KA Abbas: A pioneer and a radical
In modern times, as far as Indian cinema industry goes, there have been many fables of how superstars were made from a heap of failures which haunted...
In modern times, as far as Indian cinema industry goes, there have been many fables of how superstars were made from a heap of failures which haunted them as they started their journey to the top. This week we have the case of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (1916-1987), or simply KA Abbas for his admirers, a multi-faceted and talented man who was involved in many epoch making trends in Hindi cinema during his active phase. Quite notably, he is the man who gave break to a nondescript, business executive-turned-film hero Amitabh Bachchan in his 1969 film ‘Saat Hindustani’ and the rest is history.
Born in Panipat on June 7 which in itself, gave him the battle-hardened attitude for sure as his grandfather is reportedly the first martyr to have been blown from the mouth of a cannon during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, Abbas has many achievements which stood firm and unchallenged for a long period in time. Firstly, he with his writing and film direction is considered to be one of the pioneers of the neo-realism genre, which has morphed into varying trends and techniques over the years.
Moreover, his filmi column The Last Page which he started writing in the now defunct Bombay Chronicle in 1935, as a film critic and journalist, moved on to the RK Karanjia run tabloid ‘Blitz’ where it continued till the death of its author, four decades and more.
A rebel with a leftist orientation, he was feted for his sharp prose in his mother tongue Urdu and wrote more than 70 books in his entire career. His versatility in writing was such that he wrote for Raj Kapoor in films like ‘Shree 420’ at one end and the runaway love story classic ‘Bobby’ at the other. In over five decades, he had many notable films to his credit out of the list of 25 odd for which he either wrote the screenplay and/or directed.
Quite expectedly, his life has been one that of a constant conflict with the Establishment which did not take too kindly to his searing kind of a documentation of the life and times that existed in the first few decades after Indian independence.
Yet, for the longtime observers of the film industry he is a top-of-the-mind recall for his unalloyed support to the weaker and hapless sections of the society through his works and his ability to move across levels to assert his points of view. Interestingly, his birth and death month was June. Abbas passed away on June 1, 31 years ago having straddled the new and the old times very effectively with his strong and powerful language.