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Books > Performing Arts > Cinema > Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai-Urdu Memoirs of Cinema Legends
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Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai-Urdu Memoirs of Cinema Legends
Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai-Urdu Memoirs of Cinema Legends
Description
About the Book

Peppered with heartfelt accounts and charming anecdotes, Urdu film magazines were in great favour with the public from the 193os through the 199os — a considerable period of seven decades. As Urdu got progressively marginalised in the later years, unfortunately these magazines were not archived for the most part, leading to their inevitable disappearance from popular imagination.

Tracking down the lost publications, Yasir Abbasi followed leads - some futile, some fruitful — to obscure towns and people's homes in a last-ditch effort to save valuable records of Indian cinema. As challenging as it was to locate the faded issues and original texts, he managed to uncover and translate many fabulous memoirs covering a wide gamut of our favourite old artistes at their candid best.

A gloom-laced piece on Meena Kumari by Nargis, a rollicking description by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan of an eventful evening with Manto (not to mention a mysterious woman and a house on fire), Jaidev writing about his chequered career, Balraj Sahni introspecting about the relevance of Hindi and Urdu in films - it's a rich mix of engrossing narratives brought back from oblivion.

 

About the Author

A trained cinematographer by profession, Yasir Abbasi completed his early education from Gorakhpur and Lucknow. Following his Masters in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi in 2002, he has been involved with shooting documentaries and independent films, and has won several awards at film festivals for his work.

A lifelong film buff who watches The Godfather and Gunda with equal sincerity, he lives in Gurgaon with his wife.

 

Introduction

When I was growing up, the arrival of an outstation guest delighted me no end. Before my relatives rupture a vein out of sheer joy or I catch the attention of Rajshri Productions, let me hasten to add that I wasn't interested in the visitors at all. All it meant to me was that I' d get to go to the railway station and coax my father or uncle to buy me a film magazine. In the 1980s, Chitrahaar and the weekend movies on Doordarshan were clearly insufficient consumption for cinema-obsessed youngsters. The onslaught of satellite channels was still a few years away and limited visibility obviously augmented the mystique about films and its stars. It's no wonder that film magazines prospered.

At the same time, 1980s was not exactly the golden age of Hindi cinema, and some simple pleasures certainly didn't come easy for a pre-teen addicted to all things film. Predictably, going overboard with the magazines was not allowed at home.

My mother, also a film enthusiast, would regularly read Shama-a very popular Urdu monthly. A blend of movies and literature, the magazine was a staple in Urdu-reading households. The same composite format would later prove to be detrimental for the publication - more on that in a bit.

I was fortunate that my parents taught me Urdu. So, once the 'permissible time limit' for Filmfare, Stardust, et al was reached, I would unflinchingly turn to Shama, and hallelujah, there would never be any objections! Of course, r d read only the film section - a fairly exhaustive one and thus my indoctrination into Hindi films started early. Soon enough, the criteria for striking friendship at school included whether the other person could distinguish between Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi or not (thankfully, no one countered that by asking me to tell Murad from Sapru).

Gradually, the rut of life kicked in, and though I continued to read about films -later mainly books - somewhere I left Urdu behind. Till around a few years back, when a re-reading of the translated essays of Sa' adat Hasan Manto on his film contemporaries led me to explore the original pieces. To say that it was fascinating to go through the actual features would be an understatement. It had me intrigued about Urdu writing on cinema - virtually non-existent now in terms of visibility. Amidst the surge of film books in the last decade or so, I couldn't recall seeing or hearing about Urdu ones. Having witnessed in my childhood the following that magazines such as Shama, Ruby and Gulfaam enjoyed, this discovery seemed odd.

A bit of research revealed that it has nearly been a couple of decades since most of the magazines folded up. Delving further unveiled information about books too. Then began a hunt, and it was way more difficult than I had imagined. Usual suspects like shops selling old books or the Sunday market at Daryaganj in Delhi yielded practically nothing. What one came across for the most part were the conventionally acclaimed works - chiefly fiction and poetry. Urdu writing on films was more or less absent. It became increasingly apparent that this was plainly a case of demand and supply - what sells is what was available. Next stop was the library. Now this one was unexpected - though one can find literature on most subjects handy, cinema finds negligible space in Urdu libraries. Save for a few who have preserved a small fragment, it is incredible that a plethora of Urdu film magazines that were reasonably famous over a period of no less than seven decades have all but vanished from the public domain.

When old film magazines and books in other languages can still be found, why not the Urdu ones? Was it the lack of a business model, some prejudice at work or simply inadequate readership? From what I could deduce, a bit of all this and some more.

Let's take a quick - and admittedly simplistic - view of Urdu and its connect with Indian cinema. Urdu and Hindi - similar languages with a common root (the Khari Boli dialect) and identical syntax have for long been projected as divergent for reasons often political. Though the seeds of conflict were already sown by the turn Yeh Un Dino Ki Baat Hai of the 20th century, the most damaging blow came in 1947 with the partition of the country. With Pakistan adopting Urdu as its official language and India declaring Hindi as its own, an inexplicable stamp of religion was imposed on both the languages. Sahir put it brilliantly as usual:

Jin shehron mein goonji thi Ghalib ki navaa barson,

Un shehron mein: ab Urdu benaam-o-nishaan thehri,

Aazadi-e-kaamil ka aelaan hua jis din,

Maatoob zabaan thehri, ghaddaar zabaan thehri*

[In the cities where Ghalib's voice echoed for years, Urdu now lies unknown and neglected, The day absolute independence was declared, As a curse and a traitor it stood inflicted] The diminishing institutional patronage that ensued took a toll on the language in India. As it steadily ebbed away from mainstream education, Urdu started getting alienated in the very own land of its birth.

However, amidst all the upheaval, there was one place where Urdu not only survived but also flourished - the film industry. In a trend that started with India's very first talkie Alam Ara in 1931, the content of any regular film produced out of Bombay - both dialogues as well as songs - has been majorly steered by Urdu. The films being classified as 'Hindi' is a true testimony to the similarities in the two languages. As writer-director Gulzar points out, an accurate term for the language used in our films should be 'Hindustani'.** Film critic Chidananda Dasgupta echoes the view and adds that it is Hindustani "with a bias towards Urdu."*** The argument is not without merit- Urdu is clearly indispensable for cinematic set-pieces like the courtroom sequence.

Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai-Urdu Memoirs of Cinema Legends

Item Code:
NAQ488
Cover:
HARDCOVER
Edition:
2018
ISBN:
9789387457768
Language:
English
Size:
9.50 X 6.50 inch
Pages:
408 (6 Color & Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 0.7 Kg
Price:
$36.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

Peppered with heartfelt accounts and charming anecdotes, Urdu film magazines were in great favour with the public from the 193os through the 199os — a considerable period of seven decades. As Urdu got progressively marginalised in the later years, unfortunately these magazines were not archived for the most part, leading to their inevitable disappearance from popular imagination.

Tracking down the lost publications, Yasir Abbasi followed leads - some futile, some fruitful — to obscure towns and people's homes in a last-ditch effort to save valuable records of Indian cinema. As challenging as it was to locate the faded issues and original texts, he managed to uncover and translate many fabulous memoirs covering a wide gamut of our favourite old artistes at their candid best.

A gloom-laced piece on Meena Kumari by Nargis, a rollicking description by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan of an eventful evening with Manto (not to mention a mysterious woman and a house on fire), Jaidev writing about his chequered career, Balraj Sahni introspecting about the relevance of Hindi and Urdu in films - it's a rich mix of engrossing narratives brought back from oblivion.

 

About the Author

A trained cinematographer by profession, Yasir Abbasi completed his early education from Gorakhpur and Lucknow. Following his Masters in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi in 2002, he has been involved with shooting documentaries and independent films, and has won several awards at film festivals for his work.

A lifelong film buff who watches The Godfather and Gunda with equal sincerity, he lives in Gurgaon with his wife.

 

Introduction

When I was growing up, the arrival of an outstation guest delighted me no end. Before my relatives rupture a vein out of sheer joy or I catch the attention of Rajshri Productions, let me hasten to add that I wasn't interested in the visitors at all. All it meant to me was that I' d get to go to the railway station and coax my father or uncle to buy me a film magazine. In the 1980s, Chitrahaar and the weekend movies on Doordarshan were clearly insufficient consumption for cinema-obsessed youngsters. The onslaught of satellite channels was still a few years away and limited visibility obviously augmented the mystique about films and its stars. It's no wonder that film magazines prospered.

At the same time, 1980s was not exactly the golden age of Hindi cinema, and some simple pleasures certainly didn't come easy for a pre-teen addicted to all things film. Predictably, going overboard with the magazines was not allowed at home.

My mother, also a film enthusiast, would regularly read Shama-a very popular Urdu monthly. A blend of movies and literature, the magazine was a staple in Urdu-reading households. The same composite format would later prove to be detrimental for the publication - more on that in a bit.

I was fortunate that my parents taught me Urdu. So, once the 'permissible time limit' for Filmfare, Stardust, et al was reached, I would unflinchingly turn to Shama, and hallelujah, there would never be any objections! Of course, r d read only the film section - a fairly exhaustive one and thus my indoctrination into Hindi films started early. Soon enough, the criteria for striking friendship at school included whether the other person could distinguish between Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi or not (thankfully, no one countered that by asking me to tell Murad from Sapru).

Gradually, the rut of life kicked in, and though I continued to read about films -later mainly books - somewhere I left Urdu behind. Till around a few years back, when a re-reading of the translated essays of Sa' adat Hasan Manto on his film contemporaries led me to explore the original pieces. To say that it was fascinating to go through the actual features would be an understatement. It had me intrigued about Urdu writing on cinema - virtually non-existent now in terms of visibility. Amidst the surge of film books in the last decade or so, I couldn't recall seeing or hearing about Urdu ones. Having witnessed in my childhood the following that magazines such as Shama, Ruby and Gulfaam enjoyed, this discovery seemed odd.

A bit of research revealed that it has nearly been a couple of decades since most of the magazines folded up. Delving further unveiled information about books too. Then began a hunt, and it was way more difficult than I had imagined. Usual suspects like shops selling old books or the Sunday market at Daryaganj in Delhi yielded practically nothing. What one came across for the most part were the conventionally acclaimed works - chiefly fiction and poetry. Urdu writing on films was more or less absent. It became increasingly apparent that this was plainly a case of demand and supply - what sells is what was available. Next stop was the library. Now this one was unexpected - though one can find literature on most subjects handy, cinema finds negligible space in Urdu libraries. Save for a few who have preserved a small fragment, it is incredible that a plethora of Urdu film magazines that were reasonably famous over a period of no less than seven decades have all but vanished from the public domain.

When old film magazines and books in other languages can still be found, why not the Urdu ones? Was it the lack of a business model, some prejudice at work or simply inadequate readership? From what I could deduce, a bit of all this and some more.

Let's take a quick - and admittedly simplistic - view of Urdu and its connect with Indian cinema. Urdu and Hindi - similar languages with a common root (the Khari Boli dialect) and identical syntax have for long been projected as divergent for reasons often political. Though the seeds of conflict were already sown by the turn Yeh Un Dino Ki Baat Hai of the 20th century, the most damaging blow came in 1947 with the partition of the country. With Pakistan adopting Urdu as its official language and India declaring Hindi as its own, an inexplicable stamp of religion was imposed on both the languages. Sahir put it brilliantly as usual:

Jin shehron mein goonji thi Ghalib ki navaa barson,

Un shehron mein: ab Urdu benaam-o-nishaan thehri,

Aazadi-e-kaamil ka aelaan hua jis din,

Maatoob zabaan thehri, ghaddaar zabaan thehri*

[In the cities where Ghalib's voice echoed for years, Urdu now lies unknown and neglected, The day absolute independence was declared, As a curse and a traitor it stood inflicted] The diminishing institutional patronage that ensued took a toll on the language in India. As it steadily ebbed away from mainstream education, Urdu started getting alienated in the very own land of its birth.

However, amidst all the upheaval, there was one place where Urdu not only survived but also flourished - the film industry. In a trend that started with India's very first talkie Alam Ara in 1931, the content of any regular film produced out of Bombay - both dialogues as well as songs - has been majorly steered by Urdu. The films being classified as 'Hindi' is a true testimony to the similarities in the two languages. As writer-director Gulzar points out, an accurate term for the language used in our films should be 'Hindustani'.** Film critic Chidananda Dasgupta echoes the view and adds that it is Hindustani "with a bias towards Urdu."*** The argument is not without merit- Urdu is clearly indispensable for cinematic set-pieces like the courtroom sequence.

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