India

Did you know about Indian director and author Khwaja Ahmad Abbas?

A journalist, screenwriter and storyteller, he presented the unheard voices

In the late 1930s, India saw the emergence of one of the best storytellers of India, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. A film director, screenwriter, novelist, and journalist, Abbas was proficient in Urdu, Hindi, and English. The writer is not only the recipient of four National Film Awards in India as well as a Palme d’Or (Golden Palm Grand Prize) at the Cannes Film Festival. Abbas, through the prowess of his creative abilities, took to the screen, presenting the societal issues at large. So much so that as a director and screenwriter, Abbas is considered one of the pioneers of Indian parallel or neo-realistic cinema.

Abbas was born in Panipat and is the grandchild of AltafHussainHali – a student of MirzaGhalib- in whose home he was also born.

Abbas is a pass out of Aligarh Muslim University, and soon after the university, he started working at the National Call, a New Delhi-based newspaper as a journalist. But with his journey in The Bombay Chronicle newspaper in 1935, he went on to become a film critic.

As a journalist, Abbas interviewed many renowned personalities in both literary as well as non-literary fields. Some of the names include the then Russian Prime Minister Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, American President Franklin D Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Mao-Tse-Tung, and Yuri Gagarin.

In 1936 while working as a part-time publicist for the production house Bombay Talkies – owned by HimanshuRai and Devika Rani – in 1941, Abbas sold his first screenplay NayaSansar to them.

He made his directional debut in 1945 with DhartiKeLal (Children of the Earth), based on the Bengal famine of 1943.

In 1951, Abbas founded his own production company called NayaSansar, producing films with socially relevant themes. A few such films were Anhonee, Munna, and Rahi, which was based on a Mulk Raj Anand story on the plight of workers on tea plantations; SheharAurSapna, which won the National Film Award, and Saat Hindustani.

Abbas wrote the story for the controversial themed film in 1974, Call Girl, starring actress Zahera.

As an author, Abbas wrote 73 books in English, Hindi, and Urdu. In Urdu, he is best known for his fictional work Inquilab, which is based on Communal violence.

Many of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’s works have been translated into many Indian languages as well as foreign languages such as Russian, German, Italian, French, and Arabic.

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