Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The War Journals: Novel of Unanswered Questions

By Asif Anwar Alig
Tuesday, 02 December 2003 00:00 IslamOnline.Net @ OnIslam.Net

he whole world is murmuring the gushy anecdotes of the war against terrorism; the ‘holy war’ perpetrated by US President George W Bush. Only a few dare to admit the fact that Bush is not the only crusader in this type of holy war. Salahuddin Pervez 1 is one bigwig of literature who has dared to unleash the horrors of holy war and its unholy and messy outcome in his recent novel The War Journals. As the name suggests, The War Journals is not only a documentation of war but also a hypothesis for the world’s major wars. Salahuddin Pervez radiates deep emotional appeal in his narrative style and uses elements unparalleled in modern Urdu literature-- prose and poetry summed up in one novel. Such literary revolution was rare in early Urdu literature.

The novel unconsciously reminds us of the use of symbolism applied so well by the legendary American novelist Earnest Hemingway. The War Journals (Urdu) and Farewell to Arms (English) are similar and yet dissimilar. Hemingway and Salahuddin Pervez know the outcome of war for ‘sustainable peace and prosperity’, wars where the goal has never been achieved. Both the writers weep in solitude while examining the predicaments of war. Both have the flair to be outspoken but also know how to placate and use symbolism. The major difference between these two books is in defining the nature of war. It is undeniable that Farewell to Arms imprints the social and psychological dimensions of the world war and is testimony to Hemingway’s crispy personification of English literature.

In contrast to Hemmingway, Salahuddin Pervez releases us from the norms of Urdu literature. War cannot placate peace. The War Journals denigrates the pogroms that humanity has faced from its inception until now, and might be facing it in future. The novel is not specific to any country, creed, and caste or period. According to Pervez, war is a plague on society and the aftermath of war renders humanity to drifting dust. An extract from The War Journals supports this fact through these lines of direct conversation:

Main abhi zinda houn Sir,,,,,
Hum Yahan Kuda Kurkut Uthane Aaye hain
Tumhein Nahin,,,,,
Lekin Sir,,,,
Sir,,,,,,Mein abhi zinda houn Sir,,,,,,
Zinda Ho,,,,,,Kiyoun,,,,,,,,
Hum Tumhein Nahin Utha Sakte,,,,
Kiyoun nahin utha sakte Sir,,,,,
Tum ek Human Being ho,,,,,,, 

(Sir, Sir, I am alive sir. We have come here to clear the debris and not to lift you. But sir, I am still alive! Why? We cannot lift you! Why Sir? Because you are a human being!

These lines from the novel distinguish The War Journals from others and capture the attention of the world. The epic war Mahabharat2 is lucidly described in the novel, but one cannot claim that the book has been written in the context of an Indian scenario. The novel neither exonerates nor pacifies the kingpins of war. Certainly, some questions lie unanswered, and the reader must acknowledge that the novel is incomplete. 

Salahuddin Pervez, as a novelist, has introduced a new trend in Urdu novels. This trend has become the cause of divergence in sections of the Urdu world and has created an outcry in literary circles. Pervez has broken many existing rules of literature to introduce a narrative style, which is modern as well as hypnotic. The writer uses his style of mixing Urdu, Hindi and English words i.e. Hindustani, to keep up a fast pace, perhaps too fast for readers trying to understand the philosophy of the novelist. Proper use of metaphors and similes (Earlier confined to poetry only) and mixing cultural identities has always found a place in his writings and the trend continues in The War Journals

The holy war that has been perpetrated by Bush has turned both Afghanistan and Iraq into rubble. The War Journals elaborates on the completely unholy stain of this holy war that will ultimately shame humanity. The book captivates us with two other holy wars fought for the cause of religion, fascinating insights to the Mahabharat war and the Karbala war-- that was the holy war between Imam Husayn, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and Yazid at Karbala. Surprisingly, the novelist has attempted to draw a parallel line between the holy wars along with the war for genocide by Bush and Blair in The War Journals, which is quite heartening and shocking!

But the novel is worth reading, not only as a novel but also to help us understand the fact that ‘truth and humanity’ should be our ultimate Values. Unfortunately, nobody seems prepared to follow this path yet. Perhaps one day we will all realize that war is no solution for peace to prevail.

1- Salahuddin Pervev is one of the renowned writers of India. He has been awarded Sahitya Academy Award for Urdu Literature .Beside this, he received international award for Urdu Literature instituted by the Majlis-E-Farogh-E-Urdu, Doha, Qatar .
His famous novels include, Namrata (1982), Ek Din Beet Gaya, Sare Din Ka Thaka Hua Purush and Identity Card.

2- Mahabharat is the longest poem in the world, made up of 220,000 lines divided into 18 sections. It was written in Sanskrit, the ancient sacred language of India and it tells the story of a great battle that occurred about 3000 years back. 

Asif Anwar Alig is associated with ETV networks. With a postgraduate degree in journalism and mass communication from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, he has been writing for newspapers since 1999 and working in the field of electronic media for the last three years.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Out of the Moral Crisis

Reviewed by Asif Anwar Alig

Dard Ka Portrait, by Mazharuz Zaman Khan, Pages: 112, Price: Rs. 100, Published by: Isteara Publications, 53-A, Zakir Bagh, Okhla Road, New Delhi. 

The book imprints the gory stories of Partition of the country, the reasons of frustration and the crisis of modernity.

Urdu literature has played a pivotal role to beseech a revolution in the Indian sub-continent. Its contribution for annotating waves for the freedom struggle of the country is remarkable. Different forms of Urdu literature either in prose, poetry, short story, novels or dramas are still written, but not all are at par with those that created history in raising their concerns that the progressive movement of the 50s and after, was meant for. 

Likewise, drama writing in Urdu had its intricacies then. It was focused for a group that kept themselves close to the theatre culture. Such tendencies on statutory themes and issues merely highlighted the imaginary dreams that are common until now. In most of the Urdu dramas, the concept of symbolism is bleak.

This dogma is challenged by the emerging writers who have started writing with a difference. The book Dard Ka Portrait (Portrait of Pain) is one of the new entrants in this trend of drama writing in Urdu. Authored by Mazharuz Zaman Khan, this collection of dramas has redefined Urdu drama writing. Published by Isteara Publications, New Delhi, the book is a collection of seven dramas.

The writer prudently involves himself amongst the characters in between. He reminds that Urdu as a literature is not lacking the conceptual integrity of literary ethics. The writer has taken utmost care in using symbolism as ascent. I read the book and came to the conclusion that the author does not speak the language of Earnest Hemingway in Urdu — a very common trend by the Urdu literati to upswing this language. But the symbolic evaluation of his characters is rare and original. All seven dramas have universal appeal. They are the tales of melancholy and hypnotize the readers to come out of the moral crisis. It imprints the gory stories of Partition of the country, the reasons of frustration and the crisis of modernity. 

Written in monologue, the book is a collection of scholastic dramas that the writer visualizes in such a fashion that he too finds himself in one of the characters being portrayed. The first drama Saltanat (Kingdom) explains the atrocities of today’s rulers on its subjects. Whatever is the system of governance, the writer reminds the readers, that the present governments have forgotten their responsibilities towards the ruled. By defining this, the author tries to make the readers understand that a modern system of governance, either democratic or autocratic, always attempts to hamper the growth of the subjects.

The second drama, Mujhe Ghar Bulata Hai (Home Calls Me) defines another crisis of human civilization. Where do we belong? Are we not residing in a mobile world struggling to find peace in our lives? This drama, with metaphoric character sketches homes, home owners, home makers and the condition of today’s society and deals with how humanity is surviving in a coma. 

We have forgotten the ascent of human relationships in the name of progress and happy living. How humanity was divided into man-made borders and Partition of India was one of them. Are we able to encounter such ups and downs, where for peace, we have almost forgotten ethics, morality and ideals of our forefathers?

In the drama, Hamein Hawaoun Ne Bikher Diya (The Air has Broken Me), Mazharuz Zaman Khan sums up the gloomy picture of the communal clashes resulting into riots and pogroms. The Partition of the country had already invited repeated pogroms. The next two dramas, Curfew and Sawal (Question) raise the question of the real motives of betrayers advocating hatred out of sheer frustration. 

In the last two dramas, Udas Nasl Kaa Karb (The Pain of the Sad Generation) and Dard Ka Portrait (Portrait of Pain), Mazharuz Zaman Khan is unable to understand the social stigma. He peeps into the genocides in the name of religion, modernity and so- called progress. He questions on how the society has forgotten fraternity.

Mazharuz Zaman Khan, as a young writer has introduced his characters as symbolic, metaphoric and scholastic. He is keen to remind the readers that humanity should not be subdued into a particular race, but they should have a meaning for survival. This book is well written and is packed with universal appeal.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Legend’s Substance and Shadow

Reviewed by ASIF ANWAR ALIG 

Dilip Kumar—The Substance and The Shadow: An Autobiography, narrated to Udayatara Nayar, Hay House India Publishers, New Delhi – 110 070 (India), Year2014, 456pp, Indian Rupees699, Hard.    

n narrating life’s journey to Udayatara Nayar, Bollywood thespian Dilip Kumar (Muhammad Yusuf Khan as was he named on birth on December 11, 1922) recounts untold facts about his life in this memoir. This autobiography peruses how his stardom and Indian cinema matured simultaneously. The facts were either not revealed yet or the gossip media misinterpreted them in prejudice.    

Dilip Kumar in his Youth
The memoir, Dilip Kumar—The Substance and The Shadow: An Autobiography describes his career as a trendsetter. It brings noteworthy facts about his life and works lucidly. Reminiscences by co-actors, filmmakers, friends and relatives perpetrate his meticulousness and innumerable contribution in cinema. Sections on his filmography, adoring tributes by the film personalities or acquaintances present his indisputable collage of film art. Through firsthand narrations and reminiscences in this book, Udayatara Nayar brings a complete zest of tragedy king’s personality.

With Saira Banu and Udayatara Nayar
Eminent actress and Dilip Kumar’s wife Saira Banu writes in foreword—“Indian cinema’s diva, Devika Rani (1908–1994) selected shy 22-year-old Pathan fruit merchant’s son to star in Bombay Talkies’ movie Jawar Bhata (1944) with a small change—Muhammad Yousuf Khan to become Dilip Kumar. She writes about her chivalrous husband who always hates seeing tears in her eyes.” Unaffected simplicity and total absence of ego turns him persona extraordinaire. Their relationship has no fuss or bloated ego, she argues.

Dilip Kumar would always insist the directors pairing him with wife Saira Banu that physical intimacy scenes be avoided onscreen. Such insistence wasn’t to portray his orthodoxy. It was because he believed it a moral responsibility as an actor and head of the family to ensure nobody is embarrassed. They starred together in Gopi (1970), Sagina Mahato (1970) and Bairaag (1976) movies after marriage.

With Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan
This memoir unfolds an inspiring journey of an actor born to British Indian Peshawar’s fruit trader Ghulam Sarwar Khan and his wife. Even in zenith of success as Dilip Kumar maintained humble lifestyle with distinction of being Bollywood’s first ever superstar being immortalized in his lifetime. He realized essential secrets of filmmaking and choose film medium seriously through assessments without formal training. He grasped nuances of filmmaking and delved into characters performed. His belief was that an actor’s responsibility doesn’t end with acting. Movie’s finesse would be possible with collective effort.

In a Scene in Mughl-e-Azam
With lifelong friends Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor
The book unfolds archetypal facts about legendary actor from his work choices not governed through remunerations offered to his early influences. Once Azaad (1955) released he developed confidence in acting with sense of achievement in the early career. He pointedly mentions that halfway through filming Mughl-e-Azam (1960), actress Madhubala and he were not in the talking terms. Famous scene of a feather coming between their lips flared up many sensual imaginations. It was shot at a time both didn’t greet each other. It portrayed film history’s two mature professionals dedicated to careers. Their merits were unquestionable as costars performing scenes with professional commitment. Both fulfilled the sensitive, arresting and sensuous screen moment vision of director by keeping personal differences or egos aside.

With wife Saira Banu
Speculations were rife that Dilip Kumar and Madhubala would tie the knot while Mughl-e-Azam was filmed in 1950s. Gossip media prophesied Madhubala’s father Ataullah Khan opposed her marriage with Kumar. On contrary, he couldn’t bow down to her father’s foolish precondition to involve daughter and potential son-in-law in the production company he ran and forcing Kumar to ignore other commitments. Ataullah Khan was elated for possible arrangement of two stars under one roof. Kumar believed to separate personal and professional relationships. As Madhubala didn’t agree to him their relation soured.    

During book launch and amongst the film personalities
Dilip Kumar became successful actor in early 1950s. By then, his father was acquiescent that what he wished for his son was granted. His initial hurt pride was due to son’s choice of becoming an actor instead of an officer which didn’t fruition. Kumar narrates that while he looks back at those years from rising in the profession he feels a sense of satisfaction due to setting his priorities. He has lived up to father’s expectations through taking over family responsibilities as parent-brother and proving that.

Why Dilip Kumar didn’t consider specific movie crucial to his career’s growth? Attaining experiences from them groomed him to rediscover his potentialities. Each movie played pivotal role for him to hone acting skills. This autobiography informs us about leading ladies with whom he worked. His pairing with actress Vyjayanthimala in seven films was remarkable and portrayed great onscreen chemistry. Their reminiscences speak volumes of love, affection and encountering a rare human being in him they met.

Former Indian prime minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru personally approached Dilip Kumar to campaign for Congress party in Bombay (now Mumbai) elections. Becoming sheriff of Bombay in 1980 to Rajya Sabha member in 2000 encompassed his political stints. Gesturing to travel by special festive annual train from Bombay to Poona for decades with an aim to meet common masses inspired many for social causes. It promulgates the multifarious aspects of his towering personality.

Dilip Kumar with Actress Madhubala
Kumar’s Peshawar visit in 1988 reignited his nostalgia. It was memorable journey when former Pakistan President General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq received him with state honors. Moment of reminiscence came when an uncontrolled crowd from his birthplace rushed towards him for a glimpse. It brought melancholic tears in his eyes. He revisited many places in Pakistan including his birthplace Kissa Khwani Bazaar area.

He visited Pakistan again in March 1998 while its government invited him to accept highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz. Government of India bestowed him Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and 3rd highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan in 1991. He maintained distinction of being first recipient of Filmfare Best Actor Award (1954) and so does he hold record for maximum number of Filmfare awards won in a specific category with 8 wins. He was awarded Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.      
This memoir portrays Kumar’s childhood pranks, unconditional love from grandmother to mother and father’s subtle but virtuous affection. His closeness with filmmaker family Prithviraj Kapoor and his son Raj Kapoor from Peshawar to Bombay is sincerely described. Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor maintained a deep friendship since college days. Gossip media reported their professional rivalries but in reality their friendship became deeper bonds from trust to respect for each other.  

Dilip Kumar with Actress Vijaynthimala
He sensed family responsibility since childhood, rebelled and went Poona for work at one point to start his sandwich shop. It was lucrative business but he realized his absence created vacuum in family and perhaps he was not meant for such works. While assisting father’s business in Bombay after his small Poona interlude, he explored other business opportunities. Once waiting for a local train in Bombay he incidentally met Dr. Masani whom he knew from early interactions. He was taken to Bombay Talkies thereafter. Life changed drastically when an acting job was offered to him for a monthly salary of Indian Rupees 1250 then. He met early mentor actor Ashok Kumar at Bombay Talkies.

His first acting break came with Jwar Bhata (1944) but he was unnoticed until Jugnu (1947) released. Subsequent movies Shaheed (1948) and Andaz (1949) brought more popularity. Bollywood fraternity metaphors him Tragedy King but his acting career of over six decades are of finest movies of multiple genre including romantic Andaz (1949); rumbustious Aan (1952); dramatic Devdas (1955); comic Azaad (1955), historic Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and social Ganga Jamuna (1961) as versatile film works.
This memoir recounts 11 October 1966 exclusively when Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu married. From nikah (Muslim marriage) to walima (marriage banquet) to friends & relatives’ blessings to huge media attention are all narrated engrossedly as if events happened before the readers. Newspaper headlines wrote about ‘most eligible bachelor to become groom.’ It was big surprise due to presumptions that he won’t be able to adjust with a girl twenty-two years younger than him. Their natures differed but they understood each other well. Such understanding still remains the success mantra of their marital life. This book projects an ideal family relation and wishes received from friends in films and non-film fraternity.

Kumar’s friendship with co-actors and family is summed elaborately in this memoir. His passionate love for wife Saira Banu is portrayed through an incident when she was admitted in a London hospital. Entire hospital staff observed the keenness of wife-husband relationship of absolute care surprisingly. Their pranks played with each other brought fun moments in life and also inspired for his comedy acts in finest movies later. Welcomed by colleagues in Madras (now Chennai) was the adoring gesture for them.

His successful films came in 1950s with prototypical roles like romantic Jogan (1950); Deedar (1951); Daag (1952); Devdas (1955); Yahudi (1958) and Madhumati (1958) to anti-hero in Amar (1954) and establishing ‘tragedy king’ screen image in social dramas Footpath (1953); Naya Daur (1957); Musafir (1957); Taraana (1951) and Paigham (1959) to bring him at zenith of success. Cheery role in blockbuster Aan (1952) to boisterous peasant in Azaad (1955) and variety in Kohinoor (1960) were other hallmarks.

Dilip Kumar’s onscreen pairings with the actresses Madhubala, Nargis, Nimmi, Meena Kumari, Kamini Kaushal and Vyjanthimala brought golden period of Indian cinema’s maturity. He played Mughal Prince Salim’s role in epic movie Mughal-e-Azam (1960) which became 2nd highest grossing film in the history of Bollywood till 2008. He co-directed Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966) alongside Abdul Rashid Kardar and played dual role of twins in Ram Aur Shyam (1967).

Starring with Manoj Kumar and Waheeda Rehman in Aadmi (1968); multi-starrers Kranti (1981), Vidhaata (1982); Karma (1986); Shakti (1982); Mashaal (1984) and Duniya (1984) were perceptible movies after his five years sabbatical. He last appeared in Saudagar (1991) and Qila (1998) movies.

Singers Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar sang for Dilip Kumar in his entire film career. This memoir meticulously defines several unknown facts related to his life and works. They turn it a seminal book to develop keen interest in the readers.

This review was first published in on January 25, 2015