Veteran Film Actor Pran conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2012


 


Shri Pran Krishan Sikand, popularly known as Pran, the veteran film actor, has been conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2012. He is the 44th Dada Saheb Phalke Award Winner. The award is conferred by the Government of India for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian Cinema. The award consists of a Swarn Kamal, a cash prize of Rs.10 lakhs and a shawl. The award is given on the basis of recommendations of a Committee of eminent persons.
Shri Pran has given sterling performances in many films along with Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor in 1950s and 60s. Pran’s performanceshave received acclaim in films like Azaad, Madhumati, Devdas, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Ram Aur Shyam and Aadmi, Ziddi, Munimji, Amar Deep, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Aah, Chori Chori, Jagte Raho, Chhalia, Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai. The list is long.
Born in the year 1920 in Delhi, Shri Pran started his career way back in 1940. He first ventured into photography but a chance meeting with a film producer got him his first role in a film called Yamla Jat. Shri Pran acted in several films, his base being Lahore in undivided India. His career experienced a brief pause due to partition in 1947. Subsequently he moved to Bombay. With the help of the famous writer Saadat Hasan Manto and actor Shyam, Pran got a break in the Bombay Talkies film Ziddi which had Dev Anand in the lead role. The film Ziddi brought him to limelight in the Bombay film industry and then there was no turning back.
His impressive performances have bestowed an entirely unique new dimension to the negative and character roles in Hindi cinema. His contribution to mainstream Hindi cinema is well recognized, assuring him the place of one of the most illustrious and celebrated actors of Indian film industry. His career spanned several decades. He has acted in over 400 films and in each one of them, he brought new mannerism and style, holding the audience spell bound by his acting.
Shri Pran is a recipient of a number of film awards including the Filmfare Award. He was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan.

 

Fearless Nadia Hunterwali, once more #Sundayreading #cinema


India may have forgotten Mary Ann Evans, but the world is heaping praises on her. As Australia, her birth country, pays a tribute to India’s original stunt queen, Saadia S Dhailey ruminates on the life and times of Fearless Nadia

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

FEARLESS Nadia, aka Mary Ann Evans, burst onto the screen in the 1930s, juggling whips, swords, guns, and sometimes even landing mean punches with her bare hands, to set the villains straight. In this blonde, blueeyed ballet dancer, filmmaker JBH Wadia found his feminist icon, who could carry a social and political message at a time when Indian actresses played dainty damsels in distress, waiting to be rescued by their knights in shining armour.
From her first film, Hunterwali (The Princess and the Hunter) in 1935, Evans was a huge hit and went on to redefine the image of a woman on screen. She changed her name to Nadia after being advised by a fortuneteller and her nom de plume ‘Fearless Nadia’ was acquired from her days as a circus acrobat. To the pre-Independence era audience, Fearless Nadia was the first of her kind.
She would single-handedly fight a gang of men, jump from one moving vehicle to another, hang from chandeliers, and spout dialogues like no woman ever had till then, anywhere in the world. Author and documentary filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir watched Diamond Queen sometime in the late 1970s, and she will always remember Nadia’s famous dialogue that still rings true: “If India is to be free, women must be given their freedom. If you try and stop them, you’ll face the consequences”. Says Kabir, “In the early days of Indian cinema, our stunt films copied the Hollywood films of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. But it was Nadia who made this borrowed genre uniquely Indian by her very presence and unique stunts. Fearless Nadia represented a significant model. She played an original character at a time when the role of women in society was largely conservative and repressive. The
audience knew that she was not Indian, and perhaps the fact that a Westerner was fighting on our side was doubly appealing to them.”
A blonde, blue-eyed girl with Indian character names — Mala (Jungle Ka Jawahar), Savita (Miss Frontier Mail), Madhurika (Diamond Queen) — championing the common man’s causes and fighting for women’s rights was unheard of and unseen before.
Nadia went on to star in about 50 films, (some sources say 60), but as she mainly performed in the stunt genre, unfortunately, she was seen as less of a thespian, largely ignored by Indian cinema historians. That, however, changed in 1993, three years before her death, when Wadia’s grandson, the late Riyad Vinci Wadia, introduced her to the world through a documentary on her life called Fearless: The Hunterwali Story. Screened at various international film festivals, it brought her to the attention of the world, including Australia, where she was born as Mary Ann Evans. Riyad’s brother Roy Wadia, director, Wadia Movietone, tells us, “The documentary generated a lot of interest. When Australians realised the connection Mary had with them, she became very special.”
The ongoing Oz Fest in India has a segment dedicated to her. Australian composer Ben Walsh, who has been providing the music score in an unique live-orchestra format, as one of Nadia’s most famous films Diamond Queen is screened all over India, says, “Why India? I don’t think she still has parallels in the rest of the world.”
Australian journalist Michelle Smith after watching Nadia’s work recently, described her unique style as “a 1930s-esque innocence, juxtaposed with incredible stunts and spiels about women’s rights”. As a gift to India, the Australian High Commission has also undertaken the task to restore the print of this film. “It’s the most mature Nadia film of its kind and really elevated the stunt genre to story-telling,” Roy tells us. Filmmaker Shyam Benegal credits Nadia for giving Indian cinema its first angry young ‘man’. He explains, “She stood for the good and the right in society, which is what Amitabh Bachchan did as an actor in the late 1970s, and became a champion of the common man. Without Fearless Nadia, there would be no Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man.”
Roy, who had the good fortune of knowing her (Mary was married to JBH Wadia’s brother Homi Wadia), says fondly, “She was the only grownup in my family who cracked adult jokes. One among the boys, she loved whisky and had no airs. Mary aunty didn’t buy into her legends and myths!”
Veteran film journalist Rauf Ahmed says, “In those days, Fearless Nadia did stunts that even men didn’t attempt.” Nadia’s grandnephew, Bollywood choreographer, Shiamak Davar, reveals how Nadia’s onscreen persona even charmed Angelina Jolie, who told Shah Rukh Khan once, she would love to play Fearless Nadia if her life is ever captured on celluloid.
With a renewed interest in the life, times and art of Nadia, a film on her, played by one of the most recognizable faces in the world, may not seem like a pipe dream anymore. But Davar still rues the lack of interest in her by the Indian film fraternity. “They pay tributes to everybody, but they have forgotten Mary mai.”

“SHE STOOD FOR THE GOOD AND THE RIGHT IN SOCIETY, WHICH IS WHAT AMITABH BACHCHAN DID AS AN ACTOR IN THE LATE 1970S. WITHOUT FEARLESS NADIA, THERE WOULD BE NO AMITABH BACHCHAN’S ANGRY YOUNG MAN”
— SHYAM BENEGAL, DIRECTOR
WHO WAS FEARLESS NADIA?
Mary Ann Evans, aka Fearless Nadia, was born in Perth, Australia, and came to Bombay in 1913, when she was five. She lived in Colaba with her father Herbert Evans, a Scotsman in the British army, and mother Margaret. After her father’s death in World War I, Evan’s mother took her to Peshawar. There, Mary learned how to hunt, fish, shoot. In 1928, she returned to Bombay with her mother and a son, Robert Jones, about whom not much is known. Nadia decided to learn ballet and recognizing her star quality, her dance teacher invited her to join her troupe that would travel all over India. And not much later, Indian cinema got its first feminist icon. After her glorious stint in films, in 1959, Nadia married Homi Wadia after a long-standing relationship. She then took a sabbatical to enjoy her domestic life and took to breeding race horses.
There’s a lot of interest worldwide about Fearless Nadia. Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has shown interest in playing Nadia’s role if a film on her is ever to be made

Is everyone Indian (or Pakistani, for that matter)?- Imaginary Homelands- #mustread


 

Is everyone Indian (or Pakistani, for that matter)? Garga Chatterjee on the idea of equal citizenship in South Asia and the real codes that lie behind our patriotic parades, in Fridaytimes

Imaginary Homelands

Women construct a fence on the India-Pakistan border in Suchetgarh

August is the month of state-funded high patriotism in the subcontinent. In my childhood, “patriotic” films would be shown on the state television channel. This “patriotic” genre has continued and still produces many films. Recently, Bedobroto Pain has made a film on the valiant rebellion in Chittagong that was led in 1930 by ‘Masterda’ Shurjo Sen. The film is simply called ‘Chittagong’. A few years ago, there was another film on the same topic called ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey‘. The language in both films is Hindustani, excepting the utterances of some Firangi characters. And this set me thinking, even though August is not be the best month to think about such things…

Even as faceless groups, some “types” of citizens have nothing to prove about their ‘Indian-ness’ and are beyond suspicion

Chittagong now falls under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Bangladesh and before that was under the jurisdiction of the government of pre-71 Pakistan. The Indian Union has never had jurisdiction over an inch of the soil on which large parts of the 1930 story is set. But, for a certain kind of audience that Bollywood caters to, this location and its people can be mangled partially to make it palatable and understandable to a Hindustani audience. The audience can also conceive, with some stretch of its imagination, of some place called ‘Chittagong’ where people speak Hindustani as they fight the British. Of course, Shurjo Sen and his compatriots largely spoke Bengali and Chittagonian, but that is immaterial. What is important is that Shurjo Sen and Chittagong can now be packaged, with some cinematographic flourishes, for a Hindustani audience.

Bollywood apparently has its finger on the pulse of the Indian nation

Not all things, however, are easily packaged. For example, to make a similar film in Hindustani about the life of Chawngbawia, a legendary hero of the Mizo people, or a romantic drama set in a Naga village with Naga characters, will be dismissed as absurd. From a linguistic point of view, Shurjo Sen talking to his comrades in Bollywood Hindustani is also absurd – but it can pass off, give or take a little awkwardness. The Naga or the Mizo does not. So there is a geography that the Hindustani audience and Bollywood has in mind, of what is theirs, what is partly like theirs and what is very unlike theirs. Of course it does not say that aloud – but the Hindustani audience’s conceptions need to be taken seriously. Bollywood apparently has its finger on the pulse of the Indian nation. In a significant sense, its target audience constitutes the nation. And Bollywood certainly doesn’t target everyone living under the jurisdiction of the Indian Union.

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Sunny Deol in Indian film Border
Sunny Deol in Indian film Border
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An enduring myth the nation-state serves the people within its borders is that of equal citizenship. The Union of India does it with some pomp and pride. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan does it after ceding some space to a particular creed. It is this idea of equal citizenship, of the poor and rich, of the tall and the short, of the one-legged and the one-eyed, of the prince and the pimp, that the nation-states is peddling when it claims that ‘We are all Indians’ or ‘We are all Pakistanis’. Equal citizenship is the foundational myth on which the castle of uniform nationality rests. And every copy of the constitution will tell you about equal citizenship. This formally flat legal terrain, like a blanket that covers all beings uniformly, with the edges forming the frontiers, is crucial. Those under the blanket need to be calm and believe in this uniformity.

Peoples pre-date nation-states and will outdate them too

Since we cannot snatch away the blanket, we have to resort to thought experiments to ascertain what phrases like ‘citizen of Indian Union’ or ‘citizen of Pakistan’ hide. I invite my readers to play a game. Let us start with the ‘citizen of India’. Rather than asking ‘Who is Indian’, we shall ask, ‘How likely is a citizen of the Indian Union to be anti-India or secessionist?’. Let me now throw out some candidates – a Mizo from Aizawl, a Hindu Rajput from Jaipur, someone from Himachal Pradesh, a Meitei from Imphal, a Bihari Brahmin from Patna, a Vanniyar Tamil from Chennai, a Hindu baniya from Baroda, a Brahmin from Kanauj, Uttar Pradesh. These should suffice. They are compounds of caste, creed and ethnicity. They refer to huge groups of people, not to any particular individual. Now rearrange this list from most likely to least likely to be anti-India or secessionist. I do not need your answer. But think about it. Ask the question ‘How likely is a citizen of the Indian Union to be anti-India or secessionist?’ to each of these descriptors. The scale generated by your answers, from the absurd to the probable, measures how much we still contest the idea of equal citizenship, even after 65 years of constant preaching. This really is an exercise in inversing the idea of citizenship to lay bare what lies beneath the velvet blanket of the nation-state. But more importantly, that this exercise can be done at all, tells us that some kinds of citizens of the Indian Union are deemed more or less ‘Indian’ than others, even as faceless groups. Even as faceless groups, some “types” of citizens have nothing to prove about their ‘Indian-ness’ and are beyond suspicion just by the accident of their birth. Others have to ‘prove’ it and are not above suspicion irrespective of life trajectories. This is what such a group ranking tells us. There are tacit grades of citizenship, tacit grades of loyalty, tacit grades of ‘Indian-ness’; the constitution reflects none of this.

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A Baloch rebel stands guard on a hill
A Baloch rebel stands guard on a hill
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The core nation does not have caricatures – it is the default

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan can also be involved in a game of being ‘Pakistani’ by asking ‘How likely is a citizen of Pakistan to be anti-Pakistan or secessionist?’ Here are my candidates: a Baloch from Dera Bugti, a Sindhi from Ratodero, a Seraiki from Dera Ghazi Khan, a Muslim Jat from Lahore, a 3rd generation Dakkani mohajir from Karachi, a Hindu from Tharparkar. Again, the specific order does not matter, but the broad agreement in the order gives away who constitutes the deep state, the core state, the first people, the troublesome people and the unwanted people.

Standing under the mehr-e-nimroz are the chosen people. The others jostle for space – in the umbra, penumbra and the antumbra – in the Indian Union, in Pakistan, in every unitary nation-state that cannot come to terms with the fact that peoples pre-date nation-states and will outdate them too. To keep up the pretense of uniform citizenship, nations use diverse mascots – as prime ministers, chief justices and what not. The question really is not who they are but are they legitimate representatives of diverse peoples? The mascots are hardly so and that gives away the game – and though they are held aloft during the game, they are not really players. If one listens to the real players on the field, the code in which they talk to each other, codes that are not to be found in the formal rulebook, then the unitary nature of the ‘team’ cracks. In spite of their irrelevance, the mascots are well-chosen. In an interview aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1996, journalist Andrew Marr asked Noam Chomsky during an exchange on Chomsky’s views on media distortion of truth, how could Chomsky know for sure that he, a journalist, was self-censoring. Chomsky replied, “I don’t say you’re self-censoring – I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying; but what I’m saying is, if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” And that is true for our “national” mascots in South Asia – they may come in different colours, shapes, sizes, tongues and faiths, but unless they shared and deferred to the implicit pecking order of the deep-state, they would not be sitting where they are sitting. Caged birds are no less colourful. For they can be Bengali, or Tamil, but when in the Highest office, they have to wear that unmistakable achkan.

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Surrounded by the ardali whose get-up is alien to Tamil Nadu and Bengal, it gives a hint of that code of propriety in the sanctum sanctorum, a code that is unmistakably Ganga-Jamni. But the Jamuna covers only a small part of the Union of India. And for Pakistan, the presidential high-couture has to be imported. The Republic of Hindi and the Republic of Urdu together rule the subcontinent. The late George Gilbert Swell in a sterling speech in the parliament of the Indian Union talked about his people, who were not part of any Hindu-Muslim bind but for whom beef was a food as good as any other. He talked about the cow-belt and the non-cow belt. He was saying this in a House that is run by a constitution that encourages the state to take necessary steps to single out cows for protection. Whose principles are these? Clearly not Swell’s or his people’s. All the eloquence about ‘unity in diversity’ notwithstanding, some of the diverse are necessarily silenced, and the list of the silenced is predictable. It is predictable due to the public knowledge of the ‘archetypal’ Indian, the same knowledge that helps one play the rank order game I introduced. This is why somebody’s local ideology has to be repackaged under the garb of some supposedly universal principle, so that the tacit definition of the archetype remains tacit. This tacit ‘Indian’ is at the heart of the nation-building project, the archetype to which all types must dissolve. One must never spell out the archetype – that is too discourteous and direct. The ‘traitor’ or the ‘potentially treacherous’ is also the ‘exotic’ and easily ‘the feminine sexual’ in the imagination of the core nation. For the core nation, except itself, everyone else has a box – Tamils wear dhotis, Malayalis wear lungis, Bengalis eat fish. The core nation does not have caricatures – it is the default. It is what male athletes wear on their head in the Olympic march-past.

The scale of absurdity that I floated earlier also leads us to foundational myths around which nation-states are formed. They go Bin Qasim-Khilji-Mughal-darkness-Muslim League-14th August or Vedas-Ashoka-Akbar-darkness-Congress-15th August. The gulf between arbitrariness and ‘historical inevitability’ is filled with sarkari textbooks and besarkari subtexts. Why is such concoction necessary? For whom? Who does it serve? The archives have keys for open doors, not for trapdoors. The peoples of the subcontinent have to find their own destinies, by freeing themselves of ‘national’ myths. They need to think about the unsettling possibilities of truth if it had a megaphone as loud and powerful as power.

Somewhere in this scale of Indian-ness or Pakistani-ness, is the sarkari potential of making tighter nations, and the bleak hope that some foster of unmaking them as they are. Intimately connected to this conception of the ‘Indian’ (or not) is the ‘idea of India’. Depending on who you are in the scale of imaginary troublesomeness, it can be a bloody idea or a bloody good idea.

 

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