MUNSHI PREMCHAND: OUR LITERARY GANDHI

Munshi Premchand is considered the Indian literature’s Mahatma Gandhi – and that is not without reasons.

Leaving a frugal life, he gave India (and the world) literary works (novels, short stories and essays) that were for everyone – speaking for the people on the margins – and speaking of the people forming the exploitative hub of societies.

If he portrayed social sensitivities in a language that the people spoke, he also tickled their funny bones with situational comedies much before their formal inauguration by the entertainment industry.

Without any doubt we can say that he was the biggest among his contemporaries that the modern Indian literature (Hindustani literature) produced. His grip was in the fact that he was the people’s writer who didn’t need decorative metaphors to prove his mettle.

And he remains the greatest of his field – with his unique skills and works. Yes, we are fortunate that we have had many luminaries of the Hindi literature since the 18th Century but Munshi Premchand stands tallest among them.

India realized that a long ago. And Premchand ji was a craze even outside India – in countries with socialist bent of mind like Russia. His anti-feudal writing was like an eye-opener. You can easily identify where his works belong if you are not among the few super-elite of India and the pseudo modernists.

And the thing is – his writing remains relevant even today – because the basics of Indian social weaving have not changed much. The social malaise that he focused on in his writings – feudalism, poverty, corruption, humiliating condition of women and girls, class divides and social layers – still form the distorted spinal cord of our society.

Like our Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, connected the dots and transformed us into a strong cohesive unit to fight the British colonialism – inspired by the Mahatma’s Non-cooperation Movement, Premchand ji went on to reflect on social issues of the time in his writings, connecting to the readers of his works – provoking them to think. He established himself as the parallel of Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian literary landscape of the time.

And he still he provokes us, stirs our souls.

While Premchand ji has been translated in almost every Indian language and many foreign languages, it is the Hindi speaking belt of north, east, central and west India that must feel indebted to him. And he has a special place in hearts of the people from Varanasi, the city he belonged to. His birthplace in Lamhi is a must visit for any proud Banarasi and I know I am a proud Banarasi.

MunshiPremchandGD

When I woke up this morning and saw the Google doodle paying tribute to our literary Gandhi on his birth anniversary on July 31, it was like summing up my all those feelings. We all know Google does some sincere things and it was one of them. I loved the image and the idea that went behind it – a doodle focusing on the central settings (the rural India) in most of the literary works written by Munshi Premchand – in this case his last novel Godaan published in 1936.

Google says about Munshi Premchand – “Today’s homepage celebrates a man who filled many pages (of a different kind) with words that would forever change India’s literary landscape.”

Thanks Google – from a proud Indian (and Banarasi).

©SantoshChaubey

Feature Image Courtesy: Google Doodle on Munshi Premchand 

WHY AMITABH BACHCHAN SHOULD NOT BE INCREDIBLE INDIA BRAND AMBASSADOR. WHY SALMAN KHAN SHOULD NOT BE RIO OLYMPICS BRAND AMBASSADOR.

VIP or celebrity brand endorsement is a sensitive issue. And now it is being realized the world over to the extent of enacting legislations. Countries from America to Europe, even China are coming with stringent norms of who can endorse a brand. Even India is moving ahead in this direction positively.

The thrust behind such moves is to safeguard the consumer from misleading advertisements and thus products. On a larger canvas, it is about breach of trust because a consumer decides to buy a product a celebrity endorses based on his trust on the person that he believes reflects in everything associated with him.

That is the underlying common sense wisdom – the commonsense wisdom, that forces global brands to dissociate with brand ambassadors of global fame if something ‘not as per the norms’ happens – be it Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong or Oscar Pistorius or even Amitabh Bachchan back home.

They all had negatives happening in their lives when sponsors shunned them – because it would portray their brand in negative hue.

This commonsense wisdom applies on every branding exercise – especially when you are speaking for communities, societies, places or countries – in social spheres – in cultural spheres – in political spheres.

So, when India chooses an Amitabh Bachchan (though Bachchan has denied it now) or a Salman Khan to represent the country (and not some tangible brand) globally, you can only rue about it.

No doubt, Amitabh Bachchan are larger than life film stars in India and they have a sizeable following overseas, even if limited to the Diaspora Indians.

But they have their fair share of controversies.

If Amitabh Bachchan has had controversies like episodes of his political career and Bofors row, his claim to be a farmer to get farming land to tax evasion allegations against him and his name coming up as director in companies in tax havens, as the leaked Panama Papers suggest – Salman Khan is deeply entangled in court cases – ranging from hit and run killing and maiming people to kill animals to rowdy behaviour on display many times in personal and public life.

And that makes them imperfect for any branding exercise to represent India internationally. It is true that for Indian film industry, there will be no Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan and that is uniqueness of their respective brand appeals. But this appeal is restricted to commercial products only.

When it comes to representing India globally through an advertising campaign like the Incredible India, Aamir Khan should come first and not Amitabh Bachchan. Aamir Khan, the previous Incredible India brand ambassador who didn’t charge for the campaign, so far has had an impeccable personal and professional life and he is known as a socially conscious fellow.

The denial that has come from Amitabh Bachchan now, after the Panama Papers controversy, should have come earlier, when his names started doing rounds for the next brand ambassador of the Incredible India campaign. That would have enhanced his credibility. But he chosen to remain silent then, for reasons, though we can gauge, only he can clarify.

When it comes to representing India at the Rio Olympics this year, any sporting legend like PT Usha should be considered and not Salman Khan. Appeals like Salman Khan would compensate for popular appeal and youth connect do not hold any ground. Salman Khan was chosen as AIFF (Football) brand ambassador in 2009 but we know nothing has moved on the ground as far as Football’s popularity in India is concerned.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

YES, HE WAS THE MAHATMA..

Communal riots date back to the ancient times in the history of India. Hindu-Muslims riots began during the medieval period. And since then the travesty has been unabated – with varying degrees of terror and its aftermath.

And that is a major reason among some defining elements due to which India is still not among the most forward nations in the world – in spite of being the world’s largest democracy.

In fact, India’s independence, its partition and the birth of Pakistan in 1947 saw the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in India – unparalleled so far then – a massacre that remains unparalleled still.

And these riots that preceded and followed India’s independence and Pakistan’s birth tell why Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was revered as the ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Bapu’ – the ascetic, the sage, the father figure.

Yes, there are varying accounts and there are historical records and claims about what happened to the Hindu-Muslim riots, especially the most heinous of them in Noakhali in Bengal where the Mahatma camped for around four months touring villages to calm down tempers.

We know, on the whole, the warring factions, that then included the whole population of an aspiring Pakistan and an equally sizeable chunk in India could never be reconciled and one nation became two and ultimately three in 1971.

But one fact is indisputable clear – that – the Mahatma did calm down the tempers there. Yes, he could not bring the warring factions to the final solution of reconciliation but he stopped something that could easily have become one of the worst human massacres in the history of civilizations.

And we know that is a rare feat – in fact an unparalleled sentiment he commanded. Hindu-Muslim riots have continued even in the independent India – but right from its beginnings in the medieval India – there never was a person like the Mahatma who could stand among those ready to kill and be killed to ask them to stop and in fact convinced them to do so. And there will no else like him in that sense we can say. Yes, he was the Mahatma who did this unthinkable job because history again tells us that the people blinded by faith refuse to listen to anyone. 

These are difficult times. Bapu was questioned even then. But now is the time when history is being worked upon. Ideologies are clashing. And we need our Mahatma – his thoughts, his teachings, his vision, and the spirit that he embodied. India, in fact, always needed it. And now is the time when the need is desperate. Now is the time when we need to reach out to say yes he was the Mahatma who set us on the path to independence and the best tribute to him would be to be make an India where we all would be ‘really free souls’. 

Bapu

October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SWAMI OR MAHATMA: THEY ARE ALWAYS THERE.

Swami Vivekananda is even more relevant today. Mahatma Gandhi is even more needed today. Sai Baba of Shirdi has become even more rational in the times of irrational logics being promoted by many religious gurus.

Okay, that is the stuff we always say – remembering some great icon whenever his or her anniversary comes – whenever a landmark day associated with someone’s life and times recur.

But, in totality, in reality – the greats like these, they always matter – they always remain relevant – they always sound logical and ‘needed’.

Because evolution (of civilization) is an open-ended process that takes hues as times change – taking something new – going back to old ones – reworking and modifying on something already existing.

Evolution of civilizations is a never ending and ever resuscitating process – that is always old and always new. One can always find ways, reasons and premises to reminisce on things experienced back in life. Technology changes face of the world but technology, like imperialism, like democracies, is just another aspect that defines civilizations.

What remains always in the root – of humanity – of human societies – of human civilizations – spread across the world – since the dawn of the earliest human civilization – (and will remain so till the very last of us survive here) – is the fact that humanity is driven by the conscience of such greats who come to guide us in every age – and leave behind them an imprint of a conscious that shows us the light in difficult times – in times when we have questions – and more questions – in times when answers either don’t come to our thinking or fail to answer our questions effectively.

The problems that societies face, the issues that need answers in every age are basically same – how to be a good human being and how to let others live a dignified life that we aspire for ourselves.

This has been the basic tenet of human civilizations – this is something that we always arrive at after a dreaded, bloody war or after a prolonged spell of civil unrest or in the aftermath of a devastating terror attack.

It has remained so – since the early days – when we started organizing ourselves in groups from nomadic tribes – to formation of city states – to kingdoms – to countries – to modern day nations – and will always remain so.

And so will remain the conscience of greats like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi or Gautam Buddha, or Lord Rama or Jesus Christ or Prophet Muhammad or Guru Nanak or countless other saints and sages or noble souls who have shown light to us by their teachings – teachings telling us varied aspects of life – but with the soul focus that how to become a good human being – that how to transcend your soul to the higher level.

It is not that I have read all teachings of Swami Vivekananda or Ramakrishma Paramhamsa. But I started feeling the pull of their words very early in my life. I used to visit Ramakrishna Mission in Varanasi and used to spend my time in book shop there. But one thing that I did not like was the elaborate ritual that was performed daily there to worship the Swami. Once I tried to sit through the session but found myself dilemmatic about the idea later on. The big grand temple of the Mission that I saw in Lucknow also gave me some uneasy feelings. But then it happens with all great names. Their followers justify their ill-placed logic with vivid reasons.

But what matters for the larger good of humanity – is the teachings of our greats who come to show us the path and who will be here to deliver us from the bad in the future. And remember, these greats never say to be blind in your faith. Be logical. Be rational. Feel, experience and follow – or don’t follow.

Swami Vivekananda’s life is its best manifestation. He initially did not believe in God the way his immediate society propagated the idea. He had his questions and doubts even he met Ramakrishna. His faith gradually transcended – from questions to completion.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SALMAN KHAN HAD TO WALK AWAY..BUT..

Verdict in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit and run case: No one killed Nurullah Mehboob Sharif. He just died.

Verdict in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit and run case: No one broke Abdullah Rauf Shaikh’s leg. It just happened.

Verdict in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit and run case: No one broke Mohammad Kaleem’s leg and caused severe damage to his hand and back. It just happened.

Verdict in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit and run case: Mohammad Muslim’ thigh could not bear weight of his posture. And he was subsequently diagnosed with fracture.

Verdict in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit and run case: Abdul Shaikh (or Munna Malai Khan) just found his right foot under Salman’s vehicle. He doesn’t want to feel beyond it.

Verdict in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit and run case: Even a Google search hardly comes with victims ‘names – and even if it comes – names vary with reports.

SALMAN KHAN IS RIGHT WITH HIS OWN POSITION. NO ONE CAN DENY HE HAS COME OUT TO BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING.

THE VICTIMS DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY STAND. THE WORLD DOESN’T EVEN KNOW THEIR NAMES PROPERLY. AND WE HAD A COURT CASE IN THEIR NAMES THAT DRAGGED ON FOR 13 YEARS, ONLY TO COME TO THIS.

ACQUITTED, SALMAN KHAN WALKS AWAY TODAY. HOPE SENSE PREVAILS TO MAINTAIN WHO AND WHAT HE IS NOW.

A BIG BLOT, A BIG QUESTION MARK AGAIN ON THE SYSTEM WE ARE LIVING IN! HOPE SENSE WOULD PREVAIL SOME DAY.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SALMAN KHAN LOOKS COOL THIS TIME!

That we call it this time – confidence or something else – that was certainly not there in May this year – when the trial court had found him guilty in the 2002 hit and run case – and had sentenced him for five years. After the trial court sentenced him, he got bail on the same day from the Bombay High Court.

And it is expected that the Bombay High Court will deliver its verdict today on the Salman Khan’s appeal against the trial court order. Reports say the judge has dictated the order and will read it out today once Salman Khan reaches the court.

And Salman Khamn looks cool because there are indications that what may come out in the verdict will be great relief for the actor. During the course of dictating his order, the judge said, (as reports say) – “prosecution has failed to prove charges against Khan on all counts”.

Let’s see what happens next, later in the day.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RAMLILA – INTERESTING BHOJPURI FLIP

This one is a Ramlila clip shot randomly.

The annual ‘Ramayana’ event, organized across India through plays, is being staged here at the Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi – on November 17, i.e., on the day of Chhath Puja in 2015.

Ramlila is played over an extended period of time at different places in Varanasi and it goes well beyond the Dussehra festivities – that fall usually in the months of September-October.

Here, in the Ramlila at the Manikarnika Ghat, the informal conversation interspersed with dialogues between the characters is quite interesting.

The part of Ramayana (or Ramcharit Manas, the most loved Hindu scripture written on Ramayana by Goswami Tulsidas in 15th-16th Century) being staged here is about ‘Vibhishan leaving his brother Ravan and joining Lord Ram’s side in the epic battle between bad and good’.

After Vibhishan has left Lanka, Ravan’s place, Ravan commands his spies to go clandestinely after Vibhishan and to report the developments from Lord Ram’s camp.

The brief conversation/dialogue here is in Hindi-Bhojpuri mix that also includes informal conversation between the characters about changing their appearances for the next scene and it can be heard well on the speaker. Bhojpuri is a dialect of Hindi and is spoken mainly in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

That is the way most of the Ramlilas are staged these days – just to fulfil the basic minimum of a tradition that is centuries old – without aesthetics of stage performances – but the flip here brings natural smile if you know the context.

It tells what has happened to this serious art form – that is weaved around something without which the Indian society cannot think of its holistic existence – and that – that still why it is so imperative – that you stop by to think about its serious revival – given that Ramlilas are an inseparable part of Indian cultural milieu.

So, you don’t appreciate the way it is done here, still you enjoy the show – not looking for professional finesse – that you cannot expect from poorly paid and makeshift actors – but for the sustenance of this Centuries old tradition.

I just thought to post it here…but it is quite ‘audible’ – Bhojpuri and Hindi the Banarasi way..

Enjoy it raw from the YouTube link here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpCnZHrPIkY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpCnZHrPIkY

Ramlila-1

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE MAHATMA WILL ALWAYS REMAIN THE CONSCIENCE OF HUMANITY..

Mahatma Gandhi will always remain great because he was one among us – and he will always remain ‘the one’ among us.

And for that reason – and for that reason alone – October 2 will remain the universal day of humanity – not just in India – but across the world.

And the world is celebrating this spirit – the UN has declared October 2 – the birth anniversary of the Mahatma – as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’.

The movement was initiated in 2004 and the UN had adopted it in 2007. The UN page on the day says – “The International Day is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”.”

Yes, non-violence is the only universal principle that can guide the humankind to an egalitarian world – where each human life has same scalability.

And non-violence is the only guiding principle that can ensure equal distribution of opportunities to each human life.

The Mahatma will always remain great because we know the world, in spite of realizing the ‘inevitability’ of non-violence, has failed to build a ‘humanitarian world’.

History of human civilization is replete with violence – men killing men. The world is still plagued with ‘man-created’ violence in many parts of the world.

The modern day world – with its contemporary times – is best chance for humanity to aspire for a world of ‘universal humanity’ – and that world can only be built by eradicating wars and other forms of terror.

But, in the prevailing geopolitical circumstances, that looks a ‘far-fetched’, hypothetical concept.

Well, when the Mahatma had started practicing non-violence, first in South Africa and then in India, to oppose, and then to uproot the mighty British Empire, people had dismissed him first. Gandhi used to be a subject of mock initially.

And we all know the might of ‘Satyagraha-non-violence’ today.

It was the might of ‘Satyagraha’ only that could ‘successfully’ take on the might of British Empire. We recently witnessed this ‘might’ again – not just in India – but in many parts of the world. The underlying theme of every mass protest in the recent history – the global ‘Occupy’ movement, the Arab Spring, anti-corruption movements of India and Pakistan, universalization of Guy Fawkes masks as the symbol of mass protests – has been the principle of non-violence.

Strengthening democracies and minimizing wars are the basic needs of the day – and non-violence is the basic tenet, the guiding conscience behind every such thought process.

And life the Mahatma is its best manifestation – and a robustly functional Indian democracy is the best tribute to him.

The Mahatma

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SHOLAY: THE PERFECT MASALA FILM

Because its ‘implausibility quotient’ is almost nil owing to a brilliant storytelling..

Obviously, 15th August is known to us as a special day because it is our Independence Day.

But this year, it is also the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic products of Hindi Cinema/Indian Film Industry/Masala film genre.

Today, Sholay is completing 40 years of its release.

And Sholay is a perfect example of making Masala films, if we see ‘Masala filmmaking’ as an art. A Masala film is a mix of different genres and is generally not considered an artistic achievement. But Sholay transcends here.

Its plot so artistically absorbs any flaw, any loose end in the narration that we usually don’t feel any implausible development while watching the movie.

Now that is a big statement because every Masala film, no matter how big a blockbuster it becomes, has many revealing ‘implausible’ elements in its plotline.

But Sholay’s plot brilliantly (and effectively) suppresses all those elements.

And that plot, that narration, that storytelling is completing its 40 years today – being told and retold all this while – becoming a part of day-to-day lingo with its characters becoming eponymous with societal traits – something that rarely happens with a particular feature film.

And what compounds the – interest is most of the actors and crew members of the film are alive to relive their experiences. Yes, it would be better, at a different level, if Amjad Khan, the actor playing the most iconic character of the movie, Gabbar Singh, would have been here to share his thoughts on this occasion. Amjad Khan is not between us but he made Gabbar Singh immortal – the most talked about character of the movie.

Sholay is ‘perfect’ Masala film based on a plot revolving around one character’s pledge to seek revenge from the main antagonist of the movie. The storyline is strengthened by brilliant acting by every actor – lead and side. The main revenge plot and the different sub-plots are so intrinsically woven that we don’t feel any gap or jump.

If Gabbar Singh, Thakur Sahab, Veeru and Jai are our evergreen stars, so are Soorma Bhopali, Angarezo Ke Jamane Ke Jailor (Jailor), Mausi, Rahim Chacha, Sambha, Kalia and so on.

What happened with Sholay, its wide reach in the masses that has touched times and generations, has happened rarely with a Hindi film.

The movie not only became a classic property for its actors, but also for its director, music director and story/script writers. Every aspect of the film was so tightly packed – right frames in a right sequence – packed neatly one after the other – that we don’t come across boring moments and frustrating questions – something that dilutes interest in any plotline.

The film has borrowed heavily from classic Westerns and even from some Hindi movies but its high point is that it has been successful (and efficiently so) in showing them as its own – in showing them as the inherent plot elements.

It was a perfect blend of different condiments – a spice that has always remained hot and colourful – irrespective of what the experts (and analysts) say – both, for the movie and against it. The filmmakers might not have thought on those lines that some experts say. After all, how could they, if they had to release their movie during the days of Emergency in India?

Filmmakers here wanted to deliver a Masala entertainment package and they excelled in that with Sholay.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

‘RETURN IF POSSIBLE’ DR. KALAM

Now that is a desperate plea to someone departed who was so beloved. That is an expression that we so often hear in such moments.

It was expected to happen and it was so heartening to see it happening. I read this opinion and the poignant thoughts that followed from multitudes of voices.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, India’s foremost scientist and human being, who was also India’s most unorthodox President in India’s recent political history, was the main news theme even today. And he is expected to be there tomorrow and the day after as well, in every mind, on every news agenda. His body will be flown to his home town Rameswaram tomorrow where his last rites will be performed on Thursday (July 30).

Dr. Kalam who curated and spearheaded India’s missile programme (and for that he is known as India’s Missile Man) and who was the main brain behind India’s nuclear tests in 1998, died yesterday while delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong. Doctors later said it was a massive cardiac arrest and Dr. Kalam was brought dead to the hospital.

No one trusted when the news first broke in media and social media. For some time, there was no official confirmation. But it soon became clear that Dr. Kalam, who, it is said, left the Rashtrapati Bhavan with the same suitcase that he had come with, had left us. The eternal teacher who departed from this world while teaching his students had left his body at 84 after living a youthful life – that is a lesson for humanity.

But many were not ready to take this even if reactions and tributes started pouring in. They kept on praying for miracle. They kept on praying with ‘return if possible’ Sir, as I read it on many communication channels.

That tells why and how a man becomes larger than life. For Dr. Kalam, his nation, India, was before everything and he followed it in letter and spirit while leading a simple, honest and frugal life – a life full of achievements, achievements that helped India live its scientific prowess in space and defence sectors.

The teacher in him, the disciplinarian in a scientist, the optimist in a person, the rationalist in a politician and the visionary in a leader will always stay with us a spirit to guide many of us.

After all, India has stopped producing such souls for whom the whole nation, across religions and classes, mourns.

India has not seen such a uniform expression of universal shock and tribute in years and will not see in many coming years.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/