Khwaja Ahmad Abbas distinguished himself by his ceaseless passion for revolutionary politics, which he expressed through his politic writing and films. He was a visionary who strongly believed that creative and artistic interventions are indispensable to nation-building.
Bread Beauty Revolution encapsulates Abbas’s work, his ideas and his ideals. Spanning the years 1914 to 1987, it is also an invaluable insight into the beginnings of modern India.
Iffat Fatima is an independent filmmaker from Kashmir, based in Delhi. Her films include
Lanka: the other side of war and peace, on the history of overlapping conflicts in Sri Lanka; The kesar Saga, on storytelling in Ladakh; In the Realm of the Visual, on one of India’s most prolific and versatile artists and designers, Dashrath Patel Boojh Sakey to Boojh,
On the contemporary understanding of the thirteenth-century Sufi poet and scholar Amir Khusro. Her video installation, Ethnography of a European City: Conversations in Salzburg, questions some of the assumptions in the east vs. West polarity/dichotomy/disparity. Her most recent film, Khoon Diy Baarav (Blood Leaves its Trail), explores issues of violence and memory in Kashmir.
Dr Syeda Saiyidain Hameed is a former Member of the Planning Commission of India. She is a feminist and a writer who is widely recognized for her passionate engagement in public affairs and social issues, especially for women, minorities and peace. She is the Founder Member of the Muslim Women’s Forum and a Founder Trustee of the Women’s initiative for Peace in South Asia. An author of books on Islam, Sufism, gender and development, and modern Indian history, Dr Hameed was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007.
When Really Got To Know Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, he had been dead twenty-seven years. That was when a small group, which included me, decided to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary: 1914-2014. I had known him during the first twenty-four years of my life, first in Mumbai then in Deli. Memories of a small-built human dynamo which came in and out of our flat in Churchgate area of Bombay, are overlaid with snapshot images of his flat in Shivaji Park, facing the sea. We children were sent out to “take the air” on the beach whenever our parents visited Abbas and his wife Mujji, who we all loved for her gentle and charming demeanour. We were often accompanied by Seema, daughter of Ismat Chughtai and Shaahid Latif who lived next door and were very close to Mujji and Abbas.
Those are my first memories of Abbas. More defined are my later memories of the opening day of his films in Delhi, when the entire extended family was invited to the premiere. I was very faithful to all Abbas’s and throughout the three hours in the darkened theatre silently prayed that they may become big hits. One such family expedition was to see pardesi, the Indo- Soviet film, made at a time when friendship between the two countries was at its peak. We all trooped to Golcha cinema in Daryaganj and sat in anxious apprehension throughout the show, listening for the audience’s reaction. At the end when, characteristically, instead of “The End,” the screen displayed “The Beginning” and the applauded, we all heaved a sigh of relief.
After the show, all twenty of us walked over to Moti Mahal restaurant where, as per standard practice, four tables were booked for Abbas’s family. That was 1957; those expeditions were the highlight of our lives, our juvenile foray into forbidden pleasures dispensed by Abbas.
My best memory of Abbas is 1971, which was probably the time I saw him at any length. He had just completed his film Do Boond Pani. My husband and I were spending few days in Bombay to make a film on Abbas. We summoned the use of his cameraman and other equipment. I cannot recall whether we paid for it; he certainly did not ask, although money was always in short supply Naya Sansar. The shooting took place in his fourth-floor office in the Juhu Tara building, which was located just behind his ground-floor flat in Philomena Lodge situated on Church Road in Juhu. Today it is a decrepit building painted bright blue, bang opposite Mumbai’s most posh J W Marriot Hotel. I ended up dressing like Simi-the heroine of Do Boond Pani-in the lehanga and jewellery of the Rabari tribe of Rajasthan, left behind from the just completed film. In that fancy costume, I set about interviewing Abbas from a list of prepared questions. We may have filmed him for two hours that morning. Later we took the reels to our home studio and spent hours editing these to make a 45-minute film. In the moves made by my family between two continents, and setting and unsettling life-movements, nothing of that film has survived.
But something germinated in those four to five days I spent with Abbas and those four hours in his office room. Forty-three years later it appeared as robust plant; this compendium is its physical form.
When some of us began to reconstruct Abbas’s life, we saw nothing but emptiness. The shelves which would have held his most prized and treasured books and trophies were empty. With the exception of half a dozen books gathered from personal collections, there was nothing left of the 74 books he had written over his life of 73 years. No one could direct us to a single reel of the films he produced under the banner of Naya Sansar. The record of his available films sent to the Centenary Celebrations Committee from the film and Television institute of India stated they were “smelly”, “in poor condition” and had “reels missing”. From a kabadi, one friend found his magnificent play about Mahatma Gandhi, Barrister at Law, written in 1977, and the English version of his original Urdu novel inquilab, first published in India in 1956. It was translated into German, Russian, Ukranian Azerbaijani, Czech, Kazakh and Hindi.
A couple of scholars who had studied Abbas had written about him in English. A few Urdu journals had done special issues on Abbas which contained articles by well-known Urdu scholars. Some of his Urdu writings had been anthologized by the Haryana Urdu Academy. Abbas-author of 74 books; writer, producer, director of 20 films (most of them internationally and nationally acclaimed); writer (story, screenplay, dialogues) of 23 films, some of them blockbusters; playwright; journalist-producer of the longest running column in the history of journalism-needed to be reconstructed from scratch. This is what we set to do.
I have found that these lines of the poet Majrooh Sultanpuri have always come to the rescue of fools who rush headlong into impossible situations:
|Introduction Syeda Saiyidain Hameed||11|
|Abraham and Son Selected Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|Abraham Had a Son||18|
|The Taste of Marriage: Mujji||22|
|With V.P. Sthe||28|
|With Krishan Chander||36|
|With Indian Literary Review||46|
|I Write As I Feel Selected Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|Credo of a Non-Writer||61|
|Ababeel': a short story||62|
|Perils of Progressive Literature||68|
|A Letter from Mulk Raj Anand||78|
|My First love Affair Selectd Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|My Long Love Affair||85|
|Two Men-and a Crowd!||89|
|Naya Sansar Selected Writings: K.A Abbas|
|This is Simla||94|
|Letter to a Child Born on August 15||97|
|Who Killed India?||100|
|Dharti ke Lal Selected Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|People's Movement is Born: PWA,IPTA||111|
|Children of Hunger||115|
|Communism and I||121|
|Bambai Raat Ki Baahon Mein Selected Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|Achchan ka Ashiq': a short story||126|
|The Scrambled Seven||137|
|In Abbas's 'Ghar': Ahmer nadeem Anwer||146|
|Pardesi: Laila B. Sharma||152|
|Jaagte Raho Selected Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|A Tale of Four Cities||156|
|The Black Sun': a short story||160|
|Ek Aadmi Selected Writings: K.A. Abbas|
|Letter to the Mahatma||184|
|Film Critic Extraordinary||186|
|Gunga Din': Another Scandalously Anti-Indian Picture!||188|
|Takhleeq ka Safar': Zahida Zaidi||194|
|Abbas: Chronicler of Man's Quest for Liberation: Anwer Azeem||197|
|Bread, Beauty and Revolution K.A. Abbas||202|
|Short Stories and Plays||206|
Item Code: NAL569 Author: Iffat Fatima and Syeda Saiyidain Hameed Cover: Paperback Edition: 2015 Publisher: Tulika Books ISBN: 9789382381426 Language: English Size: 10.0 inch x 8.0 inch Pages: 164 (Throughout B/W and Color Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 850 gms