dreaded decease of Malaria. There could be no better breeding facilities for mosquitoes than found here. The mosquito menace simply made their life hell. However, they felt solace from the saying that those who have lived in Alwar are assured of definite entry into heaven after death; they have already served their term in hell while living here and atoned for whatever sins they might have committed in their life.

Clearing of drains for free flow of rainwater as well as removal of city garbage was the responsibility of a contractor, who passed on the duty to stray cattle and street pigs. Mosquitoes, in the meanwhile, had the best breeding time in the stagnant dirty water of the drains all over the city. I, along with most other engineers and professionals, who had come to Alwar to work in the upcoming factories in the industrial area, though dismayed, could hardly do much to improve the sanitation in the city, except to draw attention of the authorities to the dreaded malaria menace through this 'Letter to the Editor' in the Hindustan Times.”
The letter, prominently published in HT with bold headlines, became talk of the town, as it was for the first time that Alwar was mentioned in the national press. The letter also attracted the attention of the Collector, who immediately ordered civic officials to launch cleanliness drive in the city, before his bosses in the central government gave any directions based on the letter. But it turned out to be a temporary measure and made no impact whatsoever on the day-to-day life of the people living in Alwar till date. Nobody cares for the SBA which is in operation for over two years now, and neither the TV channels nor the local leaders and administration are bothered to bring sanity to the city by improving its sanitation.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Big B's Blogs Try To Bind Us Together

“Festivals have a continuity .. a divine presence in our lives .. bringing souls together in prayer and congregation .. in the harnessing of love and togetherness .. in the bonds that build belief, not just in the unknown, but in our personal selves .. the binding that can bring millions in one strain of presence, must be respected and regarded with dignity .. (Big B - DAY 3018)”

The above quote from the post and the picture therein of Big B praying as a Muslim reminds of the popular Muslim socials, particularly,his super hit and most eventful film inhis life - “Coolie” (1983):

Indian cinema’s understanding of enlightened, tolerant Islam is best seen in Coolie (1983). The coolie of the title is Iqbal, played by you, his girlfriend is a Christian and his best friend is a Hindu. His other ally is an Allah-fearing hawk, Allah Rakha who wears a necklace saying ‘Allah’, which glints to advise Iqbal to go on the Hajj. He also helps Iqbal fight his enemies. The film includes miracles such as the survival of Iqbal after a shootout on Hajj Ali’s shrine when, covered in the chador (covering) of the saint, he recites the kalima (declaration of faith) and writes 786 (the numeric equivalent of God’s name) in his blood as he faints. Prayers at mosques, temples and churches accompany his operation and recovery. During the making of the film, you were near fatal accident in real life and miraculous recovery  was seen as proof of the miracles shown on screen of your survival.

Bollywood, indeed, is the biggest contributor to  India's cultural unite. There was a time when Indians were fanatically divided for speaking different language in different states to the extent that non-Hindi speaking people literally hated Hindi language. However, their lifelong passion for Bollywood films, particularly the songs, has totally changed the scenario. Now the people from Maharashtra to Mizoram and Kashmir to Kanyakumari cannot wait to watch the latest Hindi language film from Bollywood and repeatedly listen to its hit songs and even remember the lyrics of the songs they like.  Bollywood has also contributed in a big way to bring together people belonging to different cultural background. Bollywood fosters the spirit of brotherhood which is displayed by filmgoers every day in every show. While enjoying a film, one never thinks to which caste and religion the next person in the theatre belongs to. In fact, everybody sits together in one place and enjoy the film together. They cry for the same reason, laugh at the same joke and sing the same songs.

Sir, the post also takes me back to the past, in the memory lane of  Lahore days when Bazal, my best friend, always used to celebrate festivals together with our family, whether it was Eid-ul-fitr or Diwali or Christmas. Everyone in our family loved Bazal and treated him a part of the family, particularly my mother who pampered him to the hilt. All the more, like her own son, after his father suddenly expired due to deadly heart attack. His step mother did not mind this, though some in our neighborhood did. They, the orthodox Hindus, did not digest a Muslim boy mixing so freely with our family, and even allowed to enter our kitchen where my mother would be serving us steaming hot meals, making fresh 'rotis' while we ate. One thing I can never forget about Bazal is watching our first movie together, without being escorted by any adult in our families. Besides giving us the feeling that we were now grown up to go to movies by ourselves, the movie itself, V. Shantaram’s Padosi (1941), made us mature enough at the age of eight years to see the madness of those who hate and fight each other because of belonging to different faiths - Hindus and Muslims - and the film strengthened our friendship to the unbreakable solid level.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGvSReW5bwg

Fast forwarding to today's times, having moved to the U.S., living in San Francisco Bay Area, I was surprised to see our Muslim Moroccan friend, Mina, married to Greg, a White American, religiously and regularly observing Ramadan fast every year without missing even once in the last over 15 years we have been close to her. This calls for big compliment to both of them, the Muslim wife holding on to her religious beliefs even after marriage to a Christian and also the husband, who not only doesn't mind his wife carrying on to practice her religious rituals but fully supports her religious freedom without any reservations whatsoever. Mina goes a step further, she always celebrates Diwali with us, bringing a big cake for the occasion. We too make for her rice pudding almost daily throughout her Ramadan fasting period and thereafter celebrate Eid with her.

The best thing about San Francisco Bay Area is that Hindus and Muslims celebrate their festivals together and may seem unbelievable, even India and Pakistan Independence Days together by organizing joint music concerts. May be, this spirit of friendship and mutual mingling is the offshoot of their working together in Silicon Valley, the hub of computer companies, or in cab business. Even their restaurants have the sign: “Indian and Pakistani Cuisine” and you can never say whether the business is owned by an Indian or a Pakistani. I very much wish this San Franciscan spirit of brotherhood amongst different religious and cultural groups spreads globally beyond all borders.

However, there is one and, perhaps, the only place where we can see the spirit of his post sincerely and totally put to practice in terms of total harmony, where “Festivals have a continuity .. a divine presence in our lives .. bringing souls together in prayer and congregation .. in the harnessing of love and togetherness”, and that place, as we all know, is this unique and pious platform that he has very graciously built on his Blog. I very much wish the enthusiastic spirit of us all, his very dear Ef, sets an example for other such platforms to be set up by other celebrities of his fraternity for their fans, so that together we succeed making this world a better place to live.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Books Are Also Status Symbol!

Books are also status symbols, I learnt from my most favorite brother Prithvi, long time ago when I was still in school and he a student of Government College, Lahore. Often these were books that he had not actually read, but wanted the world to believe he had read. These were the literary trophies, the Man Booker winners, the Pulitzers, the Nobles—books that were deemed to be outstanding by the elite and had thus been specially marked by the society - not so much to display conspicuous wealth, but rather to flaunt educational and societal status. Many of the books on his shelf were the prize publications of the Oxford University Press, shifted from our father’s huge library in the living, after he had read them and promoted as the Chief Representative of the Press in Northern India. Incidentally, Dev Anand, who later became the heartthrob of millions as the evergreen hero of Hindi cinema, was also studying in the same college my brother was a student - Government College - and this is what he said in an interview of his Lahore college days, when he became celebrity of the cinema: “filmindia was termed a status symbol with college students, boys in the campus used to carry copies of filmindia along with their textbooks, on top of them to show off It". Seems, it was common those days and not confined to my brother alone, to possess classics of English literature and costly colorful magazines,  as status symbols.

That was then, when many amongst us may not even have been born or barely had learnt to talk and walk - the age of  physical books—especially hardcovers— never imagined of ebooks. The signalling function of the latter is near nil, as nobody can usually see what is loaded on our Kindles, Nooks and iPads (unless we choose to show them the cover on the device, but then we would be  obvious showoffs). The times have sea changed since then, but not necessarily the basic nature of man and his beliefs. If in the bygone era my brother bought books as status symbols, after he entered the new age of internet and advanced technology and enjoyed the status of a senior, to express his personality, he still needed to possess something physical that he could take delight in displaying as his status symbol. What better buy than the most advanced and much valued version of iPhone. He visited us often in San Francisco on the West coast, flying from the distant Washington D.C. on the East coast - the time difference between the two cities 3 hours - just to consult Alok, our son, on which iPhone to buy that was prestigious to possess, in other words pricy enough to show off. He admired Alok for not only being a prominent software engineer in Silicon Valley, but more so for helping both his sons in setting up their start-up in software, which progressed to become a public company of repute. Of course, he would extend his stay to enjoy Jeet’s cooking for as long as he could afford to be away from work in Washington D.C. The problem with purchase of the recommended iPhone he invariably faced after returning home was that he was one of those people who were just not early adopters. Oh, the iPhone was on Version 6, when he was still struggling to get comfortable working with Version 4? Where had the time flown! But it did not really matter much, he would hurry to buy iPhone 6 before that too lost its showoff luster. And it went on like this, he enjoying to buy his status symbol possessions till he breathed his last a few years back at the age of 92.

Chetan Anand - The Most Underrated Icon Of Hindi Cinema

Chetan Anand (3 January 1921 – 6 July 1997)
Born in Gurdaspur, Punjab, Chetan’s formative years were nourished by the teachings of the Vedanta in a Gurukul before he went to Government College, Lahore, and then onwards to Cambridge.
27-year-old Chetan married 19-year-old Uma in the spring of 1943. Well after marriage, a scholarship to London University and a fellowship at Doon teaching English, History and tennis, Chetan remained a shy, violin-playing romantic. Very English, very much the armchair critic. His redemption lay in his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and self-expression.
The next phase in his evolution fortuitously fulfilled his soul quest. In 1944, he shrugged off a motionless stability and plunged into the chaotic ecstasy of motion pictures. A few disappointments were inevitable – a script for Kishore Sahu and a role opposite Nargis, which never went beyond promises. In 1946, Chetan Anand impacted with Neecha Nagar, a stark indictment on rural exploitation by the British and their landed toadies.
He directed Neecha Nagar, co-scripted with Hayatullah Ansari, based on the latter’s story. He also introduced maestro Ravi Shankar for the background score. Satyajit Ray would later pay a moving tribute when he told Chetan Anand that it was Neecha Nagar that inspired him to make Pather Panchali. Neecha Nagar also fetched the debutante director an award at the Cannes Film Festival, sharing honors with David Lean’s classic Brief Encounter.

Time and again, he drew blood with his exposes on civilized cruelty. In Aandhiyan (1952), a young girl is ‘sold’ in marriage to an old lecher.The human condition drew him to a subject. It was always the suffering of people and their emotional responses to conflict that interested him. The hallmark of his work was classicism. In addition, he was peerless in imbuing a love story with dramatic depth. He felt that only cinema was the complete medium of self-expression because it obviously embraced other art-forms but communicated them within the parameters of the common man’s understanding.

Dev Anand had launched Navketan, his own production company in 1949 in a bid to create opportunities for both brothers but they soon realized that Chetan’s kind of films simply could not keep the company afloat. And so, although Taxi Driver (1955) was a big hit, Chetan moved away from Navketan to establish his own banner Himalaya Films and make his own kind of films.
When he emerged, it was to a standing ovation for, depicting the Chinese invasion of 1962, in one of the best war films ever made  – Haqeeqat (1964). At every trial held for army officers, they unanimously wept.

In the decade between Haqeeqat and Heer Ranjha, the 50-year-old filmmaker scaled his creative peak. The Collegian who once reeled off Shakespeare with biblical fervor spurred on Kaifi Azmi to outshine the bard in the all verse Heer Ranjha.
He made Aakhri Khat (1966) because, “I’m sure that if a 18-month-old child were to be lost in this heartless city nobody would care.” He shamed the nation with documented proof by deliberately letting a child wander around trailed by an unobtrusive camera which captured the indifference of real passers-by.

Rajesh Khanna remembered, “I got the lead in Aakhri Khat only because Sanjay Khan was rude to the production controller. There were no stars in Chetan Saab's unit; his stars became his pupils.”

Neecha Nagar (Chetan Anand, 1946): The film, written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, is an expressionist look at social injustice in rural India. The story centers on a fantastically wealthy landlord who lives in a palatial estate high up on mountain while the poor toil and starve in the valley below. There is a serious and committed comment at the spirit displayed by a community of slum-dwellers as they protest against the toxic waste being dumped in their colony in connivance with corrupt municipal officers. A bold effort to expose the widening gap between the peoples' expectations and the determination of the rich not to recognise them made Chetan Anand the first Indian filmmaker to win an international award. Neecha Nagar won the coveted Grand Prix Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1946). A highlight of the film was Pt. Ravi Shankar's debut as a film composer.

Haqeeqat (Chetan Anand, 1964): India's first and the finest war film to date, Haqeeqat became a yardstick for subsequent Hindi films based on war. The film is a heroic portrayal of India's 1962 war with China over the disputed Ladakh border. Haqeeqat is the only film that depicts this war in all its reality. The director has brilliantly woven drama and history together on his cinematic canvas. The movie not only involves a sense of pride but also brings a tear to the dry eye as one goes through the turmoils of soldiers as they fight with abandon to save their motherland. Kaifi Azmi pens some of his best lyrics for this movie. Madan Mohan is in his elements as he composes some of the gems of his legendary repertoire. The film is also boosted by an extremely well written screenplay that engrosses the viewer. Films like Haqeeqat are made but once in a lifetime.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Meena Kumari - The Poet Par Excellence!

the technology is advanced so much in our time that whatever we do is recorded for ever on the various forms of social networking  after our passing. It is especially so for celebrities, whose every step taken in their lifetime, in public or in  privacy, remains open for posterity to read and then respect or denigrate it, depending on their own individual thinking about those who are no longer there to challenge or cheer their thoughts.

It seems like celebrity news is everywhere these days, from tabloids to mainstream media to reality news shows, but it exists because we love to hear about what they do and why they do it. The internet is full of stories about Bollywood stars; you may find these in leading websites such as, Wikipedia, internet movie database,...These stories about our acting "nobility" are quite down to earth. Being a great fan of Bollywood films and filmstars, I am often enthralled with all the accounts of some of the celebrities we have come to know and love as legends, but most importantly, what we come to realize is that they were just people trying to live their lives as only they could. I would love to share from time to time some  anecdotes in Bollywood's behind-the-scene stories, especially of its bygone era:

Meena Kumari - the poet par excellence!

Meena Kumari can be considered as the greatest actress of Bollywood during the golden age. There was something mystical about the legendary Meena Kumari. It's probably those eloquent eyes and oomphy body language. But ultimately, the fact is that she was extremely attractive and seemed to bring grace to whatever films she did. She had portrayed images and characters showing complexity of the mind of the Indian women and the social ostentatious that they had faced during different periods of time. Not only she was the Queen of Tragedy in reel life but was so also in real life. The dominant strain in Meena Kumari’s life was love, or rather the impossibility of finding love. And it would be true to say that she looked and searched, wept and cried in its pursuit. "In fact,” she said,” love is my biggest weakness-and greatest strength too. I am in love with love. I am craving for love. I have been craving for it since my childhood.” We all know she was unsuccessful. Though not amongst the famous poets, she was the poetess par excellence, who translated her life into verse. Her verses were entirely in character with her life:

“aghaaz to hotaa hai anjaam nahi hotaa
jab meri kahaani mein vo naam nahi hotaa
jab zulf kii kaalik mein ghul jaaye koii nahii
badnaam sahi lekin gum naam nahii n hotaa
hans hans ke javaan dil ke ham kyon na choone tukare
har shakhs ki qismat mein inaam nahin hotaa
din dooba hai yaa dubbii baaraat liye kishti
saahil pe magar koi kohraam nahin hotaa “

Sensitive and cheerful Meena Kumari fell in love after she met Kamal Amrohi on the sets of a film and she was head over heels for him as she herself has written about Kamal Amrohi-

“Dil saa jab saathi paya
Bechaini bhi woh saath le aaya.”

Her marriage with Kamal Amrohi had turned sour and resulted into separation and divorce in 1964. This event shaped her personal life also. The once very happy Meena Kumari turned into the epitome of tragedy in a short time when she took refuge in alcohol (and poetry). She herself has expressed her sorrows and miseries in many places and most importantly in her poetry which is the best reflection of her feelings. The same person who wrote beautiful poetry about Kamal Amrohi said-

“Tum kya karoge sunkar mujhse meri kahani,
Be Lutf zindagi ke kisse hain pheeke pheeke!”

And at the time of divorce she had said-

“Talaq to de rahe ho
Nazre Kaha ke saath
Jawani bhi meri lauta do
Mehar ke saath”

Life was never the same again and she was probably the saddest person as she could not stabilize later on in her life. It is known that Meena Kumari liked tragedy and wanted to lose herself into it, which she did so often. She could cry at any moment without any aids. We never know but probably she enjoyed it and wanted to be just tragic, enjoying every moment of it and finally turned her own life into a tragic story!

Praying For Rains

Rainy season reminds of many movies wherein prayer song for rain plays a crucial scene in the movies. I have selected the following films for special mention because I find the prayer for rain in these movies is of more significance for the story than in any other Bollywood film:
Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain is a 2014 historical-drama film set amidst the Bhopal disaster that had occurred in India on 2–3 December 1984. It is directed by Ravi Kumar and features Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Kal Penn, Rajpal Yadav, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Fagun Thakrar in important roles. In 2004, while reading Sanjoy Hazarika's book Bhopal: Lessons of a Tragedy, Ravi Kumar got the idea of making a film based on the disaster.The Bhopal disaster is considered the world's deadliest industrial disaster. Seeing that very few people of the newer generation knew about the disaster, Kumar decided to make a film based on it. The film received a market screening at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on 16 May and 19 May. It was also screened at Pan Asia, Dingle and the Tokyo International film festivals. Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain was released in the United States on 7 November 2014 and in India on 5 December 2014. A private screening of the movie was held at the youth assembly in the United Nations on 7 August 2014.

A Prayer for Rain was added to the film's title because had it rained on the night of 2—3 December 1984, fewer people would have died.
Though highly acclaimed by the critics, since it was a low budget film and not much expense was incurred on its promotion, it did not do well at the box-office. In case any of our Ef is interested, here is a link to watch the movie on Youtube:

Guide is a 1965 romantic drama film starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. It was directed by Vijay Anand, who contributed to the screenplay. The film is based on the novel The Guide, by R. K. Narayan.
The film was a box office hit upon release. The movie proved memorable for its award-winning performances by the lead actors and memorable music by S. D. Burman. Time magazine listed it at Number Four on its list of Best Bollywood Classics.

The prayer song for rains come as very crucial part of the climax. Raju is taken as a holy man by the village. Raju assumes the role of village holy man (Swami Ji) and engages in skirmishes with the local pandits. And drama started here. Due to drought Raju was forced to fast for 12 days so that it rains. Meanwhile, his mother, friend and Rosie unite with him and patch things up. In the end it rains but Raju dies.

Allah Megh De Song:

Allah megh de pani de
Chhaya de re rama megh de
Shyama megh de
Aankhein phade duniya
Dekhe hai ye tamasha
Hai ye vishwas tera hai
Teri asha allah megh de
Allah megh de pani de
Chhaya de tu rama megh de

Lagaan (English: Taxation) is a 2001 Indian epic sports-drama film written and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker. Aamir Khan, who was also the producer, starts with Gracy Singh in the lead roles; British actors Rachel Shelley and Paul Blackthorne play the supporting roles.
The film is set in the Victorian period of India's colonial British Raj. The story revolves around a small village whose inhabitants, burdened by high taxes, find themselves in an extraordinary situation as an arrogant officer challenges them to a game of cricket as a wager to avoid the taxes. The narrative spins around this situation as the villagers face the arduous task of learning the alien game and playing for a result that will change their village's destiny.

The script demanded a dry location: an agricultural village where it had not rained in several years. To depict the 1890s era, the crew also required a village which lacked electricity, communication and automobiles.[19] Kutch faced the same problems at that time and hence the village of Kanuria, located a few miles away from Bhuj, was chosen. During the filming of Lagaan, it did not rain at all in the region. However, a week after the shoot finished, it rained heavily bringing relief to Bhuj, which had a lean monsoon the previous year. People of Bhuj gave credit for the rain to the prayer song in the film, sung by all the villagers:

Kale megha, kale megha paani toh barsao - (2)
Bijuri ki talwar nahin, boondon ke baan chalaye