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Presidents of India: 1950-2003 (Second Edition)
Presidents of India: 1950-2003 (Second Edition)
Description

About the Book:

India became Republic on 26th January, 1950 and we have completed fifty-three years as a Republic Nation having had Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President, who guided the nation for almost twelve years, DR. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has taken the reigns to proper the nation to new heights.

The present work is a revised edition of the earlier book, covering the up-to-date contribution of the outgoing President Dr. K. R. Narayanan, and the present President, DR. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The author has extensively quoted from the autobiography of Dr. Kalam, which is very interesting, information and thought provoking.

All the Presidents have been men or great eminence, wisdom, patriotism, scholarship and statesmanship and have completed their terms with genuine devotion, dedication, dignity and determination. But, in spite of all this there had been encounters between the Presidents and the Prime Ministers on certain basic and vital issues of great public importance. Right from the beginning many occasions arose where it had been established that the office of the President of India is not as powerless as the crown of England. The Constitution of India fully empowers the President of India 'to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution and the people', whenever the occasion arises. Hindu Code Bill, Governor's Role, The Postal Bill, Ordinances, Bank Nationalisation case, Privy Purses case, Emergency Excesses, Shah Bano case, Operation Blue Star, Dissolution of the Parliament and the Assemblies, Hung Parliament, outside support and the appointment of the Prime Minister under the Constitution are some of the vital issues which have been discussed in the present work.

The book is an exciting and precious piece of history dealing with many hitherto untold encounters between the Presidents and the Prime Ministers. It is indeed a living document and provides food for thought for every enlightened citizen. It will be an asset for the readers who cherish independence and who have love and affection for their country.

About the Author:

Dr. Janak Raj Jai, born on 23rd August, 1931, is a graduate from Panjab University, Master of Laws from Nagpur University and Doctor of Philosophy in Law from University of Delhi.

He has worked closely with two Prime Ministers, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Smt. Indira Gandhi. Dr. Jai had been detained in Tihar Jail for about 20 months during Emergency. He is an advocated of long standing, practising in the Supreme Court of India. He is actively involved in the political affairs of the country and is a man of great patriotism, sensitivity, conscience and character.

His other publications include:

· Commissions and Omissions by Indian Presidents-1950-2001 (Two Vols.), (2001)

· Commissions and Omissions by Indian Prime Ministers-1950-2000 (Two Vols.), (1996)

· Emergency Excesses-A Daylight Robbery of Human Rights and JP the Saviour (1996)

· Narasimha Rao: The Best Prime Minister? (1996)

· Gowda-Ahmadi-The Midnight Meet? (1996)

· Rise and Fall of Deve Gowda and the Constitutional Breakdown (1997)

· Assault on Judiciary and the Role of Parliament (1998)

· Voters Dilemma-Indian Political Scene (1998)

· Pokhran II-The Explosion that Rocked the World (1998)

· Should Kargil be an Election Issue? (1999)

· Political Trends-Revival of Two Party System in India (1999)

Excerpts from Review:

"Informative and precious, this volume deals with many untold encounters between the Presidents and the Prime Minister. It is indeed a living document and provides a very useful food for thought for every enlightened citizen."

&

 

Preface

Cinema arrived in India from France on 7th July 1896 when in Mumbai's Watson Hotel (now Army & Navy Building, near present-day Kala Ghoda in Esplanade area), six short silent movie strips, made by Lumiere brothers of Paris, were shown to the local elite. Three years later, in 1899, a still photographer of Mumbai, Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar (later known as Sawe Dada) shot a movie strip in 1899; the first 'wholly Indian' silent feature film, Raja Harishchandra came to be made, 14 years thereafter, in 1913, by another Marathi D G Phalke. In nine decades thereafter, some 33 thousand films, long and short together and including over 1300 silent, have been released. In 1971, India with 431 feature films made that year, overtook Japan to become the world's largest film-producing country. Annual production has since doubled, even more in some years, taking India further ahead of major filmmaking countries. Joined together, India's movie films can twice girdle the earth's circumference at the Equator.

In more than a century, Indian cinema has grown and diversified enormously. One wishes, this exponential growth was reflected in quality too. The world acclaimed films made by Satyajit Ray and some of his offbeat successors but the much larger, mainstream cinema remain the favourite of common cine-goers, not only in India but in many other Asian and some African countries too. Western people (except Asians abroad) did not take much note of it till recently, when some Hindi mainstream films- some of them shot, premiered and distributed abroad- ran well in European cities. In Pakistan, Indian films are banned but secretly sell and circulate in cities in pirated DVD, VCD and video cassettes. As Nirad C Chaudhury once observed, cinema has become the 'most widely appreciated and easily understood cultural expression in India'. The film industry in six cities- Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram- thrives on the massive patronage of popular cinema, which is as far removed from the offbeat genre as Pushpin is from poetry.

In writing this book, no ideological or sociological framework has been postulated to explain facets of Indian cinema- offbeat or mainstream because that would have been like the proverbial Procrustean bed, suiting facts to theory. As journalists say, "Facts are sacred; comments free." As history is not read like a novel, the book has been packed with information, which might have made it, in places, mere assemblage and a catalogue off acts.

The title of the book is taken from a monologue of the young artist in James Joyce's novel, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). It implies that the offbeat genre, more than the mainstream, truly reflects the conscience of the Indian people. The latter does not lack in conscience but its reflection is often so phoney that it can hardly be called 'the conscience of the race'. Offbeat films may not interest many people for their stark realism and disturbing themes but their makers never fail to treat them conscientiously.

The terms- 'offbeat' and 'mainstream' - have been used rather loosely, because the division is somewhat arbitrary, created by the media and did not exist before 1950s. A trend is emerging of diluting offbeat syndromes with entertainment values of the mainstream even by noted directors, like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Prakash Jha. Similarly, many mainstream films like Lagaan (2001) are tending to offbeat, raising hope that someday, the twain will meet, erasing the division.

Sources Materials of this book came from many sources- some direct, some indirect. The direct sources are the legion of mainstream films, seen from childhood and from early youth, the films of Satyajit Ray (some, many times over), Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and other offbeat directors of their and subsequent generations in many languages. Among indirect sources are newspaper reports, reviews, supplements, magazine articles, publications of the Film Festival Directorate, many film histories, notably Indian Film by Erik Barnowe and S. Krishnaswamy, The Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, Indian Cinema by Feroze Rangoonwala, The New Indian Cinema by Aruna Vasudev and lately, The Cinemas of India by Yves Thoraval. Interviews with a host of film writers, makers, producers and technicians also yielded a lot of information and insight.

Acknowledgements I benefitted from discussions with Chidananda Dasgupta (who graciously wrote a Foreword too for the whole of the Indian cinema and therefore, had to be abridged), Derek Malcolm of The Guardian (during his visits to Delhi festivals), Feroze Rangoonwala and Randor Guy- film writers in Mumbai and Chennai respectively. Studies in the National Film Archive of India at Pune yielded significant material.

I am beholden to the Publications Division for assigning me to write this book. Prof. Barnik Roy, a friend and editor of La Poesie, constantly encouraged me to complete the manuscript and enquired about its fate. The Directorates of Advertising and Visual Publicity, Photo Division, Directorate of Film Festivals, all under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Nemai Ghosh, Satyajit Ray's celebrity still photographer, provided most of the stills and other photos.

 

Introduction

There are many ways of introducing India's offbeat cinema, depending on whom it is introduced to. To foreigners, it has to be introduced differently than to our own people. Interpretations can also be diverse. Many people see it as an aberration from the more voluminous mainstream cinema but few will deny, as this author believes, that it is a vehicle of truer creative self-expression, reflecting the 'conscience of the race'.

Diversity is the hallmark of Indian cinema. Although many regional cinemas have been influenced (if not stifled too) by the mainstream Hindi cinema, their milieus are diverse. Many regional mainstream cinemas are using the ingredients of successful Hindi blockbusters, which present, as Satyajit Ray put it, 'a synthetic, non-existent society'. This siren attraction works for only a handful of producers who can bear the enormous cost of making them, which ordinary regional producers cannot afford.

The first Indian realist film- the label was then unknown- is Savkari Pash (aka 'An Indian Shylock') made by Baburao Painter for Maharashtra Film Company, Kolhapur and released in 1925. It was a silent film, comparable to Erich Von Stroheim's Greed (1924), on the stark theme of indebtedness of Maratha peasants to cruel usurers; so popular it became that it was remade by Painter as a talkie in 1936. V Shantaram, acting and directing from the Silent Era, made some realistic films, e.g. Duniya Naa Mane (1937) and Dahej (1950)- the first on a young girl forced to marry an old widower and the second on dowry in marriage- but made different films too. The first offbeat film, true to the European syndrome, was Nemai Ghosh's Chhinnamul (1950) and Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zameen (1953). However, the first offbeat film to become a global rave and a kind of benchmark for the genre is Satyajit Ray's debut in 1955, Pather Panchali. In his 34 long and short features as well as five documentaries Ray proved himself to be its most steadfast and renowned contributor. The ripples, formed by Pather Panchali, swelled virtually to a wave in just 15 years, after the unexpected box-office success of Mrinal Sen' s Bhuban Shame and poignant realism of Mani Kaul's Uski Roti, both in 1969.

The inspiration behind the offbeat genre came from the 'New Wave' cinema of Europe. Bimal Roy's inspiration for Do Bigha Zameen came from some Italian, French and Japanese neo-realist films that he saw in the l "International Film Festival in Kolkata in 1952. Satyajit Ray was inspired by De Sica's Bicycle Thief Films before Pather Panchali were not unrealistic but what made Satyajit Ray an exception was his resolve, evident in every film thereafter, not to dilute realism with extraneous ingredients of songs, dances or burlesque which mark and mar many mainstream films. Most other offbeat filmmakers too tread his path, with uneven talent and success but the viewers of their films are a minority. A rough estimate has it that only about three per cent of films, released every year, are 'offbeat'; the rest are the so-called 'middle' or 'mainstream' cinema, mostly of the entertaining kind, or just trash.

The offbeat genre turned upside down certain conventions, common in the mainstream cinema. As many silent feature films took off from popular plays, stage conventions persisted in cinema for a long time. Acting was theatrical- loud and wordy; characters entered and went out from the focus field, as in a stage-play. Even the songs and dances, as Satyajit Ray said, are 'a legacy of the theatrical-operatic tradition'. Offbeat directors 'de-dramatised' cine-acting. In Nayak (1966), Ray devoted two sequences to underline the difference between cinematic and stage acting by their advocates. In an interview to Sharmila Tagore for a video news-magazine, shortly before his death, he spoke of precision in cinematic acting, as opposed to exaggeration in theatrical, how "slight excess before the camera could ruin a scene". Theatrical conventions persist in many regional cinemas, burdened with 'words, words, words'- a legacy from folk plays- and ceaseless drone on the soundtrack.

Major regional cinemas have, since 1970s, have developed an offbeat- genre as a kind of protest to generally uncinematic mainstream. As the French historian of Indian cinema (The Cinemas of India, 2000) says, "New Cinema is a direct reaction to the total absence of 'roots' - not to speak of an aesthetic vacuum- which characterised commercial Hindi cinema of the 1960s and '70s". However, most artistes and technicians work in both without any qualm, because they cannot survive on the offbeat genre alone, except Ray's team in his early films, who waited for his next film. Inevitably, mainstream films are many more in number and bring more money to producers. Because of this, some offbeat directors have defected to the mainstream; it is rarely the other way about. G.V. Iyer of Kannada cinema is perhaps a solitary exception.

Many offbeat filmmakers evince originality in theme and treatment but few are alike. There is no common creed or ethos except their urge to make their films reflect reality, unspoilt by inroads of extraneous entertaining values. Some films convey anger and angst, conspicuously Mrinal Sen' sand Govind Nihalani's, against the social, economic and political order; others fume at obscurantism, caste barriers, religious bigotry and oppression of women and other weaker people.

Satyajit Ray used the word 'offbeat' to describe his kind of cinema. In an article in 1965, he wrote: "I knew, what I was going to do was offbeat". In Italy and France, where this kind of cinema first emerged during the Second World War, it earned the rubrics- 'Neo-Realist', Auteur ('author') and Nouvalle Vague ('New Wave'). When the genre started in India with Ray's Pather Panchali in 1955, it began to be called 'art' or parallel cinema, used extensively from the 1970s when a kind of 'wave' of such films rose in Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam. However, 'offbeat' is a better rubric, because not all such films were artistic and the genre never ran parallel to the more popular mainstream, because offbeat films were and continue to be fewer.

A phenomenon of the 1940s, which contributed to the rise of the offbeat genre, was the retreat of the story from cinema, like that of poetry with the advance of civilization. Feature films with thin, or practically no, storylines but replete with entertaining ingredients like songs, dances and fights, became a new craze after the Second World War. Contractors, flush with funds, earned from War supplies and black marketing, invested in filmmaking for big profit. They popularised a form of mindless and debasing entertainment, having no desire or ability of the urban middle class, who were making films before, to protect or promote culture. B N Reddy was so distressed by this trend in Telugu cinema that he gave up filmmaking in the prime of his career. Bimal Roy in Mumbai, equally disgusted, tried to check this trend, unsuccessfully.

Offbeat cinema was, in a sense 'a return to the story'. Writing on the so-called Indian New Wave in 1971, Satyajit Ray wrote:

 

"Considering its lusty existence for well over two thousand years, it seems naive to believe that the last ten years or so have somehow seen the demise of the story .... The love of narrative, in no matter what disguised form, is too deeply ingrained in the human species.... By discarding the story altogether, one would be destroying the very basis of a film that a lot of people are expected to see and like. "

The story thinned in some offbeat films too but for a different reason. Some avant-garde European filmmakers were discarding it in the 1960s; this influenced a few of the first and second generation offbeat directors in India. Mrinal Sen came under the influence of two avant-garde filmmakers of France- Jean Luc Goddard and Francois Truffeaut- and emulating them, was "irresistibly drawn towards a non-narrative form and, in the process, trying to de-emphasize plot and incident" to lend to his films a 'contemporary idiom'. "I do not any longer want to see my film being controlled by a thoroughly calculated and thus fully developed story". However, box-office failures of many of these films made him return to the narrative in films.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan does not think that the story is disappearing from feature films; only its concept is changing. He told this author on 30 January 2001:

 

"There is no need for cinema to be an offshoot of literature; in fact, it should ideally free itself from literature and the stage. Means of expression in cinema and literature (also stage) are different. In a true work of cinema, the story could be secondary-just an excuse. The story could just be the seed of an idea that the filmmaker wants to convey."

 

CONTENTS

 

Preface to Second Edition iii
Preface to First Edition v
Dr. Rajendra Prasad
First President of India
1
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Second President of India
23
Dr. Zakir Hussain
Third President of India
51
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
Fourth President of India
72
Mohammed Hidayatullah
A Thirtyfive-Days Acting President
87
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
Fifth President of India
101
Basappa Danappa Jatti
Acting President
121
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Sixth President of India
126
Giani Zail Singh
Seventh President of India
148
Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Eight President of India
188
Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma
Ninth President of India
223
Dr. Kocheril Raman Narayanan
Tenth President of India
254
Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
Eleventh President of India (12th Term)
295
Selected Bibliography 346

 

 

 


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Presidents of India: 1950-2003 (Second Edition)

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2003
ISBN:
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About the Book:

India became Republic on 26th January, 1950 and we have completed fifty-three years as a Republic Nation having had Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President, who guided the nation for almost twelve years, DR. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has taken the reigns to proper the nation to new heights.

The present work is a revised edition of the earlier book, covering the up-to-date contribution of the outgoing President Dr. K. R. Narayanan, and the present President, DR. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The author has extensively quoted from the autobiography of Dr. Kalam, which is very interesting, information and thought provoking.

All the Presidents have been men or great eminence, wisdom, patriotism, scholarship and statesmanship and have completed their terms with genuine devotion, dedication, dignity and determination. But, in spite of all this there had been encounters between the Presidents and the Prime Ministers on certain basic and vital issues of great public importance. Right from the beginning many occasions arose where it had been established that the office of the President of India is not as powerless as the crown of England. The Constitution of India fully empowers the President of India 'to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution and the people', whenever the occasion arises. Hindu Code Bill, Governor's Role, The Postal Bill, Ordinances, Bank Nationalisation case, Privy Purses case, Emergency Excesses, Shah Bano case, Operation Blue Star, Dissolution of the Parliament and the Assemblies, Hung Parliament, outside support and the appointment of the Prime Minister under the Constitution are some of the vital issues which have been discussed in the present work.

The book is an exciting and precious piece of history dealing with many hitherto untold encounters between the Presidents and the Prime Ministers. It is indeed a living document and provides food for thought for every enlightened citizen. It will be an asset for the readers who cherish independence and who have love and affection for their country.

About the Author:

Dr. Janak Raj Jai, born on 23rd August, 1931, is a graduate from Panjab University, Master of Laws from Nagpur University and Doctor of Philosophy in Law from University of Delhi.

He has worked closely with two Prime Ministers, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Smt. Indira Gandhi. Dr. Jai had been detained in Tihar Jail for about 20 months during Emergency. He is an advocated of long standing, practising in the Supreme Court of India. He is actively involved in the political affairs of the country and is a man of great patriotism, sensitivity, conscience and character.

His other publications include:

· Commissions and Omissions by Indian Presidents-1950-2001 (Two Vols.), (2001)

· Commissions and Omissions by Indian Prime Ministers-1950-2000 (Two Vols.), (1996)

· Emergency Excesses-A Daylight Robbery of Human Rights and JP the Saviour (1996)

· Narasimha Rao: The Best Prime Minister? (1996)

· Gowda-Ahmadi-The Midnight Meet? (1996)

· Rise and Fall of Deve Gowda and the Constitutional Breakdown (1997)

· Assault on Judiciary and the Role of Parliament (1998)

· Voters Dilemma-Indian Political Scene (1998)

· Pokhran II-The Explosion that Rocked the World (1998)

· Should Kargil be an Election Issue? (1999)

· Political Trends-Revival of Two Party System in India (1999)

Excerpts from Review:

"Informative and precious, this volume deals with many untold encounters between the Presidents and the Prime Minister. It is indeed a living document and provides a very useful food for thought for every enlightened citizen."

&

 

Preface

Cinema arrived in India from France on 7th July 1896 when in Mumbai's Watson Hotel (now Army & Navy Building, near present-day Kala Ghoda in Esplanade area), six short silent movie strips, made by Lumiere brothers of Paris, were shown to the local elite. Three years later, in 1899, a still photographer of Mumbai, Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar (later known as Sawe Dada) shot a movie strip in 1899; the first 'wholly Indian' silent feature film, Raja Harishchandra came to be made, 14 years thereafter, in 1913, by another Marathi D G Phalke. In nine decades thereafter, some 33 thousand films, long and short together and including over 1300 silent, have been released. In 1971, India with 431 feature films made that year, overtook Japan to become the world's largest film-producing country. Annual production has since doubled, even more in some years, taking India further ahead of major filmmaking countries. Joined together, India's movie films can twice girdle the earth's circumference at the Equator.

In more than a century, Indian cinema has grown and diversified enormously. One wishes, this exponential growth was reflected in quality too. The world acclaimed films made by Satyajit Ray and some of his offbeat successors but the much larger, mainstream cinema remain the favourite of common cine-goers, not only in India but in many other Asian and some African countries too. Western people (except Asians abroad) did not take much note of it till recently, when some Hindi mainstream films- some of them shot, premiered and distributed abroad- ran well in European cities. In Pakistan, Indian films are banned but secretly sell and circulate in cities in pirated DVD, VCD and video cassettes. As Nirad C Chaudhury once observed, cinema has become the 'most widely appreciated and easily understood cultural expression in India'. The film industry in six cities- Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram- thrives on the massive patronage of popular cinema, which is as far removed from the offbeat genre as Pushpin is from poetry.

In writing this book, no ideological or sociological framework has been postulated to explain facets of Indian cinema- offbeat or mainstream because that would have been like the proverbial Procrustean bed, suiting facts to theory. As journalists say, "Facts are sacred; comments free." As history is not read like a novel, the book has been packed with information, which might have made it, in places, mere assemblage and a catalogue off acts.

The title of the book is taken from a monologue of the young artist in James Joyce's novel, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). It implies that the offbeat genre, more than the mainstream, truly reflects the conscience of the Indian people. The latter does not lack in conscience but its reflection is often so phoney that it can hardly be called 'the conscience of the race'. Offbeat films may not interest many people for their stark realism and disturbing themes but their makers never fail to treat them conscientiously.

The terms- 'offbeat' and 'mainstream' - have been used rather loosely, because the division is somewhat arbitrary, created by the media and did not exist before 1950s. A trend is emerging of diluting offbeat syndromes with entertainment values of the mainstream even by noted directors, like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Prakash Jha. Similarly, many mainstream films like Lagaan (2001) are tending to offbeat, raising hope that someday, the twain will meet, erasing the division.

Sources Materials of this book came from many sources- some direct, some indirect. The direct sources are the legion of mainstream films, seen from childhood and from early youth, the films of Satyajit Ray (some, many times over), Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and other offbeat directors of their and subsequent generations in many languages. Among indirect sources are newspaper reports, reviews, supplements, magazine articles, publications of the Film Festival Directorate, many film histories, notably Indian Film by Erik Barnowe and S. Krishnaswamy, The Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, Indian Cinema by Feroze Rangoonwala, The New Indian Cinema by Aruna Vasudev and lately, The Cinemas of India by Yves Thoraval. Interviews with a host of film writers, makers, producers and technicians also yielded a lot of information and insight.

Acknowledgements I benefitted from discussions with Chidananda Dasgupta (who graciously wrote a Foreword too for the whole of the Indian cinema and therefore, had to be abridged), Derek Malcolm of The Guardian (during his visits to Delhi festivals), Feroze Rangoonwala and Randor Guy- film writers in Mumbai and Chennai respectively. Studies in the National Film Archive of India at Pune yielded significant material.

I am beholden to the Publications Division for assigning me to write this book. Prof. Barnik Roy, a friend and editor of La Poesie, constantly encouraged me to complete the manuscript and enquired about its fate. The Directorates of Advertising and Visual Publicity, Photo Division, Directorate of Film Festivals, all under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Nemai Ghosh, Satyajit Ray's celebrity still photographer, provided most of the stills and other photos.

 

Introduction

There are many ways of introducing India's offbeat cinema, depending on whom it is introduced to. To foreigners, it has to be introduced differently than to our own people. Interpretations can also be diverse. Many people see it as an aberration from the more voluminous mainstream cinema but few will deny, as this author believes, that it is a vehicle of truer creative self-expression, reflecting the 'conscience of the race'.

Diversity is the hallmark of Indian cinema. Although many regional cinemas have been influenced (if not stifled too) by the mainstream Hindi cinema, their milieus are diverse. Many regional mainstream cinemas are using the ingredients of successful Hindi blockbusters, which present, as Satyajit Ray put it, 'a synthetic, non-existent society'. This siren attraction works for only a handful of producers who can bear the enormous cost of making them, which ordinary regional producers cannot afford.

The first Indian realist film- the label was then unknown- is Savkari Pash (aka 'An Indian Shylock') made by Baburao Painter for Maharashtra Film Company, Kolhapur and released in 1925. It was a silent film, comparable to Erich Von Stroheim's Greed (1924), on the stark theme of indebtedness of Maratha peasants to cruel usurers; so popular it became that it was remade by Painter as a talkie in 1936. V Shantaram, acting and directing from the Silent Era, made some realistic films, e.g. Duniya Naa Mane (1937) and Dahej (1950)- the first on a young girl forced to marry an old widower and the second on dowry in marriage- but made different films too. The first offbeat film, true to the European syndrome, was Nemai Ghosh's Chhinnamul (1950) and Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zameen (1953). However, the first offbeat film to become a global rave and a kind of benchmark for the genre is Satyajit Ray's debut in 1955, Pather Panchali. In his 34 long and short features as well as five documentaries Ray proved himself to be its most steadfast and renowned contributor. The ripples, formed by Pather Panchali, swelled virtually to a wave in just 15 years, after the unexpected box-office success of Mrinal Sen' s Bhuban Shame and poignant realism of Mani Kaul's Uski Roti, both in 1969.

The inspiration behind the offbeat genre came from the 'New Wave' cinema of Europe. Bimal Roy's inspiration for Do Bigha Zameen came from some Italian, French and Japanese neo-realist films that he saw in the l "International Film Festival in Kolkata in 1952. Satyajit Ray was inspired by De Sica's Bicycle Thief Films before Pather Panchali were not unrealistic but what made Satyajit Ray an exception was his resolve, evident in every film thereafter, not to dilute realism with extraneous ingredients of songs, dances or burlesque which mark and mar many mainstream films. Most other offbeat filmmakers too tread his path, with uneven talent and success but the viewers of their films are a minority. A rough estimate has it that only about three per cent of films, released every year, are 'offbeat'; the rest are the so-called 'middle' or 'mainstream' cinema, mostly of the entertaining kind, or just trash.

The offbeat genre turned upside down certain conventions, common in the mainstream cinema. As many silent feature films took off from popular plays, stage conventions persisted in cinema for a long time. Acting was theatrical- loud and wordy; characters entered and went out from the focus field, as in a stage-play. Even the songs and dances, as Satyajit Ray said, are 'a legacy of the theatrical-operatic tradition'. Offbeat directors 'de-dramatised' cine-acting. In Nayak (1966), Ray devoted two sequences to underline the difference between cinematic and stage acting by their advocates. In an interview to Sharmila Tagore for a video news-magazine, shortly before his death, he spoke of precision in cinematic acting, as opposed to exaggeration in theatrical, how "slight excess before the camera could ruin a scene". Theatrical conventions persist in many regional cinemas, burdened with 'words, words, words'- a legacy from folk plays- and ceaseless drone on the soundtrack.

Major regional cinemas have, since 1970s, have developed an offbeat- genre as a kind of protest to generally uncinematic mainstream. As the French historian of Indian cinema (The Cinemas of India, 2000) says, "New Cinema is a direct reaction to the total absence of 'roots' - not to speak of an aesthetic vacuum- which characterised commercial Hindi cinema of the 1960s and '70s". However, most artistes and technicians work in both without any qualm, because they cannot survive on the offbeat genre alone, except Ray's team in his early films, who waited for his next film. Inevitably, mainstream films are many more in number and bring more money to producers. Because of this, some offbeat directors have defected to the mainstream; it is rarely the other way about. G.V. Iyer of Kannada cinema is perhaps a solitary exception.

Many offbeat filmmakers evince originality in theme and treatment but few are alike. There is no common creed or ethos except their urge to make their films reflect reality, unspoilt by inroads of extraneous entertaining values. Some films convey anger and angst, conspicuously Mrinal Sen' sand Govind Nihalani's, against the social, economic and political order; others fume at obscurantism, caste barriers, religious bigotry and oppression of women and other weaker people.

Satyajit Ray used the word 'offbeat' to describe his kind of cinema. In an article in 1965, he wrote: "I knew, what I was going to do was offbeat". In Italy and France, where this kind of cinema first emerged during the Second World War, it earned the rubrics- 'Neo-Realist', Auteur ('author') and Nouvalle Vague ('New Wave'). When the genre started in India with Ray's Pather Panchali in 1955, it began to be called 'art' or parallel cinema, used extensively from the 1970s when a kind of 'wave' of such films rose in Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam. However, 'offbeat' is a better rubric, because not all such films were artistic and the genre never ran parallel to the more popular mainstream, because offbeat films were and continue to be fewer.

A phenomenon of the 1940s, which contributed to the rise of the offbeat genre, was the retreat of the story from cinema, like that of poetry with the advance of civilization. Feature films with thin, or practically no, storylines but replete with entertaining ingredients like songs, dances and fights, became a new craze after the Second World War. Contractors, flush with funds, earned from War supplies and black marketing, invested in filmmaking for big profit. They popularised a form of mindless and debasing entertainment, having no desire or ability of the urban middle class, who were making films before, to protect or promote culture. B N Reddy was so distressed by this trend in Telugu cinema that he gave up filmmaking in the prime of his career. Bimal Roy in Mumbai, equally disgusted, tried to check this trend, unsuccessfully.

Offbeat cinema was, in a sense 'a return to the story'. Writing on the so-called Indian New Wave in 1971, Satyajit Ray wrote:

 

"Considering its lusty existence for well over two thousand years, it seems naive to believe that the last ten years or so have somehow seen the demise of the story .... The love of narrative, in no matter what disguised form, is too deeply ingrained in the human species.... By discarding the story altogether, one would be destroying the very basis of a film that a lot of people are expected to see and like. "

The story thinned in some offbeat films too but for a different reason. Some avant-garde European filmmakers were discarding it in the 1960s; this influenced a few of the first and second generation offbeat directors in India. Mrinal Sen came under the influence of two avant-garde filmmakers of France- Jean Luc Goddard and Francois Truffeaut- and emulating them, was "irresistibly drawn towards a non-narrative form and, in the process, trying to de-emphasize plot and incident" to lend to his films a 'contemporary idiom'. "I do not any longer want to see my film being controlled by a thoroughly calculated and thus fully developed story". However, box-office failures of many of these films made him return to the narrative in films.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan does not think that the story is disappearing from feature films; only its concept is changing. He told this author on 30 January 2001:

 

"There is no need for cinema to be an offshoot of literature; in fact, it should ideally free itself from literature and the stage. Means of expression in cinema and literature (also stage) are different. In a true work of cinema, the story could be secondary-just an excuse. The story could just be the seed of an idea that the filmmaker wants to convey."

 

CONTENTS

 

Preface to Second Edition iii
Preface to First Edition v
Dr. Rajendra Prasad
First President of India
1
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Second President of India
23
Dr. Zakir Hussain
Third President of India
51
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
Fourth President of India
72
Mohammed Hidayatullah
A Thirtyfive-Days Acting President
87
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
Fifth President of India
101
Basappa Danappa Jatti
Acting President
121
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Sixth President of India
126
Giani Zail Singh
Seventh President of India
148
Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Eight President of India
188
Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma
Ninth President of India
223
Dr. Kocheril Raman Narayanan
Tenth President of India
254
Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
Eleventh President of India (12th Term)
295
Selected Bibliography 346

 

 

 


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