Arshad, New Age Islam
Ahmad Abbas was one of the greatest multi faceted personalities of India in the
last century. He was an orator, a writer, a filmmaker and a journalist. He
wrote 70 books and thousands of articles in English, Hindi and Urdu. He used
all the available media (films, journalism and literature) to convey his vision
of his ideal world, his message of love, peace, patriotism , fraternity and
revolution to the masses that were poverty-stricken, tyrannised, oppressed,
illiterate, communally divided, superstitious, obscurantist and gullible.
was born in a religious family in Panipat in 1914. He was the great grandson of
Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, the legendary critic and poet of Urdu who
revolutionised Urdu poetry by giving it a new character and diction. He made
contemporary social and political issues his theme and wrote patriotic poems
As a young
man, Abbas, a graduate from the Aligarh Muslim University, was bothered about
the fact that India was plagued by social and economic ills. The oppressive
British rule and the centuries old oppressive and exploitative feudal system
had made life miserable for the poor and the farmers. Thanks to the
divide-and-rule adopted by the white rulers, the communal divide had resulted,
manifest in the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha.
‘Art for Art’s Sake’ was a meaningless proposition. Through his writings, he
wanted to enlighten his readers guiding them on the road to freedom--- freedom
from the yoke of slavery, exploitative feudalism, communalism, illiteracy,
superstition and all that was negative and retrograde.
never dabbled in poetry, not even after being ditched by the girl he loved,
whatever young Abbas wrote reflected his grandfather’s ideas. Later the
nationalist and reformist led to communism. Abbas felt imperialism and feudal
system were the root of all evils plaguing the country. He was Indian People’s
Theatre Association’s first general secretary and also a prominent member of
the Progressive Writers’ Association.
wanted to be the cynosure of all eyes. At the Aligarh Muslim University, he
found that only two categories of people were looked upon with awe ---
sportsmen and debaters. Abbas chose to be the latter. He won accolades and
appreciation for his oration and was a much talked about figure in the
Abbas shifted to Bombay, joining Abdullah Bareilvi’s newspaper Bombay Chronicle
as a crime reporter and film critic. His perceptiveness and vast knowledge
ensured that he could write impromptu on any topic under the sun.
his first story Ababeel (The Sparrow) was published and appreciated in
literary circles. Later, the story was included in a collection of best new
stories published in Germany, along with contribution by Tagore and Mulk Raj
over 200 stories and eight great novels. In most of the stories, he dealt with
contemporary issues – looking for plots in news headlines. The Bengal famine,
communal riots, rural development programmes taken after independence, social
and economic inequality and unemployment are some of the contemporary subjects
he had turned into fiction. Ek Ladki, Paon Me Phool, Main Kaun Hoon, Paris
Ki Ek Sham, Gehun Aur Gulab, Nai Dharti Naye Insan, Neeli Sari are among
his famous stories. Among his novels, Char dil Char Rahein, Saat Hindustani,
Mera Nam Joker Do boond Pani and Inquilab are noteworthy. Inquilab,
his most successful novel was translated into Russian, English and Hindi. Do
boond Pani and Saat Hindustani won him the prestigious National Integration
association with IPTA, he wrote several plays on social and political issues.
Dharti ke Lal (based on the famine in Bengal), Do Beegha Zameen (on
farmers and landlords), Main Kaun Hoon (on riots) and Gandhi aur
Godse (on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi) are his noteworthy plays.
stories, novels and plays, he also wrote travelogues. The Return of the Red
Rose is his biography of Indira Gandhi. I am not an Island, his autobiography,
is also a detailed account of the social, cultural and political aspects of
India of his times.
dogged by controversies all his life because he was of a very uncompromising
nature and had a no-holds-barred attitude towards society. His story Sarkashi
(rebellion) hurt the sentiments of the Hindus. He was dragged to the court
for writing another story. The case was dismissed after two hearings. But the
worst happened when he wrote the preface to Ramanand’s novel “Aur Insan Mar
Gaya” based on the large scale communal riots in the wake of the Partition.
In the preface, he wrote that it would be wrong to blame the riots on the
British alone. He felt all the communities involved ---Hindus, Muslims and
Sikhs – were responsible for the blood and gore and leashed out at all the
political parties, including the Communist Party. He wrote that the political
parties made only hollow promises to the masses and did nothing to educate
them. Neither did they nurture values and ideals in their cadres.
broke loose when the piece was published. The communists who have perennially
been allergic to criticism branded him an agent of imperialsim and his
progressive friends called him an enemy of the people. He was thrown out of
IPTA and all other similar organisations and a vilification campaign against
him began. But a confident and unrepentant Abbas stood his ground.
He made his
directorial debut with Dharti ke Lal based on his own play. The film was
produced by IPTA. Later he made more than ten films under the banner Naya
Sansar. Naya Sansar (1948) was a landmark in the history of Indian films.
It marked the beginning of what is now called the parallel cinema. Naxalite
which dealt with the issue of terrorism received an award in Italy. Shahar
aur Sapna won the President’s Award in 1963. He also wrote scripts and
screenplays of such superhit commercial films as Awara, Bobby, Shree 420,
Mera Nam Joker and Ram Teri Ganga Maili which gave Raj Kapoor stellar
he made won awards and honours in India and abroad, they often failed at the
box office. The reason: he used the film medium to propagate his nationalist
views rather than as a medium of entertainment.
won recognition as a great writer and filmmaker, Abbas always said he was
basically a journalist. He started his career as a journalist and remained one
till his last day. After the Bombay Chronicle went into oblivion in 1946, RK
Karanjia invited him to write the last page of the Blitz, which he did for
Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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