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Salaam Bollywood : Godfather of Journalism

Salaam Bollywood : Godfather of Journalism
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100 years of cinema is drawing to an end. We have talked about the milestone films that launched the careers of many actors and filmmakers. This...

100 years of cinema is drawing to an end. We have talked about the milestone films that launched the careers of many actors and filmmakers. This week's column is dedicated to an individual who changed the course of film journalism in India � Baburao Patel and to an institution that celebrates art and culture on theatre � Indian People's Theatre Association
sal2If Baburao Patel, India's pioneering film journalist were alive, he would be 104 years old this year. He dared to unmask the dream-merchants, a trend gradually picked up by future film glossies in the coming decades. Baburao launched India's first film magazine 'Film India' in 1935. It was the most popular film magazine of its time, widely appreciated for its bold stand on current issues and a scintillating style of writing. It was said that Baburao's column made and broke careers. Filmmakers dreaded his acid reviews of their films, for his comments invariably proved true at the box-office. Not surprising that he was the most hated and also the most sought-after journalist in show business. Patel was the son of an illustrious advocate at the Bombay High Court but due to compelling circumstances, could not complete his schooling. That did not deter his confidence as he spent most of his time browsing in his father's library at home. He enhanced his knowledge via self-education. He had big dreams for himself and he was unafraid to pursue them. It is said that he rejected his original surname, Patil because he found it too restrictive and altered it to Patel little knowing at that time that it would go on to become the most famous by-line of that era. He was the first film scribe to foray into film production (followed by Vaju Kotak of Chitralekha Publishers). A He wrote, produced and directed 'Kismet', 'Mahananda', 'Bala Joban', 'Maharani' and 'Chand Ka Tukda', 'Draupadi ', and 'Gwalan '. He was the first critic to be invited as a delegate to read a paper on Cinema and Culture, also the first to voice a protest against anti-Indian productions in Europe, UK and USA. For someone deprived of any formal education, he depicted great mastery over language and was a great orator. His writing did not restrict only to cinema. Baburao dabbled in various subjects and authored six books, prominent amongst which are 'Grey Dust' and 'Burning Words'. He had a special interest in politics, and to unravel the powerful leaders, launched a national magazine, 'Mother India' in 1960. This coincided with the closure of his film publication, Film India. The readers sorely missed their regular dose of juicy details on the film fraternity. Even old guards, who had all along criticised Baburao's scathing columns, felt complacent in the absence of a watchdog. Now it was time for the political parties to feel threatened by Baburao's fiery editorials. As 'Mother India' grew from strength to strength, he became the first mainstream journalist in 1967, much before Arun Shourie and others, to be elected as the Member of Parliament. It was difficult to pipe him down. Counted amongst the prolific writers on cinema, he is said to have written more than 8 million words in his 30-year-old career. As a tribute to the thespian, every year, in April and in July Baburao Patel's birth and death anniversary, his actress-singer wife Sushila Rani, holds a cultural concert to promote new artists and felicitate distinguished personalities. Every year, a prominent 'gharana' singer is flown down from his/her hometown. Year after year, Sushila Rani's disciples welcome guests with the traditional 'haldi-kumkum'. When the concert ends, the 90-year old hostess personally attends to every guest. Failing in health, but her spirit intact, the fragile lady drags her feet, making sure that nobody leaves her abode without a meal or a token of her husband's memory. As a film critic I have attended so many glamorous events in my career, but somehow, this one remains a special date. I have always come home thinking about how special Baburao Patel was and how he would have reacted to the present evolving media were he alive today.A I feel he would have been appreciative of the changing trends and the courage exhibited by media on all platforms.
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IPTA turns 70 It was the summer of 1942 when Indian people Theatre's Association (IPTA) staged its first ever show in Mumbai. A year later, in 1943 they held their first ever conference at Marwari Vidyalaya Hall in Mumbai. Initiated during the Quit India movement, Indian People Theatre was not just a platform for entertainment but an ideology to bring about social awakening. There was a reason for this. The members comprised progressive artistes like KA Abbas, Dr Homi Bhabha, Ali Sardar Jafri and prominent names from the film fraternity like Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi and Balraj Sahni amongst others. Today IPTA completes 70 years of theatre and stretches across 22 states of India with a team of 12000 members. They have a long list of impressive plays that have been running for years but one new play that generates immense curiosity and draws packed houses within hours of advance booking opening is 'Kaifi aur Main'. Conceived in the memory of legendary poet and IPTA founder member Kaifi Azmi, the play combines the writings of Shaukat Kaifi and Kaifi Azmi. In two years the play has travelled all over India and abroad and evoked nostalgia in a cross section of generations. Performed by Shabana and Javed Akhtar, the duo through riveting passages travel you through two momentous lives full of romance, drama, pathos, conflict, death and dignity. There is acceptance of turbulence, struggle without compromise on principles. What is most attractive about the play is that besides providing insights into two different people bonded in a relationship, the play is a document of the socio-political era and the influences prevailing at that time. The play is a novel experience in performing medium because the narrative combines heart rending prose punctuated with Kaifi Azmi's memorable poems like 'Aura' and 'Makan' and of course his memorable songs from films like 'Kagaz Ke Phool', 'Haqeeqat', 'Hanste Zakham', 'Heer Ranjha', 'Arth', 'Main Azaad Hoon' and others set to music by Kuldeep Singh and rendered by Jaswinder Singh and his orchestra. The two-n-half hour play unfolds the most extra-ordinary love story of all times. Every performance in every city is a magical experience. www.bhawanasomaaya.com
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