Anurag Kashyap joins hands with HIP HOP #Rapist Yo Yo #HoneySingh #Wtfnews #bollywood


Anurag Kashyap joins hands with singer Yo Yo Honey Singh for his album Satan!

Yogen Shah
 The Gangs of Wasseypur Director was so fascinated by the popular singer’s rebellious persona that he actually went on to produce a film for him

We could not believe our eyes when we saw filmmaker Anurag Kashyap sharing stage with popular singer Yo Yo Honey Singh at the launch party of the latter’s recently released album SatanKashyap is known for making intense films and hardly does he attend music concerts and shows which happen in the city quite regularly. So we were taken by surprise when we saw the Dev D director chatting away with Singh. But then, we quickly realised that Anurag actually produced the album (Satan) and he even went on to make a film with Yo Yo Honey Singh to promote the album.

The film is directed by David Zennie who had earlier directed the singer’s popular music videoInternational Villager. And now Kashyap has produced the recent video that got nearly 300,000 hits in just one day.

We all know Kashyap’s penchant for dark cinema. Right from Black Friday to Dev D and from Gulal toGangs Of Wasseypur, the intelligent filmmaker has explored the dark side of human psyche and life in general. No wonder then that he took a special interest in producing Honey Singh’s recent album which too has dark shades in it.

Looks like Kashyap and Singh have a lot of dark matter to share and the duo want to stimulate some grey cells with their ‘demonic’ creations!

Honey Singh’s brazenly pornographic and abusive anti-women songs glorifying rape and violence against women 


Raat ko nikali naari 

hui gadi pe savaari 

par voh raat usko pad gayi bhari. 

Peeche se aaya main 

utari uski saari 

kachchi phadi 

lungi gaadi 

aur g***d maari. 

Kyunki main………. 

Kyunki main………. 

Kyunki main hoon ek balatkari 

Kyunki main………. 

Kyunki main………. 

Kyunki main hoon balatkari


An Open Letter to Anurag Kashyap and his 12.12.12 project. #kractivism




( Within 3 hours after putting this post- picture abhi baak hai dost :-P)

“Shilpa has been refunded the expenses she incurred on making the film and Showhouse’s Large Short Films has promised to give her copyright over her work soon subsequent to the circulation of the open letter. She is waiting for it in writing. She stands by the issues she raised and thanks everyone for the immense kind support” Thanks Kamayani this would not have been possible without you. You are really awesome!

I am a Mysore based woman filmmaker who was chosen by you to be part of the Mega Movies project 12.12.12 executed by Showhouse Entertainment’s Large Short Films Wing. I am writing this open letter because I think public discourse is important given that over the years you have come to occupy such an important space within what you call ‘independent cinema’.

Also no one from the company that you endorse, as well as you, thinks it is important to have a dialogue with me about unpaid wages, disrespect and unfair dismissal which has caused me tremendous amount of financial, emotional stress. There is also a much touted save indie cinema doing the rounds and what it fails to add to the discourse (not surprising going by the kind of signatories it claims) is what I want to talk about. Changing the look of how you produce cinema and being backed by big studio capital isn’t really independent. I think it is important to bring this into the public domain as the silences around working practices result in the perpetuation of exploitative systems and weed out filmmakers based on their class, caste, gender, religion and language.

It was absolutely no surprise when I saw that the list of 12 directors included no woman. So apparently out of 600 entries only I, the sole woman, made it to the shortlist and because I decided to speak up and not be quiet about how my film was going to tortured and beaten into becoming the kind of objects that you seem to grant your blessings to, 12.12.12 is now officially an all male production.

I bring your notice to this because the tone of the company with regard to objections I raised has been patronising, condescending and dismissive. Well meaning friends and critics will tell me that’s how it works, that’s the industry,
the industry that works on free labour, meant for those who have the money to afford the time to chase dreams. It’s not meant for women like me who have no big daddies or brothers or husbands supporting them. It isn’t meant for women
like me who choose to work in a language other than Hindi and it definitely isn’t meant for women like me who don’t know how to waddle along consenting to practices that make people like you and the companies you endorse just richer
on the back of such exploitative practices.

You sent me an email stipulating that I would not be in touch with any of the other 11 directors (an effective way I must say to curb dissent and this goes by the name of being collaborative!) The contract also stipulated that I would be paid once I handed over the film contrary to what the rules on the contest page initially stated wherein I was supposed to have been given the money before Ivmade the film. This I was informed after having worked a full month on the project. I did sign it and I take full responsibility for that sign because you were the carrot dangled to me, the one ruling the roost in the film festival circuit and of course the Indian public funding circuit, what seemed like the only way to make one’s film. And since you must have been paid handsomely to be the carrot, I only ask that you own up to the full responsibility of it and be accountable to the carrot desirers you create.

After insisting that I get paid at least half I went ahead, after funds were released, and borrowed money to complete it. I hand over the film and fulfil my contractual obligations and then am bullied into changing and reshooting it for a mistake made by Asmit Pathare (Project director not the 12th discovery – check the shortlist!) and Abhijit Das (the godfather of short films in the making). So I naturally said no. You must understand how difficult it is for a director to hurt their stories? It’s kind of like being okay with Abhijit Das (Creative head of Largeshortfilms) adding on a scene where Manoj Bajpai spouts Feminist Marxist dialogues in Gangs of Wasseypur and without telling you! Wouldn’t really fit with the ethos of the film no? Your company even told me that since I do not have the resources I cannot be involved in the reshoot. At such a juncture I asked you not to use my film if I was not being reimbursed and no, you go ahead and use it. The matchbox still from my film is still up on the company’s website.

In a country with absolutely zilch funding for independent films you exploit the hopes of thousands of aspirants. You reiterate a certain way of working which accommodates only a certain type of filmmaker. This in my world is called cheating, it’s called immoral and it’s called unfair. In your world all this is grey, this hijacking that you do of a space that has seen so much struggle and such amazing cinema, this hijacking of language – calling it collaborative when it’s more dictatorial, this hijacking of image, of new film waves, of new ways of working. One of the most exciting things about globalised capitalism’s current avatar (as Hardt and Negri will tell you) is that even though it creates systems like you it also provides for ruptures like me.

Before you come back with a reply to this I ask you to re‐look at emails that you sent me and words you relayed to me through the company about my filmmaking. Everything that I have said is backed by evidence (I know too well
how important that is) I know this open dissent will cost me. I’m not naïve not to understand as to how you rule visibilities around distribution and production but I will walk away knowing that I have spoken and that this is just the beginning not the end of the road for me. For those of you reading this I understand that within the larger framework of what we call injustice in this country this is nothing but when we start to look at continuums everything does matter and support for this would really help not just me but for all those who are engaged in changing the way images speak.

From the 12th director who so mysteriously disappeared
Shilpa Munikempanna

contact- 9611843981

An Artist’s Demons- #Sundayreading

By AKSHAY MANWANI | 1 November 2012, The Caravan
Piyush Mishra in the title role of Hamlet. Directed by Fritz Bennewitz, the play marked Mishra’s acting debut at NSD in 1985.

ACTOR, MUSIC DIRECTOR, lyricist, singer and scriptwriter Piyush Mishra finds it difficult to explain his famously limitless talent. Depending on how he is disposed on a given day, the answer can range from a dismissive “Main ghanta struggle nahin karta (I don’t struggle at all)” to a spiritual “Pata nahin, shaayad koi karwa raha hai (I don’t know, perhaps there is a higher power at work)”. But the longer you persist, the more aware you become of anger as a driving force behind his art. “Jo bhi create hua, usi gussey ke wajah se hua aur jo kuch destroy hua, woh bhi usi gussey ke wajah se hua, (Whatever was created, it was due to that anger, and the same anger was responsible for all that was destroyed),” he said in the midst of one of our many conversations.

Our first conversation—agreed to after some persuasion on my part because Piyush feels there isn’t anything more to add to what has already been said or written about him— was at his house in Mumbai’s Goregaon East on a Saturday evening in August.

His three-bedroom apartment is located in a typical middle-class Mumbai housing society, bereft of any grandeur, the kind of place where most residents are supposed to have bought homes with a lifetime’s earnings. Overlooking the verdant Aarey Milk Colony on one side and close to the sprawling Oberoi International School on the other, the apartment complex stands for the constant conflict between Mumbai’s shrinking greenery and the rapidly expanding concrete landscape of the recent decades.

We were seated in his study, with his writing desk at the far corner of the room and a bookshelf, with a glass façade, in the corner facing the entrance. Between those pieces of wooden furniture was a single bed, indicative that the room was occasionally used for hosting guests as well. Piyush lay on the floor in front of the bed on his side, with his right arm cradling his head. Portraits of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Marlon Brando lined the wall behind him. At first, he was particular about wearing a newsboy cap for our photo shoot and interview. A few minutes into the conversation, though, he tossed the cap aside and spoke candidly, his distinctively coarse and raspy voice betraying years of smoking. His comments are frequently interspersed with the choicest expletives in Hindi, invoking relatives long gone. It is part of his charm, his no-holds-barred style.

PIYUSH MISHRA IS WELL KNOWN TODAY for the seemingly effortless fusion of range and depth in his art, from the stinging music he composed for Gulaal, to his portrayal of the sombre, self-persecuting Nasir in the two-part Gangs Of Wasseypur, and his rendering of the haunting song ‘Husna’, also composed by him, for MTV’s Coke Studio Season 2. He is happy that his talent is finally acknowledged, even if it is late in his career. Coming from what he calls an “unremarkable childhood”, he still remembers a time he doubted he would get very far.

Piyush Mishra was born in 1962 in Gwalior as Priyakant Sharma. He grew up as the adopted child of his bua Taradevi Mishra, his father’s eldest sibling and a fierce woman with no children, who had brought Priyakant’s father, a young Pratap Kumar Sharma, along with her to her marital house to help reduce their family’s financial burden.

After her husband’s death, Taradevi Mishra established her absolute, authoritarian rule on the household. “She was against everything. Everyone was afraid of her and nobody really knew what would upset her,” said Piyush. “She would just have to utter a word and everyone would cower in fear.”

According to him, it was a “very boring house”. His parents admitted him to a “wrong school” called Carmel Convent with the notion that, “A child is like raw material. If you put him in a convent, he will come out ready for IPS, IAS or Medical.” Priyakant, though, had no interest in academics. It was the extracurricular activities at school that appealed to him, such as singing, acting and painting. “It [art] had been bestowed on me in a strange way,” he said. “I was compelled towards it and whatever I did, I found success in it.” He remembers making an oil painting to help his friend, who had boasted to a girl he liked that his friend was a very good painter. “I had never done it before, but I did a landscape and it came out really well,” Piyush said. He remembers taking to the harmonium and the mouth organ, and even sculpting in those years. The anger he felt at Taradevi’s oppressive behavior shaped his earliest approach towards art—his first sculpture, made as an eighth standard student, was a large fist emerging from a stone.

However, because Priyakant fared miserably at academics, his family members thought of him as a complete failure. “My father could see my artistic talent,” said Piyush, “but he didn’t want me to take it up as a career option.” Ajit Lhane, Piyush’s friend from his college years, explained that this was the usual mentality of the middle-class in a small town like Gwalior, “In every house the thinking was that if the child did not turn out to be an engineer or a doctor, then the child was useless.”

“I was terribly confused, like a torpedo without a target,” said Piyush of his childhood. “I would leave things without seeing them through to completion.” Gradually Priyakant also began to question his parents’ unwillingness to stand up to Taradevi. Piyush recalled the matriarch yelling abuses at his mother if there was even the slightest hiccup while preparing food for the house. “Why did they tolerate her?” he asked tersely as he recounted the time. His frustration with their subservience is clear in the very first poem he wrote, again in the eighth standard:

Zinda ho haan tum koi shak nahin, saans lete hue dekha maine bhi hain

Haath aur pairon aur jism ko harqatey khoob dete huey dekha maine bhi hain

Ab bhale hi yeh kartey huey honth tum dard sehtey huey sakht see lete ho

Ab hain bhi kya kum tumhaarey liye, khoob apni samajh mein toh jee lete ho

Yes you are alive; of this there is no doubt. I, too, have seen you breathe

I, too, have seen you move your hands and legs and body perfectly

Although while doing this, you sew your lips shut and suffer the pain

It is no minor achievement for you, after all, to feel so very alive in your own perception

Piyush remarked that when he was slightly older, “I had no regard for my parents. I didn’t speak to them for the longest time.” The resentment was particularly directed towards his father. “I would address my father as ‘sir’, a habit I continued with until about a few years before his death. I felt that he should have said something [to Taradevi] when he could see his son had an artistic streak in him.” After suffering his aunt’s whims for a few years, Priyakant began rebelling openly. “I started going against her and my father as well.”

To start with, he changed his name. “Main tenth mein gaya, maine kaha, behnchodh, bahut ho gaya yeh saala Priyakant, Priyakant. Kya hai yeh saala Priyakant Sharma, chutiya naam hai. (When I entered class 10, I realised I was fed up of being called Priyakant Sharma. It was a stupidname.) People even started calling me Priya, Priya.” Sometime after class 10, Priyakant Sharma filed an affidavit in the district court to change his name to Piyush Mishra. “When my marks sheet came home with my new name, my parents asked me whose marks sheet is this? I showed them the affidavit, ki yeh lo behnchod, aaj ke baad, I will be known as Piyush Mishra.”

“In a sense, Priyakant Sharma was like the life I had put behind me,” said Piyush.

AROUND THIS TIME, Piyush began to be drawn to theatre—it was at places like Kala Mandir and Rangshri Little Ballet Troupe in Gwalior that his talent for the medium was first identified. While Kala Mandir was a small cultural institute located on Nayee Sadak, meant specifically for theatre, the latter was an offshoot of Mumbai’s prestigious Little Ballet Troupe, and had a space on the outskirts of Gwalior. It was founded by eminent dance personality Shanti Bardhan, and patronised by the royal family of Gwalior.

Piyush’s first significant role in theatre was of Hakloo, a character who stammered, in a Kala Mandir production based on the uprising of 1857 called Dilli Teri Baat Niraali, which was directed by the then National School of Drama director, BM Shah, a regular figure on the Gwalior theatre circuit. Shah, who had earlier cast Piyush in the Sanskrit play Bhagavadajjukam while he was at Gwalior’s JC Mills school, where he had moved for high school after Carmel Convent, had been impressed enough to seek him out. “It was a small role, but it made a huge impact. It was BM Shah’s favourite character,” said Piyush, the pride discernible in his voice. From Kala Mandir, Piyush went on to Rangshri Little Ballet Troupe, where he was cast as the lead in Arre! Shareef Log!, a social satire written by the late Marathi playwright Jaywant Dalvi and directed by local Gwalior theatre personality DK Jain. “It was a huge hit,” recalled Piyush.

He was getting hooked to theatre. In his own words, “I could dictate terms to the audience. If I told them to cry, they would cry. If I told them laugh, they would laugh.” Theatre was also a medium through which Piyush could calm the restlessness that was constantly simmering within him. “Perhaps, it was because of the fame. I came from an ordinary family where nobody really bothered about us. Theatre gave me a sense of importance, something which painting etcetera did not give me. When I performed, the whole world was tuned in, with me as their sole point of focus.” There was also, he admitted, a false sense of intellectuality associated with being recognised as a theatre artist, an aspect he enjoyed in those years. “It was shallow, but I found myself indulging in it readily. I would tell people how much I had to immerse myself in the character. Ek inch, do inch ya paanch inchYeh sab baatein main uss waqt karta thaa. (One inch, two inches or five inches—that is what I talked about in those days). But I enjoyed it. It gave me the opportunity to feel like an intellectual,” he said.

Despite the sustained appreciation in the small theatre circle of his hometown, he recalled being forced by his family members to stop doing theatre. “I was asked to concentrate on my studies, with the message that theatre was not for me.” It was a message Ajit Lhane recalls resonating throughout Gwalior because, “People thought Piyush had strayed. Gwalior was a small town where people were totally alien to the idea that a career could be made out of theatre.” By this point, in 1981-82, Piyush had enrolled himself in the Government Science College for his graduation, but he had no intention of sticking around. Unable to bear the pressure, he even slashed his wrists with a blade before his second year examinations, not with the intention of committing suicide, as he insists, but as a way of registering his protest. “I just wanted to tell my family members that I WILL NOT STUDY. I didn’t know what I would do, but I just didn’t want to study,” said Piyush as he showed me the fading scars on both his arms.

Finally, he decided to leave Gwalior. He took the entrance test to the National School of Drama, Delhi in 1983, but not with any particular desire to study there. “I wanted to get out of Gwalior. By then, I was tired of my loneliness as well,” he said.

He landed at NSD at a turbulent time, with a students’ strike shaking the institution to its core. “There was a lot of vandalism which took place because of the strike. It cost BM Shah his position as director of the institute. I hadn’t come to NSD for this,” he said. Piyush also found the big city culture intimidating. “Ladki kandhey pe haath rakh de toh pareshaani hoti hain (If a girl placed her hand on my shoulder, I would feel awkward),” he said, recounting the kind of pressures he faced in his first year in Delhi.

But towards the end of the first year, when the strike at NSD had ended, things gradually fell into place. It started with Piyush composing music for a Parsi play called Mashreeki Hoor. “It happened by accident. The music teacher, Mr Mohan Upreti, was unavailable. The students were getting impatient, so I took on the job.” It was the first time Piyush had composed music; his only previous experience had been fiddling with a harmonium left behind at home by his aunt from Bhilwara. “Bajaaya maine usko, bajaaya toh woh baj gaya behnchodh! (When I tried, I realised I could play it and how!)” he said, vehemently dismissing questions about formal training. Piyush continued to use that harmonium until very recently, when he had to replace it with a newer one. “The harmonium was of German make from the 1930s. I often say that Hitler must have touched it, because the only music that has emanated from it has been rather explosive in nature,” he said.

Although Piyush mentions Mashreeki Hoor in passing, his knack for music didn’t go unnoticed at the school. Anuradha Kapur, current director of NSD, who taught Major Movements of World Drama at that time, recalled, “He would work a lot on student projects which involved music, [such as] projects in the Parsi theatre which involved students to sing individually or in chorus. He was very good at that. His ability with music and lyrics was quite apparent.”

His acting breakthrough at NSD had to wait until the start of his second year, when he played the title role in Hamlet, directed by Fritz Bennewitz, a German-born theatre personality known for his productions of Bertolt Brecht and Shakespeare. Bennewitz had been associated with the NSD since the 1970s and his involvement with Indian theatre, across the country, continued into the late 1980s. Bennewitz cast Piyush in the title role based on the inputs of teachers and his own observations during reading sessions of Hamlet.

To Bennewitz, then, goes part of the credit of turning Piyush’s fortunes; Piyush called him the “cork opener”, the one who introduced him to technique. “Initially, I didn’t understand anything. I didn’t know that acting could be done with technique as well.” But Bennewitz pushed Piyush to deliver, often by being condescending to him. “He would tell me I didn’t deserve to be an actor, that I should go back to Gwalior and join bank service. Finally, when we had the last rehearsal, on Christmas day of 1984, he told me ‘Whatever you have performed today, is like a Christmas gift for me.’” Piyush said that he had no idea what Bennewitz meant until the play opened.

Piyush now refers to Hamlet, which opened on January 1, 1985, as his “first tryst with stardom”. “That turned the tide and ignited my passion for acting,” he said. Mohan Maharishi, then NSD director, said, “It was one of the finest Hamlets we had seen on stage in India.  Fritz challenged him as an actor.” Piyush agrees: “I thought acting happened just by getting into the mood. He taught me how to get into the mood. He taught me how to interpret each and every sentence in a play.” To this day, a black and white photograph of Bennewitz stands on Piyush’s study. (Ironically, Bennewitz and Piyush’s father, two men with vastly different influences on Piyush’s life, died on the same day—September 13, 1995.)

His next big role came through veteran theatre director and scriptwriter Ranjit Kapoor, who directed Piyush in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nekrassov. Kapoor had been impressed by Piyush’s intensity in Hamlet. He wanted an actor who could display a similar energy with Nekrassov, which was a farce. Piyush managed to exceed Kapoor’s expectations. “He had charisma. The moment he would start speaking, he had the audience by their throat.” Piyush also started to be recognised for his creative range.  “His ability with music and with acting was very clearly etched. It wasn’t so usual to get students whose various facets are apparent when they are students,” said Anuradha Kapur.

Yet, despite the high praise he received, Piyush remained oblivious of the effect he had on people. “I couldn’t get a sense of my achievements. I just wanted to get away,” he said. Ranjit Kapoor admitted to having noticed this troubled side to Piyush’s personality, “Sometimes, he came across as very disturbed and irritable. There was a lot of anger within him. Nobody knew towards what his anger was directed, but it was there.”

It was perhaps this internal strife that led Piyush to ignore producer Raj Kumar Barjatya’s movie offer in his final year at NSD. According to the story that has hounded Piyush Mishra through his life, Barjatya—a name to reckon with in Bollywood—visited NSD in 1986 to find an actor to star in his son Sooraj Barjatya’s directorial debut, Maine Pyar Kiya. Mohan Maharishi recommended Piyush, who was about to graduate from NSD, to the filmmaker, but Piyush didn’t show up in Mumbai despite Barjatya giving him a written invitation. “I don’t know why I didn’t go,” said Piyush. “Even when I got to know later which film it was, it didn’t matter to me.”

When he finally got to Mumbai in 1989, realising that there were few opportunities in Delhi besides repeating his college performances at NSD’s repertory company and unsubstantial roles in theatre and TV, he returned within a year. His only noteworthy stints in Mumbai from this time were an appearance in Shyam Benegal’s Bharat Ek Khoj and a role alongside Naseeruddin Shah in an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Piyush blames these unsatisfying years on his muddled state of mind.

Tigmanshu Dhulia, filmmaker and 1989 NSD graduate, offers a more plausible explanation. Having known Piyush well while he was at NSD, Tigmanshu recalls his senior being constantly surrounded by people at the institute or at Mandi House, which was the nerve centre of Delhi’s theatre community. “You don’t get that kind of attention in Mumbai because everybody is so busy. Probably, he felt alienated when he came [to Mumbai] initially.” Sudhanva Deshpande of the Delhi theatre group Jan Natya Manch, who has known Piyush for two decades, sees his discomfort with Mumbai as the consequence of the decline of Hindi cinema. “It wasn’t a very creative industry. The high of the ’70s was gone. I remember there was this feeling when Piyush came back to Delhi from Mumbai that, look at our film industry, what a useless industry it is, it has no place for a man like Piyush Mishra.”

PIYUSH’S RETURN TO DELHI, then read as defeat, would go on to have a definitive influence on his artistic style. While in Delhi, he had been good friends with NK Sharma, a well known theatre director. NK, as he was known, had first met Piyush at a performance of Nekrassov. “We used to hang out together. We had a shared interest in theatre, we used to talk about the plays we had seen together,” said NK of his bonding with Piyush between 1986 and 1988. When Piyush came back from Mumbai, NK asked him to join his new theatre company, Act One. The early 1990s were notable years for a pronounced churning in Delhi’s political and social theatre, predominantly a response to market liberalisation, and the communal environment marked by the Babri demolition and Bombay blasts. The theatre groups significant for their engagement with the national discourse were NSD’s Repertory Company, Ebrahim Alkazi’s Little Theatre Group, Barry John’s Theatre Action Group (TAG) and Sakshi Theatre Group. NSD faculty members Robin Das and Devendra Raj Ankur were running their own companies, while Jan Natya Manch had continued performing street theatre after the murder of founder Safdar Hashmi. Habib Tanvir’s Naya Theatre Company was a regular presence with its productions like Ponga Pandit and Dekh Rahey Hain Nain adding to the vigour that characterised the theatre scene in Delhi at the time.

Act One was trying to find its niche in this charged environment. “Those were very dynamic days. The country was in the midst of communal tension. A few very dynamic, conscious people joined the group and we did some great work,” said NK. This marked the beginning of a productive, rewarding phase in Piyush’s career, one which he terms his second stage of stardom. Working alongside peers like Manoj Bajpai, Gajraj Rao and Ashish Vidyarthi, Piyush acted in, wrote and composed the music for a number of Act One’s productions, all directed by NK. After Mashreeki Hoor at NSD, it was at Act One that he had the opportunity to put his writing and composing skills to extensive use. The very first Act One production that he wrote and composed for was a montage of street songs called Hamaarey Daur Mein, through which Act One highlighted the communal tension sweeping through the country. He had mixed his own songs with the reworked compositions of renowned songwriters like the Urdu poets Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi and the Punjabi poet Pash. “I would adjust the words in their poems to fit my compositions,” said Piyush. “I didn’t want to request or plead with anyone to maintain harmony. My only message was chutiyon, sudhar jao,” he said, the anger in his voice palpable.

The other Act One productions he worked on were similar—entertaining, with a social message. Holi, adapted from Marathi playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play of the same name, to which Piyush added songs, dealt with the malaise in the education system and campus politics. Jab Sheher Hamaara Sota Hai, the first play Piyush independently wrote for Act One, was a musical love story on the theme of communal harmony. Maha Kund Ka Maha Daan and Woh Ab Bhi Pukaarta Hai touched upon casteism in the Indian rural hinterland, while Aaney Bhi Do Yaaron was a lighthearted satire on the increasing commercialisation and materialism gripping urban India.

Piyush talks about drawing inspiration from the environment at that time, an ability he has preserved through the years. “Just keep your eyes open and pay attention to what all is happening around you,” he said about the sources that influence his lyrics. The other noticeable feature that started to define his work was his use of chaste, colloquial Hindi in songs like ‘Ri meri sanskriti’, ‘Dharam naam ka chidiya balla’, ‘Baje badariya’ and ‘O Mrignayni’ that he wrote for theatre. Piyush says this grew out of his voracious hunger for Hindi literature as a student in Gwalior. “I learnt the language from there. I would read up everything, matlab pathya-pustakon ki maa ki (school textbooks be damned), I would go beyond what was prescribed by the teachers,” he said triumphantly.

Act One’s productions were receiving increasing attention—Sudhanva Deshpande remembers the group bursting onto the early ’90s theatre milieu with fresh energy. “The way in which their plays were done was new. There was a huge amount of collaborative energy that went in. Their plays were scripted very well. Piyush’s songs were superb,” he said. Other observers emphasise the collaboration between NK and Piyush. Shoojit Sircar, an active member of Act One at the time, and now known as the director of movies like Yahaan and Vicky Donor, said, “Their combination was very good. NK was a brilliant director. There was a lot of socialism and Marx in our plays. The kind of writing that [Piyush] did, especially his songs, even we would get stimulated by it.”

When Piyush recounts this period, it is with uninhibited fondness. “It was a great phase, my first taste of family. There were a lot of bright people—Manoj, Shoojit, Gajraj—around me. I got avenues [for my creativity]. I was composing, writing songs, writing original plays. I opened up.” Anuradha Kapoor said of his increasing command over his talent, “He had different ways of delivering dialogue. He would work on his speech, turn it around to make it different for each character. It wasn’t always one person speaking. There was great detail in his work—in his posture, in his actions. It helped him to crystallise every role.”

Among Piyush’s growing list of admirers during his Act One days was Anurag Kashyap, then a student at Delhi’s Hansraj College and an avid theatre follower. Kashyap’s earliest memory of Piyush is watching Jab Sheher Hamaara Sota Hai, which Piyush had written the songs for, a few of which the filmmaker later used in Gulaal, such as the title song Jab Sheher Hamaara Sota Hai’, ‘O Raat Ke Musafir’ and ‘Yaara Maula’. “For me, Piyush bhai was something else. When he would talk to people, I would just watch, listen, hang around,” said Kashyap. Piyush confirms Kashyap admitting to him much later, “Aap se baat karne mein badi dum nikla karti thee (We were petrified of speaking to you).”

But it was during these heady times that Piyush began his descent into alcoholism. He had begun drinking when he joined Act One in 1990. What started as a way to celebrate Act One’s success (“Wine, women and work is how we used to describe it.”) turned into a drinking problem by the time he quit Act One in 1995. “People started idolising him. He had to drink to be himself,” explained Kashyap. Kashyap also suggested that alcohol enhanced his creativity, that when he drank, “he just wrote magically”. Piyush did, in fact, write some of his most celebrated songs like ‘Husna’ and ‘Ik bagal mein chaand hoga’ from Gangs Of Wasseypur in the early to mid-’90s, when he was deep in the grip of alcohol.

Despite the adulation he received, Piyush left Act One in June 1995. He said it was because of the persistent restlessness within him: “I wanted to leave everything and go away. I wanted to leave my parents, my friends, my philosophers and guides, institutes, Act One—my only tendency was to run away.” Those around him noticed he was drifting aimlessly. “Piyush bhai was very restless, bitter, like a raging bull, constantly huffing and puffing,” said Dhulia. Piyush’s exit from the only place that gave him a sense of belonging could also have been a result of ideological disillusionment. When he joined Act One, he had been won over by NK’s committed leftist ideology. “It gave me a purpose,” he said, and that purpose was reflected in the kind of writing he did for the group. However, as he evolved his own identity, he realised that he wasn’t a leftist. He found that the political class that represented the left was no different from right wing or conservative establishments. “All of them were the same. They all wanted to go to America and buy expensive shoes,” he said scathingly.

The leftist themes in his writings continue to be pronounced, however, something he was quick to explain. “If standing up for what is right makes one a leftist, then I am one.” He went on to add animatedly, “Even my mother, who was a housewife and was a villager, said people should not fight. Does that make her a leftist? The only difference between her and me was that I was able to articulate what I felt.” He admitted that his exit from Act One strained his relationship with NK, but the latter insisted he bore no grudge against Piyush. “In fact, he was the guy who stayed in Act One for the longest time. People have to move on,” NK said.

Even after he left Act One, Piyush remained fiercely driven to do theatre, a motivation that led him to acclaimed Hindu writer Nirmal Verma’s novel Doosri Duniya.  He had already performed a version ofDoosri Duniya, a touching story of a man’s relationship with a small girl, as a solo performance under NK’s direction at Act One. Now that he was on his own, he realised this would be the easiest performance to revive. In the absence of resources, Piyush put on shows at friends’ houses, either in their bedrooms or on their terraces, for the princely fee of R11. “Bada mazaa aaya, (I had great fun)”, he said of the experience. Soon after, in early 1996, Piyush did another solo performance, as a woman in Betty Lemon Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hain? which was directed by Roysten Abel for the British Council. Betty Lemon was based on British dramatist Arnold Wesker’s play Whatever Happened to Betty Lemon? where a handicapped woman rants against socialism and communism. “In a way, I was airing my own grudges against communism through the character of Betty Lemon,” said Piyush. His third solo act was Duvidha, presented at NSD’s festival of solo performances in March 1996. Duvidha, which he adapted for stage himself, was based on Rajasthani writer Vijaydan Detha’s story of the same name, and explored the dilemma faced by a newlywed bride who is forced to make a choice between the material and the spiritual.

The three solo acts became the three-hour An Evening With Piyush Mishra when Piyush joined Arvind Gaur’s Asmita Theatre Group. As per his arrangement with them, Asmita would organise the venue, take care of publicity, and keep the entire ticket proceeds. “I only needed a space to perform,” Piyush said. An Evening With Piyush Mishra went on to become Piyush’s third tryst with stardom.

Manu Rishi Chadha, who starred in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! as Bangali, Lucky’s endearing sidekick, and who was a part of Asmita when Piyush joined the theatre company, recalled, “People would leave in silence after watching Piyush. They were not able to express their admiration in words, but their speechlessness said everything,” Piyush, too, doesn’t hold himself back on the subject: “It was a roaring success. They [the audience] would wonder how could one man enact three distinct characters non-stop for three hours?”

BUT, IN 1998, just as he was settling in at Asmita, having written the script, played the protagonist and composed the songs for Operation Three Star, an adaptation of Italian playwright Dario Fo’s play Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Piyush left the group. Today, he isn’t very sentimental about the time he spent with Asmita. “NK yaar hai. Arvind se kabhi main jud nahin paaya (NK was a friend. I could never bond with Arvind Gaur).”

His exit pushed him into desolation. “I was tired of doing solo performances,” he said, but added that he also did not know what he wanted to do next. As Piyush struggled to find his next platform, his addiction to alcohol peaked. “I didn’t know where my career was headed. I felt I couldn’t do without liquor. Initially, it was whisky, then rum.  And then I started drinking alone. I needed more than half a bottle every night.” Piyush remembers this time as one of accidents and fights. By his own admission, he developed an image at Mandi House of a respected artist who got drunk and spoke to himself.

It didn’t help that most of his comrades from Mandi House had moved on. By 1998, Manoj Bajpai, Ashish Vidyarthi and Vishal Bhardwaj, his closest friends from his Act One days, had already established themselves in Mumbai. Vidyarthi was noticed for his performance in Is Raat Ki Subah Nahinand offered a number of character roles in films. Bhardwaj’s music for Gulzar’s Maachis had won him considerable acclaim. And Manoj Bajpai was a star after playing Bhiku Mhatre in Satya, Ram Gopal Varma’s hard-hitting Mumbai underworld film from 1998. Piyush also made his film debut around the same time, with Tigmanshu Dhulia, who was writing dialogue for Dil Se, getting him the CBI officer’s role in the film. But Dil Se tanked at the box-office and Piyush’s film career didn’t quite take off. Piyush said the disappointment pushed him towards alcohol, “I did it in anger. I did it because of lack of recognition. My friends had already made it big.”

His fear of Mumbai hadn’t yet abated. (Piyush had shot for Dil Se in Delhi). Mumbai’s emphasis on profit over content, which drove the kind of cinema that was produced in Bollywood troubled him, used as he was to the economically unviable but challenging work that defined Delhi theatre. “Mumbai can sometimes be insensitive to a creative person. Piyush knew a lot more than many other mediocre people who were around Mumbai. It could have frustrated him, to leave theatre and come to Mumbai and do mediocre work,” explained Shoojit Sircar.

At NSD’s convocation program in 1999, Piyush Mishra performed Hamlet Kabhi Bombay Nahin Gaya, an unscripted musical solo performance with 20 songs, with the intention of finding out “for how long could I improvise on stage, without any script dictating the flow of the performance”. But the play was equally significant for how it reflected the dilemma that was tearing him apart. The main plot ofHamlet Kabhi Bombay Nahin Gaya involved Hamlet, a young man from Gwalior, confronting Shakespeare about his confused state, with Bhagwan, the chaiwala of Mandi House witnessing the argument. Hamlet’s main contention in the play was that Shakespeare should have left him either ‘To be’ or ‘To not be’ instead of leaving him eternally confused. Piyush agrees today that Hamlet Kabhi…, in many ways, was an allegory for his life.

BETWEEN 1999 AND 2001, Piyush Mishra made a couple of more failed attempts to reenter cinema, but the projects, one of them Ram Gopal Varma’s, didn’t come through. Friends like Manoj Bajpai and Vishal Bhardwaj kept asking him to shift to Mumbai, but he didn’t. Instead, he immersed himself in campus theatre in Delhi, directing college productions at institutes like Lady Shri Ram College for Women and the School of Planning and Architecture. When he did go to Mumbai in 2001, it was on director Rajkumar Santoshi’s invitation to write the script for The Legend Of Bhagat Singh; but the filmmaker’s reluctance to acknowledge in the credits the inspiration from Gagan Damama Bajiyo, Piyush’s Act One production on Bhagat Singh, made him walk out of the film and return to Delhi.

Piyush found himself at a low yet again. By this time, he had a wife (Priya Narayan, whom he met in 1992 while directing a play at the School of Planning and Architecture and married in 1995) and a son, who was born in 1998, to provide for. He recalls going to Mandi House and drinking and crying as he thought, “I have not given anything to my wife, my mother and my son.” The conflict in his mind between Mumbai and Delhi had reached a tipping point. Unlike earlier, Delhi had no new challenges to offer him, while Mumbai, with its cinema at the beginning of a new turn, was brimming with possibilities. When his wife urged him to make another attempt, Piyush gave in. “There was no other option,” he said of the decision. That’s when, he added, “the marriage with Anurag Kashyap happened”.

Piyush had first spoken with Kashyap following the release of Shool in 1999. Impressed by Kashyap’s dialogues, he had decided to compliment him. “This is Piyush Mishra. I am calling you from Delhi. I saw Shool and I really liked your work. Mubarak ho!” Kashyap recalled Piyush telling him. It was a surreal moment for Kashyap, who had idolised Piyush since his student days in Delhi.

Arriving in Mumbai in September of 2002, Piyush got in touch with Kashyap, who was looking for a music director for Gulaal, after having tried a number of people and being disappointed by their work. Piyush, who was at Kashyap’s office on what was another frustrating day for the latter, grabbed a harmonium and started playing. “It was magical,” said Kashyap, who then asked Piyush to compose music for Gulaal, an ambitious film about student politics and an imagined secessionist movement.

Gulaal’s release was stalled till 2009, but Piyush continued on to other work. In Kashyap’s, Black Friday, he shot for the role of Thapa, the customs officer who facilitated the consignment into India of the RDX used in the Mumbai blasts of 1993. The director dropped the character after it was decided thatBlack Friday would be made into a movie instead of a television series. Nevertheless, Piyush contributed lyrics to the movie’s songs, like ‘Arrey ruk ja re bandey’ and ‘Bharam bhaanp ke’, composed and recorded by the band Indian Ocean.

Gradually, Piyush explains, he started getting more work, first through old friends and later through word of mouth. “I did Maqbool. Manoj Bajpai got me 1971 [screenplay], while Shoojit offered meYahaan [screenplay and dialogues]. Then, when Yash Raj Films were looking for someone to write an opera song for the climax of Aaja Nachle, I happened to impress them.” Piyush went on to work in a number of films in different capacities—he made a cameo appearance in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, wrote lyrics for Tashan, dialogues for Ghajini.

Yet, it wasn’t until Gulaal released in 2009 that Bollywood noticed Piyush. “Gulaal is Piyush Mishra’s voice. People valued his work,” said Kashyap on Piyush’s contribution as actor, composer, singer and lyricist to the film’s critical acclaim. “Piyush’s poetry made it so much easier for me to tell the story.” Piyush said about his work in Gulaal, “Anurag’s story dealt only with separatism, but my choice of poetry and my idea for those lines [“sale hai, sale hai”] helped him to expand the scope of Gulaal.”

Rahul Ram, bass guitarist of Indian Ocean describes Piyush’s compositions in Gulaal as “theatrical”. Referring to lyrics like “Jaise door des ke tower mein ghus jaaye re aeroplane” (Like in a distant country, a plane crashes into a tower), from the song ‘Ranaji’, Ram said, “The political look that he gives does not exist in Hindi cinema.” Kashyap said the rage had its genesis in Piyush’s youth, which continues to be the source for a lot of his writing. “I liken him to [Henry Charles] Bukowski, who experiences things and pours it out,” he said. “He himself does not know where it comes from, it comes from deep within.”

AS HE WAS COMING TO TERMS with his creative anxiety, Piyush decided to confront his dependence on alcohol, realising it was harming him “physically, mentally, emotionally, ethically”. With support from his wife, and professional assistance, Piyush largely gave up drinking over the past five years. His struggles with the addiction even inspired him to write a couplet to warn people of the consequences of alcoholism:

Aadat jisko samjhey ho woh marz kabhi bann jaayega

Phir marz ki aadat pad jaayegi, arz na kuch kar paaogey

Aur tabdili ki gunjaayish ne saath diya toh theek sahi

Par usney bhi gar chodd diya, toh yaar bade pachtaogey

What you think is routine, will soon turn into addiction

Then you will be bound by habit, incapable of delivering anything

And if you wish to change, it will be a good thing

But if it gets too late, you will regret a great deal

As with all things in his life, Piyush likes to get philosophical about his alcoholism. He believes that, like his bua Taradevi Mishra, liquor came into his life for a reason. Without the lows, he could have never seen the highs. “The moment he got recognition, he automatically left liquor,” noted Manu Rishi Chadha.

Today, Piyush no longer has to look for work—he is swamped with it. “When I was looking, I struggled,” he said. He proudly mentioned featuring on an episode of The Dewarists, the music travelogue show on Star World, where he collaborated with English rapper Akala. He also spoke with great satisfaction of one of his forthcoming projects, The Playback Singer, an independent film written and directed by Suju Vijayan. Vijayan, who had been referred to Piyush by a common friend, said she was “blown away” by his online audition. “It was clear he understood the character inside and out. I had never felt that way about an actor I had auditioned,” she said.

At 50, Piyush Mishra might have found his niche in Bollywood, but Kashyap wonders if a man of his depth can ever get the recognition he deserves in the Hindi film industry. “His versatility and his talent has a lot of gravity,” he said. “Our film industry does not like gravity. They don’t know what he can contribute to them. He is a man capable of creating incredibly great cinema. They just like everything on the surface, which is why he has not been explored, exploited.”

Piyush responded to his fear by telling  a story about a man who refused to drink the water from the village well because he knew it had been poisoned. He warned the villagers repeatedly, but they paid no heed—the water was sweet and they continued to drink it. The poisoned water caused the people in the village to lose their minds. Since the man was the one who now appeared to behave differently, the entire village started calling him mad. But the man stuck to his decision to avoid the water. “I am like that man,” Piyush said, “I will only do what I believe in.”

Akshay Manwani is a freelance writer based in Mumbai. His book on the poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi will be published by HarperCollins in 2013.

Gangs of Wasseypur, Reality v/s Movie #sundayreading #mustshare


The Unreality of Wasseypur- by JAVED IQBAL ( unedited version with pics courtesy javed iqbal )

The ending of the film was shown properly,’ Speak unanimous voices, the well-known folklore of Wasseypur, Dhanbad, ‘Gangster Shafiq Khan was really gunned down at the Topchachi petrol pump like it was shown in the first part of the film.’

‘That’s how it’s done in Dhanbad.’

And there are long lists of assassinations and murders in Dhanbad. MLA Gurdas Chaterjee of the Marxist Co-ordination Committee was gunned down on the highway. Superintendent of Police Randhir Verma was murdered by dacoits during a botched bank robbery. Santosen Gupta of the Forward Bloc was gunned down. Mukul Dev of the RJD was murdered. S K Rai, a union leader is murdered. Samin Khan, a gangster, gets bail and leaves court and is shot to death, while still in the custody of the police. Sakel Dev Singh, of the coal mafia is killed at the bypass, his brother who works with him, is killed at Shakti chowk, gunned down by an AK47. Manoj Singh alias Dabloo from Matkuria village, who allegedly terrorized the muslims of Wasseypur was gunned down. Chottna Khan, 18 years old, the son of Shafiq Khan was gunned down. Mohd Irfan a railway contractor was killed by a gang. Najeer Ahmed, a ward commissioner, is murdered. A woman home guard who once shared a love with a police officer, who would eventually take him on after their affair turned bitter, would find the dead body of her cut-up nephew in a well at the Dhanbad Polytechnic.

These are just a few high profile murder cases, say the locals, who on one level shy away from the violence that represented their city and on another level take pride in the knowledge of who was gunning down who at what point.

Wasseypur, now a part of Dhanbad district in Jharkhand, has grown, over the decades from a culture of violence and gang warfare, parts of which are depicted in the film.

The film tells the story of three generations of a family, starting with a backdrop to mining in Dhanbad, with the murder of Shahid Khan in the hands of coal mafia leader Ramadhir Singh, and the revenge promised by his son Sardar Khan (in reality Shafiq Khan), and his sons Faisal Khan (in reality Faheem Khan).

‘There was never any revenge story,’ Said Iqbal (24), the son of Faheem Khan (50), grandson of (Shafiq), sitting in the very room where a rival gang had attacked late at night, and even fired onto a police check post as shown in the opening sequence of the film, ‘My great grandfather died of natural causes, he was never murdered by any Singh. And there was another thing, a twist. I had a grand uncle Hanif, who had wanted my father Faheem dead and who had hired a man called Sagir.’

‘And it’s for the murder of Sagir that my father is in Hazaribagh jail now.’

‘None of this is in the film.’ Continued Iqbal, who adds that the sequence where Sardar Khan would call for the rescue of an abducted woman, fictitious, as well as one-time affair of Sardar Khan’s wife, or the Romeo-Juliet type inter-gang marriages, or the arbitrariness of names of characters such as ‘Perpendicular’ and ‘Definite’. There are instead, Prince Khans and Goodwin Khans.

‘There are two kinds of laws in Dhanbad. There’s the law to arrest for the Faheem Khan Family and there’s the law to investigate for the Singh Mansion.’ Says Iqbal, himself just released on bail for murder, referring to the fact that the Singh family is still at large.

The Violent Landscape of Dhanbad

Dhanbad is an unreal place. A small mining town with extreme poverty and a rich labour history. A small town with a bustling middle class bursting through the one main road. You can expect to be stuck in an hour long traffic jam in Dhanbad over Wasseypur, you can find shopping complexes, or remnants of a burnt truck where four people were killed in police firing last year on the 27th of April, or you can find the dead body of a lawaris young man in a seedy hotel near the bus stop. It’s a city of myths, half-truths, and blatant lies. A city where a man called Suraj Deo Singh is also Suryadev Singh, or A K Rai, is also A K Roy. Now an old mansion of a private mine owner who owned 85 mines lay in ruin while the police still continues to extort money from the poorest who pick off scraps of coal to sell. A district partially affected by Maoists, two blocks – Topchachi and Tundi, have been sights of arrests and ambushes. It’s a town with massive migration, massive amounts of pollution owing to the coal mines, many left abandoned and unfilled, other’s now open-cast, and massive amounts of exploitation by the mafia that literally sells labour across the district border.

Dhanbad is where the Chasnala mining accident took place in December 1975 that claimed over 380 lives. A lake vanished into the mines. No one survived. Kala Patthar was made and still remembered. And in September of 1995, the Gazlitang mining accident claimed 96 lives.

Yet what also followed the mining, were the mafias.

‘There are many gangs here.’ Says a lawyer, ‘If you want to tell the story of Dhanbad, you’d need to spend three months here.’

A lot of gangs simply fight over scraps of urbanization: ‘Agenty’ the term for extortion from private bus services was apparently a cause of conflict between the son of Sardar/Shafiq Khan and another gangster called Babla (this was all denied by the home of Sardar/Shafiq/Faheem Khan). Eventually, Faheem Khan, the son of Sardar/Shafiq Khan allegedly instigated a conflict with a businessman Shabir who refused to be extorted and Shabir found himself, on common ground with Babla. Faheem, however struck, allegedly murdering Wahid Alam, Shabir’s brother, a while after Wahid had organized an attack on his home that left one dead and another injured. And Shabir was allegedly responsible, convicted and now out on bail for the murders of Faheem Khan’s mother, or Shafiq Khan’s widow, the aged Nazama Khatoon, who at one point was a known leader at Wasseypur.

‘The rivalry of Shafiq Khan and Faheem Khan with the ‘Singh Mansion’ is not so much,’ Said the Superintendent of Police RK Dhan, ‘It’s really them fighting themselves.’

The ‘Singh Mansion’ is really a collection of different Singhs who often share public office, especially standing on BJP tickets in contemporary times. They include Suryadev Singh (apparently Ramadhir Singh in the film), Baccha Singh, Ramadhin Singh, Shashi Singh and Khunti Singh. Suryadev was alleged responsible for the murder of one of the biggest mine owners V P Sinha decades ago and he died of natural causes in 1991. The Mansion had called for the banning of the film due to the negative portrayal they had received. Yet it is commonly known that the Singh Mansion had their own conflict with Suresh Singh who was murdered in December last year. The conflict between the Singhs was over the coal mines while it is generally known in Dhanbad that Shafiq Khan and his sons were never involved in the mines.

‘Shashi Singh murdered Suresh Singh, according to many witnesses’ Continues the Superintendent of Police.

Yet at the home of Faheem Khan, in Wasseypur, antagonism against the Singh Mansion exists, as it had become no secret that they were involved in providing assistance to the enemies of the family. Sultan, who lived close to Naya Bazaar was in open conflict with Shafiq and had the support of the Singh Mansion. Shabir who lived a mere ten seconds from Faheem Khan, had the support of the Singh Mansion. And spoken in whispers, the ambition of the Khans, led them onto a direct conflict course with the Singh Mansion.

A Dissenter Amongst The Violence

‘When I was young, a man was hacked up in front of us.’ Says W, a family member of one of the gangs of Dhanbad.

‘In front of you?’

‘Not really in front of me, but we saw the body parts in different bags.’


‘After that all of us were called later to talk to uncle. And uncle, was talking to us about something else, we never gave eye contact, and somehow we pretended nothing had happened. The thing is, Javed Bhai, we really like to keep ourselves different from them, we know how they might use us, for this or that.’

The Man Who Wore Recycled Tires

A frail old man with glasses, sits quietly holding his arms at the ICU in Dhanbad Central Hospital – he can barely speak yet there was a time that his name was synonymous with the name of Dhanbad. A K Rai, was a chemical engineer, turned trade unionist who helped organize a majority of the mine workers on private mines in Dhanbad, who would be elected three times to office – , and would be in open conflict with the state machinery, the coal mafia and the private mine owners who’d dismiss workers on the slightest hint of organizing, or would hire goons to deal violently with the organizers and strikes.

‘We must’ve lost around 25 to 30 comrades in the 70’s.’ Said Comrade Ramlal, once a miner, than an organizer. He sits back to recall a story that started long before liberalization, long before nationalization, long before Naxalbari and the thousands of days of violence.

‘Before 1962, there were two central government collieries that had some wage structure, but there were some 60-65 private collieries where there was no minimum wages system.’

‘Back then, the bosses never even gave money in some of the collieries, they just had booze shops and their own ration shops. The message to the workers was to just work, and take what you get. And the workers were kept in camps, so they won’t run away. And there was no safety, nothing. There were a lot of movements then also, but the workers were often beaten into submission and there were many murders.’

‘It was during this time that A K Rai had come as a chemical engineer in some company. By day he used to work, by night he would teach in a school in one of the nearby villages.’

Strike after strike, beatings after beatings, the workers would even find themselves in a war of attrition with the coal mafia, especially against Suryadev Singh, who had workers killed and would find that the workers could also defend themselves. At one point A K Rai was convinced by the mine workers to stand for election. He would win for the first time in 1967 on an Assembly seat, then in 1969 to the Vidhan Sabha, again in 1972, then in 1977 after being arrested during the Emergency and only started to lose after 1991. The status of the three-time MP and the MLA stayed intact as a minister would be seen around Dhanbad standing in line to pay his electricity bill, or travel by train, standing in general compartment. Even today miners speak of a time in the 1970’s during the apex of the power of the unions and there is a legacy of the work that was done. Just this year, a one-day strike had helped increase the wages for the miners from Rs.17,000 to Rs.21,000 – this from virtual slave labour before unionization. However there are still no signs of health benefits or for pensions.

‘A K Rai, was probably the only minister who said that ministers should not take pensions.’ Said Divan, a colleague, and it was well known that the battle for pensions amongst the miners was never won. Today, an older generation of unionists speak of failures and the inability to combat the cultural hegemony that came with liberalization. Their children work as managers or in the private sector, a growing middle class has controlled elections, and they’ve slowly seen the diminishing of the power of the unions due to mechanization and less prominence of the Bharat Coking Coal Limited, who were the voting bank of A K Rai, who finally lost the elections in a landslide to the widow of a murdered Superintendent of Police in 1991.

There is even a well known story in Dhanbad of the assassins who had gone to kill A K Rai over a decade ago. They found a frail old man, who was elected to office three times, sweeping a party office early in the morning. They saw his shoes, made of recycled tire rubber, his meager demeanor and walked across a shop to confirm who is A K Rai. When they were sure they knew who it was, they entered the office, drank water, turned around and walked away.

‘Something about that man affected them,’ Said Divan, who also says that the board ‘Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union’ on their office, was the only thing about AK Rai and the labour movement visible in the film Gangs of Wasseypur. ‘I think the mind of this filmmaker was also globalized.’ He laughs.

The coal mafia was born the minute the coal started to leave earth with colliery after colliery owned by private individuals with their own private armies who’d all find themselves in conflict with the miners who began to organize themselves, and there seems to be a reason why every man above the age of forty who has lived in Dhanbad all his life seems to know the name of A K Rai, yet his name is even known amongst the youth.

‘There was probably no man who had done so much for the poor in Dhanbad.’ Said 24 year old Iqbal Khan, gangster or student, who would even say: ‘Krantikari.’

Yet the gang war seems to never end, as Shabir who was released from prison on bail still vows for revenge against the family of Faheem Khan, and local newspapers report that Iqbal, who had a ‘supari’ on his name when he was in the 12th, and is now merely 24, promising to continue the fight.

Meanwhile, a quiet old man who shook the earth is living the last of his days at Dhanbad Central Hospital, while the names of the miners who died in Chasnala fade from the memorial built for them.



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September 2022
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