Archive for the tag “Dhiraj K Nite”

Sensual Pradox of the Gandhians: Dhiraj Kumar Nite

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the most awe-inspiring and enigmatic person in world history. Messages from his life are, it could be said, decidedly not merely in the shape of swachh Bharat (cleanliness in India) or non-violence. His life – an experiment with truth – drew interests of hundreds of scholars from his own life time on. Sudhir Kakar, a psychoanalyst by profession, brings to us a historical novel that claims to present the true story of the lives of and the relationship between Madeline Slade (aka Mirabehn) and MK Gandhi. Unlike several other works on Gandhi’s life, Kakar’s study analytically examines the relationship of Madeline and Gandhi with reference to the formation and working of human nature, emotion and prushartha (personhood) of Madeline and Gandhi. #Author

Photo Credit: iAreef via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: iAreef via Compfight cc

 Sensual Life of Gandhi and Mira: A Psychoanalytical Examination

By Dhiraj Kumar Nite

Gandhi, son of a Diwan and a housewife based at the Saurashtra region in Indian subcontinent, established himself by the middle of the 1920s as the most influential axis of the struggle for freedom of India from the British colonial rule. Madeline Sade, a thirty-three old English lady, joined fifty-six year old Gandhi in 1925, who was by now popularly known as Mahatma and Bapu. Madeline was a daughter of the chief of British Navy in India, and came to stay with Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi set up Sabarmati Ashram as a commune of a few hundred persons for popularising his philosophy of non-violence, satyagraha (the pursuit of truth and justice), Hindu and Muslim unity, the removal of Untouchablity, a celibate life, and preparing cadres for the freedom struggle. Madeline came to know Gandhi from her study of a biography of Gandhi: Mahatma Gandhi authored by Romain Rolland in French in 1924. She identified herself with Gandhi’s philosophy and, more so, with his experiments with truth. She sought a spiritual pole star within him that was an alternative to the western society which she found indulgent in the war-technology. She vowed before Mahatma to adhere to the spirit of Gandhi’s commune, popularly known as the regimen of nineteen principles. Gandhi, in turn, gave her a new name, Mira; subsequently, other participants in Gandhian freedom struggle called her Mirbehan. Lives of Gandhi and Mira and their relationship passed through a series of ‘ups and downs’ at the level of their personal – emotional exchanges, in the course of constructive programme, political campaign, civil disobedience, and political negotiation. Both regarded their lives as spiritual journey through the noblest way and for the genuine wellbeing of humanity. Both of them extended care to each other, bore pain because of each other, and undertook anguished struggles with a view towards maintaining the moral standard, which Gandhi laid down for himself and his associates.

Gandhi offered a privileged treatment to Mira, Kakar suggests (p. 100). He involved Mira, along with Ba (Kasturba Gandhi: wife of Gandhi), in an-hour long evening conversation. Mira became, besides Ba, a personal carer of Gandhi at the Ashram, companion during his visit to Kanpur Congress and Wardha Ashram of Vinoba Bhabe in December 1925 and January 1926. He replied back to her all letters in case both of them lived apart. Indeed, Mira gained emotional intimacy with Gandhi and took place of Ba as carer in this period. Such caring and emotionally intimate relationship between Gandhi and Mira was, argues Kakar, an expression of some kind of relation of love. Kakar seems to presume that the relation of love between them was very natural, socially inevitable to germinate between them.

A subtle shift in their relationship, suggests Kakar, surfaced since May 1926, when Gandhi returned back from his ten-day long visit to Bombay (p. 125). Since January 1926, he preoccupied himself with the writing of his Autobiography. Now, Ba recovered her practical link with Gandhi. Gandhi showed an erratic behaviour towards Mira. Although, he never laughed with her; now he was often irritated, and scolded her for the smallest mistake. He ignored her. He seemed to have been withdrawn and reserved. He behaved as a moody. He developed a new frown line in his forehead (p. 134). He slapped a German voluptuous lady, Helen, who came to the Ashram to stay as her disciple and obsequiously sought his nearness. He was enraged over the habit of stealing, as it came to the light, on the part of his adopted daughter, Lakshmi, who originally belonged to the untouchable parents. Initially he considered beating her, but he came down to deploying the threat of social ostracisation of Lakshmi and the punishment of hard labour for redemption. Similarly, he publically chastised Ba for her persistent desire for possession. Gandhi now often conveyed a sannata (fear, shock, consternation) kind of silence, Mira felt (p. 130). In his autobiography, he worked on a section related to his youthful sexual temptation, which others did not understand in terms of the fact that for him sexual desire was the biggest roadblock for someone who would travel on the spiritual path. His conviction was that passions were poisonous to the true, inner self, and that sensuality sabotages our deepest purpose (p. 131).

Kakar explains the forgoing alteration in Gandhi’s state of mind and human nature in the following terms: Gandhi was in the throes of a personal crisis, of the disquiet of his soul. Mira, in turn, was faced with heartbreak. He became unbending and self-conscious. During the latter part of 1926, Mira had the feeling that Bapu’s magnification of his own lapses […] resulting from what most people would have considered an unattainable ideal of purity, was making him more unbending towards the failings of others. It was as if his memories, in being retrieved and set free during the process of writing his autobiography, were colouring his perceptions and taking over his moral judgement (p. 136). He regarded the corruption in the ashram to be merely the reflection of the hidden wrongs within him. Gandhi was here struggling against his own inner violence, for wresting of tolerance from an overweening, moralistic conscience, rescuing of his brahmacharya from the swamp of sensuality. He was involved in an inner struggle in the realm of human nature against lapses, failings, temptation with a view towards reaching saintly heights. The cause responsible for disturbances in Gandhi’s emotion and his inner struggle for purity and chastity, I suggest, could have been other way round as well. His experience of the present emotional life would have invoked a particular shade of memories of the past in the shape of sensual temptation. Kakar only hints at the Eros-related disquiet of his soul, which either came to the fore owing to his intimacy with caring, devoted Mira or because of his engagement with autobiography as an experiment with truth, including his philosophy of celibate life for deepest purpose of spiritual journey of freedom struggle.

Mira now not only continued to revere Gandhi as a sacred being, as the highest embodiment of the Eternal Spirit, but she marvelled at the effort it had taken him to reach these heights. Mira’s wish to be close to Gandhi now transformed into a strong need and, when thwarted, an almost unbearable craving (p. 141). She suffered from the pangs of separation as a result of Gandhi’s distancing of himself from spatial intimacy with Mira. It reminded her of the old pain of another unrequited love, but did not take the shape of any guilt-ridden despair. She moved to Rewari Ashram in 1927. Gandhi sent her to this ashram for furthering her Hindi study and familiarity with the country (p. 143). She involved herself in reading of Mira’s poetry, bhajan, and began to identify herself with them (p. 145). She passionately longed for Gandhi. She found herself in the emotional ties of dependency with him. She could not relate large entities, like mankind or higher ideals except through a person. She found herself in the state of spiritual love with Gandhi. Such philosophical claim of Mira did not last long, and equally manifest itself in its earthly form (p. 152). In the summer of 1929, she moved to Bangalore for reunion with Gandhi on an invitation of Gandhi for his speaking tour through north India (p. 165). Before this, Gandhi was restraining himself at best and passed through moments of breakdown. Contrary to Kakar’s analysis, the Doctors of Gandhi ascribed his breakdown to overwork and nervous exhaustion. At one point, Mira hugged Gandhi’s feet to her breast on one evening in June 1929 at Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi once again guided her for desisting from earthly expression of her passion. Yet, he also acknowledged his tempestuous nature of their relationship but now from the point of strength (p. 173).

Mira went to jail following her participation in the Dandi March. She accompanied Gandhi in Europe for his wellbeing in 1931.

She set up her rural development programme near Wardha in 1934. Gandhi joined her in Wardha and set up his Sevagram in the period of 1934-42. In the period of 1932-42, Gandhi passed through episodes of severe depression and spiritual despair (p. 213). His failure in relation to the removal of untouchability and the diffusion of Hindu–Muslim conflict agonised him (p. 213). (To note, Kakar does not take up the same kind of exposition for the period of the 1920s). Kakar argues, at the same time, that Gandhi plunged in the well of despair, severe disturbances to his inner peace due to what Gandhi considered as shortcomings in his determined efforts to maintain his chastity resulting from incidents of sexual arousal while he was awake which deeply shamed him. This is when he decided to live by himself in Mira’s village. Now he took shelter in Mira’s space but with an optimum physical distance for living by himself (p. 214). Wardha Sevegram continued to give an unfinished look as compared to Sabarmati Ashram. Now, he also looked at animal husbandry and education through craft. Here, Gandhi acted more as mother than fatherly master, Kakar suggests. Thus, his human nature and emotional effort sat coping with inner unease also developed. Mira continued to be protective and possessive of Gandhi (p. 220). By contrast, Gandhi emphasised an attachment with God, and disciplined life for achieving God (245-247). This was Gandhi’s another coping strategy.

Prithvi Singh, a freedom fighter of forty-seven year age, entered Wardha Sevagram, and in the lives of Mira and Gandhi during 1938-42. He was a rustic Punjabi of animal vitality. He was not overawed by the preaching of Gandhi on celibacy and nonviolence. Mira suspected that Gandhi threw her and Prithvi together (p. 233). Mira was infatuated with frank and fearless nature of Prithvi. Yet, she felt cravings for love of Prithvi. She fell in love with an accomplished physique of Prithvi as someone who joined her on the path of serving the country together (p. 236-37). Prithvi saw her love as weakness in her character. He related himself with her as brother. He believed in military discipline and physical education, and rejected Mira’s love under the influence of Indian patriarchal culture wherein the expression of love by a woman meant weakness of her character,argues Kakar (p. 240-241). He fled away. But in company of Prithvi, Madeline already realised that her association with Gandhihad sapped her free energy and self-reliance (p. 251). It had undermined her self-expression. She became incapable of doing any sustained or independent work. Her contact with Prithvi Singh prompted her to look for ‘purna swaraj’ from Gandhi. She recognised woman’s fullest strength in the loving relationship with a man. But Prithvi was not attracted to Mira as an old woman. His Rajput and peasant culture and notion of masculinity meant no recipient of Mira’s mannish courting (p. 261). [Here, Kakar applies a sociological explanation, which is not in sync with his overall psychoanalytical approach.] Finally, Madeline was found distraughtand fraught with an unfulfilled life and personhood in 1968.

Kakar’s elaboration of the dynamics of Gandhi’s human nature and its evolution, it could be said, interpolates to other literature on the evolution of Gandhi’s politics and strategy of freedom struggle which Bipin Chandra et el document in their work (2000).

Madeline with time became awareof her emotional dependency on Gandhi, and inadequacy as a disciple of Gandhi. Her experience surfaced as comparable to what another character, Navin become aware of in his own experiment with truth in the company of Gandhi. This appears, it could be said, an exposition of the paradox of Gandhian philosopy of social life. Gandhi did not claim to be Budhha, but many of his followers at Ashram and Sevagram were like the dependent rake to him.

Kakar applies a simple-narrative style of discussion. The author becomes a participant observer by adopting a historical character of Navin, a Hindi teacher of Madeline and follower of Gandhi. At times, he speaks from both vantage points of Navin and as an author. Fictions are deployed as the binding material in the interstices of the building blocks of the true story gathered from the letter exchanges between Mira, Gandhi and Romain Rolland. Yet, he presents the divergent versions of awful interaction between Madeline and Gandhi. Like a novel, he weaves a couple of small subplots (such as Bhansali’s story) with a view towards making the narrative multitudinal and integrated with a few lighter moments. He writes life history of Madeline for describing her emotional structure, but this life history is focused on her Eros and her preference as well as socio-psychological sources of her human nature. Kakar occasionally cross-checks one set of historical source with other available sources (p. 223), including diaries of various historical agents. This brings a touch of plausibility to his narrative.

….Continue…

Dhiraj k NiteDhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, University of Johannesburg, Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi. You can contact him through dhirajnite@gmail.com

Book Review: Kakar, Sudhir. Mira and the Mahatma, Delhi: Penguin, 2004.

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Becoming South African Citizens: Dhiraj Kumar Nite

An Exposition of the Formation of Political Identity between the Indian Diaspora

Abstract: This essay analyses the political efforts made by the diasporic Indians for attaining South African citizenship. During a remarkable political journey from the status of indentured workers to citizenship, the diasporic Indians took certain decisions, articulated their positions and incurred risks for the stand-point, which had positive bearing upon their political journey. They identified themselves as colonial patriots and stressed South Africanist identity in the early 2thc for making a case for settling down as free persons. With time, they recognised unity of their interest with other oppressed nationalities, thereby involvement in anti-apartheid struggles and constituting their popular embeddedness in the widest-possible social fabric of South Africa. The overwhelming size of them once again reaffirmed their African embeddedness by defeating the divide and rule policy through boycott of a Tricameral Parliament in 1984. They have refrained from paranoia of BEE and committed to the society as contributors to growth and social business. Thus, our exposition interpolates an under-researched issue of political adaptation undertaken by the Indian diaspora in the diasporic studies. Moving away from the narrative of victimhood, it underscores the contours of their human agency.

@Dhiraj kumar Nite

Early Indian labourers in South Africa

Early Indian labourers in South Africa

 

Introduction

This essay discusses the ways in which the Indian diaspora qualified themselves for citizenry right in South Africa. It analyses their political effort and decision which proved historically critical for making their claims for South African citizenship successful under multi-racial democracy which dawned since 1994.

The Indian diaspora forms about three percent of the population (49 millions) in South Africa, and about 6.5 percent of the population in its Kwazulu-Natal province in 2011. Their politics for citizenry right in South Africa marked, it could be said, certain distinction as compared with the politics of the native Blacks and other Coloureds who successfully fought for the same in the 20thc. The distinction had to do with the fact that the Indians migrated to South Africa since 1860; the overwhelming number of them were indentured workers in the British-controlled Natal Colony, one of the regions on Indian ocean-coast of South Africa; and the White-controlled Union of South Africa, formed in 1910, considered them along-side other Coloureds good for only semi-skilled labour against the status of unskilled labour accorded to the native Blacks. The diasporic Indians, the native Blacks and the Coloureds were subject to the rule of racial segregation, which graduated in the regime of apartheid since 1948. Furthermore, their foothold in South Africa came under severe duress under apartheid polity. For the Nationalist Party, the architect of apartheid, came in power with the political slogan: ‘The Kaffer (the native Blacks) in his place and the Coolie (Indians) out of the Country’ (Bhana 2000).

In the face of the circumstantial and political challenges, the historic decision taken by the diasporic Indians to settle down in the country of economic-destination, and their successful fights for citizenry right, it could be said, were remarkable in its own right. They received much more than citizen status under multiracial democracy. The cabinet of Nelson Mandela included six Indians among its 16 odd members. Jay Naidoo headed the politically most important portfolio, called Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). He was the first general secretary of the largest workers organisation – Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) formed in 1985. Currently, Pravin Gordhan has been the Finance Minister in the Zuma-led ANC government. Mac Maharaj has been the advisor and spokesperson of the President Zuma. Both of these South African Indians have been respected anti-apartheid crusaders since the 1970s. Little wonder, the Indian diaspora presently represents what we know in the language of international relations as the soft-power of India in South Africa.

Relevance and hypothesis

Several scholarly works contribute to our understanding of life and experiences of the diasporic Indians. Four approaches are discernible in the literature. First considers the creation of indentured labour in the Indian subcontinent and its impact on life of indentured Indians and their family members at Indian villages. It argues that the colonial authority duped the Indian rural poor for recruiting as indenture labourers on the overseas plantation. According to it, indenture labour was akin to slavery for the period of contract of three to five years between the labourer and the employer. Indenture labour caused moral and social degradation (the loss of family life, religion, indulgence in prostitution, the existence of high death rate) in their life. This approach characterised the nationalist discourse on indentured Indians and informed the nationalist demand for the abolition of indenture system, which came to fruition in 1917-1920 (Kumar 2013; Tinker 1974).

Second studies the conditions of work and social life of the indentured Indians on the sugar plantations. It reaffirms the argument that indenture labour was a new form of slavery. It argues that the indentured Indians were subject to gruelling long working hours, confinement within the plantation premises, inadequate payments for availing of a healthy life, and corporal punishment for failing to complete assignments and infringement of plantation regulations. They received little opportunity for a regular family life because of crowded ‘cooly’ barracks and highly unequal gender ratio (29 percent female of the indentured Indians). Therefore, they indulged in the instances of wife murder, suicide, prostitution, heavy drinking and consumption of other narcotics (Beall 1988; Tayal 1977; Tinker 1974; Mohapatra 2007, 1995).

The third approach deals with the experiences and adaptation pattern of the indentured Indians. It moves beyond the narrative of victimhood and unmitigated suffering of those wo/men who were caught in the coils of indenture. It argues that the Indian poor frequently made considerate choice in favour of migration to the overseas destination; many of them decided to settle down because of comparative advantages found there. According to it, these wo/men carved out their niche overseas and, in the long-run, seized opportunities of betterment (Lal 2000; Freund 1995; Brain 1985; Bhana and Pachai 1984; Tayal 1983; Swan 1984; Bujis 1986). And, fourth engages with the social, cultural, educational and political practices of the Indian diaspora. It suggests that the diasporic Indians did not simply carry over the Indian custom to the destination-economies. Indeed, they selectively attached to the old custom and, over time, transformed it in a way that suited best to the social economy and labour regime which they were part of (Hiralal 2013; Naidoo 2010; Mohapatra 2007; Bujis 1986; Freund 1985).

My discussion below pursues the thread of the above-mentioned last two approaches, and fills a gap related to the political adaptation. The latter included, I suggest, not only some landmark events and activity which fell upon them; but, more importantly, the discursive articulation of the stand point and risks incurred for one’s political conviction to have bearing upon the course of social change. There were four crucial conjunctures, I propose to highlight, in the early 20thc (the moment of South Africanism or Colonial Patriotism), the mid 20thc (Unity of the Oppressed), the 1980s (Rejection of Divide and Rule), and the 2000s (Refraining from Paranoia of BEE).

Moment of South Africanism

The early Indian diaspora in South Africa were the Indentured workers. Between 1860 and 1911, 152,184 indentured Indians recruited under the 1837 regulations of indenture labour were shipped to Natal sugar plantations – approximately 1/3rd out of Calcutta port, and the rest out of Madras port (Swan 1984: 241). It stopped in 1911 at the request of the government of Union of South Africa established in 1910. Only 52 percent of these migrant workers took historic decision of settling down in Natal after their term of indenture expired. From there, several thousand drifted north to the Transvaal region which developed gold mining. Most of them remained in Natal and gradually moved on to the works at the sugar mills and other occupations, and gave way to the local Zulus on the plantation by 1930.

The free persons, after completing their tenure of indenture (three to five years or 10 years under the pressure of re-indenture owing to tax of pound three imposed on free Indians since 1895), seized numerous opportunities in petty enterprises in agriculture, fishing, market gardening, fruit and vegetable hawking. They decided to settle down despite the burden of an annual three pound tax. The tax was introduced by the first parliamentary session of the responsible government and was part of a package which sought to control Indians who were not of direct and immediate use to the White planters and farmers who dominated the legislature (Swan 1984: 241). The tax was a mechanism to push Indians either back to India or back under indenture. The escape route to this tax was migration to the Transvaal goldmines. The British administration started clamping down on these immigrants in Transvaal in 1903-04. It imposed the law of registration of trade and population on them.

The diasporic Indians felt aggrieved of the poll tax and other restrictions. The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) was formed by the Indian merchants (migrants as free passenger) and Gandhi in 1894 for specific purpose. But, it was failing to represent other diasporic Indians. In order to pursue a solution to their grievances and articulate their embedded reality in South Africa, the young Indian colonials formed the Natal Indian Patriotic Union (NIPU) in 1908, the Colonial Born Indian Association (CBIA), and the South African Indian Committee (SAIC). They unified themselves and expressed new locally-embedded identity under the ideology called South Africanism or Young Patriotic Colonials. It distinguished them from the foreign-born commercial class and laid claim for formal equality with other residents and settlers. They demanded the repeal of poll tax, annulment of the law of registration of population, and recognition of customary Hindu and Muslim marriages.

The developments in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) prompted them to fashion a unifying ideology. The post-war brought to them depression, salary cuts, the introduction of a new form of taxation, and an attempt by the new White-controlled state to debar Indians from the civil service. These developments made it increasingly difficult for the western educated Indians to maintain existing standards (Swan 1984: 245). To note, they established contact with Gandhi over these matters and joined Satyagrah between 1911 and 1914. Thambi Naidoo was one of their leaders. Naidoo was also popular president of the Johannesburg Tamil Benefit Society. Indian colliery and plantation workers went on strike in 1913 in this resistance. The state and employers brutally intervened in the matter to bring the workers back to work. Violent treatment meted out to strikers drew public criticism in India and London. The government announced the appointment of a commission. Its findings in April 1914 recommended the abolition of the poll tax and long sought settlement over the immigration law. The outcome was able temporarily to resist full proletarianisation of Indians by securing the abolition of the poll tax. No change in the immigration law came. Conditions of these workers were often no better by the World War II than those which had produced the groundswell of militancy in 1913 strike a success (Swan 1984: 256-66).

Unity of the Oppressed

In the early 1940s, a new generation of Indian radicals set in motion the large scale Indian labour organisation underpinned by the ideology of class struggle. The NIC was transformed into an organisation defending the rights of all Indian people. It occurred under the leadership of Dr GM Naicker and Dr Yusuf Dadoo, who argued that ‘the political rights of the Indian community could not be divorced from those of African and Coloured people’ (Naidoo 2010: 44), who were equally suppressed under the rule of segregation and the subsequent regime of apartheid. They called for a multiracial front and a relationship with the African National Congress (ANC), which became evident in the Doctor’s Pact in 1947 – on the eve of election that ushered the apartheid ruler (the Nationalist Party) in power. In 1952, Mandela was appointed by the joint planning committee as Volunteer in Chief and Ismael Cachalia of Indian descent as his deputy to execute three stages of disobedience in the Defiance Campaign against the pass law, the group areas act and the suppression of communism act. The pact recognised the all-encompassing identity of Black, including the native Africans, settled Indians and Coloureds, as oppressed and as against White’s injustice. An identity was built against injustice of the apartheid regime (Naidoo 2010: 45). To note, such momentous politico-social regrouping came in force despite the infamous Indian – Zulu riot which occurred in Durban in 1949. The anti-apartheid Indians now maintained duel or triple membership – NIC, ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP). As participants in the defiance campaign they faced prison, house arrests, deportation to the Robben Islands, armed struggle, exile, and underground community work.

The diasporic Indians were increasingly educated and urban dwellers. In 1985, they numbered some 900,000. In 1975, over 50 percent of them were under the age of 19. They had the falling birth rate. They had initially benefitted from schools run by the Christian Missionary between them. Subsequently, they coaxed the government to provide affordable schools to their children in the 1930s and 1940s (Bujis 1986: 230). Like the White settlers, they were passionate about schooling of the children. Gender differentiation was at work here only at the higher education level, and that too was withering away. They were adopting ‘an African attitude’ toward equal education of daughters (Bujis 1986: 231, 242). They aspired for white collar jobs. Now husbands felt elated over wives’ educational attainment. The Tamil and Telgu speakers were switching over to English language. There were 23 percent Christian converts. Their South African General Mission focused on modern subjects in education and other social matter and outlook. Other practicing Hinds thought caste as a system of discrimination in many ways similar to apartheid and one which was irrelevant in the modern world. Until recently caste was an important factor only in marriage negotiation (Bujis 1986: 233). They made efforts to restore family and maintain an extended family, which proved wherewithal of social progress. In a way, it marked a reversal from the tyranny of nuclear family to joint and extended family (Bujis 1986: 235). These participants in social upliftment drive expressed their anger against apartheid constraints by establishing new unity with other South African oppressed and investing in Freedom Charter adopted in 1955. It resolved to have multiracial democracy and the recognition of the birth-right.

Rejection of Divide and Rule

The apartheid government launched a new Tricameral Parliament with an Indian, Coloured and White chamber (the largest by far being the white chamber which also had the veto power). It attempted to co-opt the minorities into a conservative alliance in face of the mass revolts since 1976, and a new spate of trade restriction imposed on South Africa by the western countries in the 1980s.

A massive boycott campaign confronted the election schedule in September 1984. To utter surprise to government, an overwhelming majority of Indians and Coloureds preferred to support the boycott campaign (Naidoo 2010: 89). They saw the Tricameral system as a ploy to perpetuate White domination. However, a minority of Indians took part in the elections for the House of Delegates – the Indian Chamber. These Indians – largely commercial persons who came to South Africa as free passangers – did benefit materially under the model of separate development. Other Indians saw the lack of a chamber for Blacks was to prove a stumbling block for the system. The ANC and SACP intensified the political struggle. Jay Naidoo, as general secretary, led the largest mass front – the COSATU. African workers sang: ‘this is our coolie, he is our leader’. ‘In all my years in the labour movement and our struggle against apartheid, I was never once made to feel my ‘Indian-ness’’, writes Naidoo (Naidoo 2010: 100). Mac Maharaj, an ANC member in-exile from the 1970s, intruded South Africa and acted to rebuild mass base for the ANC. De Klerk became the State President in 1989 and took the purposeful decision to retract the ban on the ANC and all other political organisations in exile.

Refraining from paranoia of BEE

The anti-apartheid struggle succeeded to actualise the political content of Freedom Charter through setting up new multiracial democracy in 1994. The latter began de-racialisng the institution and inclusive economy. Frene Ginwala, a seasoned activist and a woman Indian South African, saw such social progression as the first speaker of the new parliament. Jay Naidoo supervised the redistribution programme – RDP. Some professional Whites found these changes demoralising and looked out for greener pasture abroad.

The government moved on to the neo-liberal policy called Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GER) in 1997-98 – the last year of Mandela’s ministry. Mabeki, Mandela’s successor, initiated the scheme of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). The latter meant an affirmative action for the Blacks. The company, the employer and educational institution showing accommodative approach toward the Blacks, received financial favour of the government. Equally, the demand for proportional access to resources and equity in development surfaced under Mabeki’s slogan of South Africanism and African Renaissance. Jay Naidoo experienced that his Indian ancestry was now used against him to oust him from the seat of RDP (Naidoo 2010: 293). Other diasporic Indians shared reservations in a meeting with Mandela in May 2000 over new South Africanism centred on BEE. They received reassurance and reposed pride in South African identity (Bhana 2000). They have been poised to seize newer opportunities. White capital, management know-how, and professional skills have been leaving the country. Unlike them, the South African Indians have been filling up the vacuum. Under White rule, the Group Areas Act dictated that the Indians could operate only in areas demarcated for use by the Indian community. In their own areas there were limited facilities for trading and minimal facilities for manufacturing. Several enterprising Indians used White nominees or formed companies with White shareholders to set up manufacturing operations in the main industrial regions of the country. Under ANC rule, the Indians have been getting into the mainstream manufacturing and service industries. Their educational attainment has yielded them a comparative advantage.

The promising and reassuring field of progress informs the following opinion of Jay Naidoo: ‘a sense of accomplishment became possible because his great-grandmother, Angamma decided to abandon her life in her [wretched Indian] village and travel across an ocean to a new land’ (Naidoo 2010: 248). It is not an irony that Naidoo opines so against the backdrop of his ousting from Mbeki’s ministry in favour of social equity in development.

Conclusion

The diasporic Indians had a remarkable political journey from the status of indentured workers to citizenship. They took critical decisions, articulated their positions and incurred risks for the stand-point, which had momentous bearing upon their political fate. They identified themselves as colonial patriots and stressed South Africanist identity in the early 20thc for making a case for settling down as free persons. In a short span of time, they recognised unity of their interest with other oppressed nationalities, thereby involvement in anti-apartheid struggles and constituting their popular embeddedness in the widest-possible social fabric of South Africa. The overwhelming size of them once again reaffirmed their African embeddedness by defeating the divide and rule policy through boycotting the Tricameral Parliament in 1984. They have refrained from paranoia of BEE and committed to South Africa as contributors to growth and social business. Thus, our exposition interpolates the issue of political adaptation undertaken by the Indian diaspora in the studies of the subject at issue. Instead of reinforcing a narrative of victimhood, it highlights the nature of their human agency responsible for shaping their political journey.

Dhiraj k Nite

Dhiraj K Nite, A Social Scientist,  University of Johannesburg, Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi. You can contact him through dhirajnite@gmail.com

 

Reference

Beall, Joe, ‘Women under indentured labour in colonial Natal, 1860-1911’, in Walker, Cherryl (ed.), Women and Gender in Southern Africa to 1945, (Cape Town: David Philip, 1990), pp. 146-167’.

Beinart, W., P. Delius and S. Trapido (eds), Putting a Plough to the Ground: Accumulation and Dispossession in Rural South Africa (Johannesburg, 1986),

Bhana, Narendra, ‘South African Indians: the past, the present and the future’,The Imperium Journal, Vol. 1, December 2000.

Bhana, S. and B. Pachai (eds), A Documentary History of Indians in South Africa (Stanford, 1984).

Brain, ‘Indentured and Free Indians in the Economy of Colonial Natal’, in B. Guest and J. M. Sellers (eds), Enterprise and Exploitation in a Victorian Colony: Aspects of the Economic and Social History of Colonial Natal (Pietermaritzburg, 1 985)

Bujis, Gina, ‘Children of the Sugar Company: Tradition and Change in an Indian Community’, in Sandra Burman and Pamela Reynolds (eds), Growing Up In A Divided Society, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1986, pp. 226-247.

Freund, B., Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class of Durban, 1910-1990 (Portsmouth, NH, 1995)

Halpern, Rick, ‘Solving the ‘Labour Problem’: Race, Work and the State in the Sugar Industries of Louisianaand Natal, 1870-1910’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 30 (1), Special Issue: Race and Class in South Africa and the United States (Mar., 2004), pp. 19-40.

Hiralal, Kalpana, ‘Caste In The Diaspora: A Case Study of the Natal Rajput Association in Durban’, Man in India, vol. 93 (4), 2013, pp. 591-606.

Keegan, T., Colonial South Africa and the Origins of the Racial Order (London, 1996).

Kumar, Archana and Ran Narayan Tiwari, ‘History, Memory and Culture and Indentured Migrants: A Comparative Perspective’, Man in India, vol. 93 (4), 2013, pp. 495-507.

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Lal, Brij V. Chalo Jahaji: On a Journey Through Indenture in Fiji, Canberra: ANU, 2000.

Mohapatra, P. ‘Restoring the Family’: Wife Murdern and the Making of a Sexual Contract for Indian Immigrant Labour in the British Caribbean Colonies, 1860-1920’, Studies in History, vol. 11 (2), August 1995, pp. 227-260.

Naidoo, Jay, Fighting for Justice: A Lifetime of Political and Social Activism, Johannesburg: Picador Africa, 2010.

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Tinker, Hugh, A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830-1920 (London: OUP, 1974).

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Photo Courtesy: The Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa

 

Ruhr Mining Museum- An Institution of the Post-industrial Society: Dhiraj K Nite

The advanced industrial society is also a pioneer of industrial and mining museums. The latter embodies as much the fact of such a society to have been the early industrialised one in world history as the awareness of socio-emotional dislocation, which the people in the old industrial town experienced in the midst of shifting industrial geography. These museums, equally,educate usabout the socio-environmental costs, which the humankind have been confronted with. Here, I share my observations on one of such institutional memories, the Ruhr Mining Museum (RMM), which I visited during my short sojournat Essen in Germany in November 2013. # Author 

Ruhr Mining Museum, Essen

Ruhr Mining Museum, Essen

By Dhiraj K Nite

The RMM, developed in 2010-12, is one among a couple of industrial heritage centres in the world. Its location lies at Essen in the Rhineland, which was the capital of coal mining and metallurgical industry in Germany in particular and continental Europe in general. Coal mining has practically stopped in this region. In 1900, Germany was among the major coal-producing countries (100 million tons a year) and the Ruhr coalfield had feat of the deepest and the most mechanised mining, as it were known, in the world since the 1930s. One of such coalmines – having been the deepest (1650 meter) and known for producing 12,000 tons coal per day (nearly 4.5 million tons per year)by employing simply 5000 workers in the late 1930s – hosts the Ruhr Mining Museum.

The RMM tells its story with the help of good numbers of historic artefacts, and an equally brilliant collection of photographs, posters, digital resources, and short documentary films. In addition, the original site of the deepest coalmine, its machinery, and workshop become part and parcel of the historic artefacts,which are at the disposal of RMM. I find three sections in the RMM. One deals with the history of ancient, medieval, enlightenment, and modern industrial society, as it were, at Essen. The second relates to the emergence, growth and impact of modern mining in the world. And, the third presents an intimate encounter with the remains of mining workplaces, workshops, coal-washery,and coke-manufacturing plant. Let’s have a brief survey of all three.

Digital resources at work in RMM

Digital resources at work in RMM

The maintenance and integration of the remains of old mining sites, including shaft, coal carrying and loading machinery, and other workshop and plant are invaluable components of the RMM. Here, the kids of the post-industrial society thicken their familiarity with the aspect of industrialisation, which so far they would have studied only through pages of school literature and fading memories of the parents/grandparents. My visit to the site has been exciting, for I find such sophisticated method of mining missing on the Indian coalmines even in the twenty-first century. The sophistication in mining method should yet not make us obtuse, RMM and its tour guide suggest, from noticing its dark-side. Colliery management adopted scientific management and fordismat par excellence. Intricate mechanisation accompanied two more initiatives. It required workers not to have been seen around the main gate of coalmine. This practice conveyed an impression to the visiting stockholders and traders that the production depended on a minimal use of human labour. Workers in the workshop had to hide themselves, whenever the manager walked in the workshop. The practice meant to sustain anillusion of perfection in automation.

The managerial self-delusion of automation did not obviate work-hazards and not impairing and killing colliers. Colliers trusted own tacit skill and sought blessing of the St. Barbara, a female deity, whose image was engraved at the mouth of coalmine. It reminded me the Khadan-Kali cult between the colliers in eastern India. Colliers invoked her favour daily while entering into and getting off the coalmine. The religious-ritual in the workplace did help colliers protect themselves from certain injuries. But there were others. The collier employed at the pit-mouth, where coal-tubs got unloaded, invariably bore the brunt of deafening noise. He had solace in a better wage paid to him. His wife was proud of her husband being employed in the ‘safest’ and best paid occupation that had been available to the production worker, narrates the museum guide.

An Image of St. Barbara Engraved at a Pit-mouth

An Image of St. Barbara Engraved at a Pit-mouth

The story of mining hazards further developed in the second section of RMM. Now, I have been in a five floor tall coal washery. It boasted the fact of maximum mechanisation. Merely 16 workers ran the entire washery, devoted to wash6000 tons coal per day. One of its floors, now, houses the section on world history of coal mining and its contemporary practices. Not surprisingly, it talks of the employment of child labour, female, and crude technology in the so-called ‘illicit’ mining in India, which presents a stark contrast to what I described before. Ops! Notably, it tells the history where coal enjoyed status of black-diamond during industrialisation and now received notoriety of being the enemy number one, because it is as a fossil fuel the chief source of pollution in our environment. Once again, one story refers to the burning of underground coal in the Jharia and Raniganj coalfields. The local inhabitants offer symbolic sacrifice of clay horses for own protection, highlights the RMM. Here, an Indian learns about the popular culture of own country at a distant museum. Ah!

Coal-tubs toward its final destination

Coal-tubs toward its final destination

Employment of child labour and females in ‘illicit’ mining in India

Employment of child labour and females in ‘illicit’ mining in India

In presenting the history of Essen and the Rhineland from the Palaeolithic to contemporary times, the third section draws our attention to a few concerns of the post-industrial society. The latter successfully persuaded the political and business authorities for closing down the source of fossil fuel and switch over to eco-friendly solar and wind energy. The last working coalmine in Essen would be closed in 2018. The problem of lay off and unemployment confronted the post-industrial humankind in the region. The government, at one time, encouraged the automobile industry to open plants in the region. It employed 5000 workers. The lack of appropriate new skill stared many others. The RMM as an industrial heritage institution boosts up tourism in the region and offers new education in industrial heritage. The planners are not sure how far such efforts would meet the demand for employment. The dream of green parks, fields and blue water to become available, following the closure of coalmines, is falling short of satisfying other existential necessities of post-industrial humankind, tells one curator and my friend Dr Stefan Siemer. The feeling ingrained in this exposition explains why Ms Merkel, the leader of Conservative Christian Party, prefers to ally with the social democrat than the green party for the formation of a government in 2013.

Banner of social democracy (Second International)

Banners of social democracy (Second International)

Meanwhile, Dr Siemer and I passed through a corner of museum focused on Fascism at Essen. My guide – friend says to me: Now,he won’t speak. I simply glimpsed of posters without making any effort to understand German captions. We were about to finish off this corner,Siemer spoke: you can see that the working people resisted the fascist. The Ruhr region was the heartland of workers militancy in Germany. It got me chuckle on this post-fascism narrative. Consider it. Luisa Passerini describes in her book Fascism in Popular Memory (1987) a possibility of incorporation of the working people in the fascist design before the onset of anti-fascist partisan movement in 1942; and the fact of only subterranean critique of it in the cultural realm by the traditionally advanced-section of the working masses.

Banner of  Fascism in modern civilisation

Banner of Fascism in modern civilisation

The corner preceding the fascist one belonged to the era of left politics of working-classes. Siemer told me that Marx was not from this part of Germany nor his original ideas had much influence on the working people. The latter fought for social democracy as opposed to the Marxian idea of destructive class warfare. The point briefly marks off the history, for Marx was very much the founding member of the First International and its ideas called Social Democracy than Communism in those days.

The concern and anxiety of post-industrial humanity in continental Europe are very much manifest through the way the RMM is curated. Needless to say, coal is yet not any enemy in the industrialising societies in India, China and South Africa.

Dhiraj k Nite

Dhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, University of Johannesburg, Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi. You can contact him through dhirajnite@gmail.com.

A Cinematic Framing Of Urban-Polpular cultural Forms: Heroine (2012): Dhiraj K Nite

BY Dhiraj K Nite

The Bollywood has recently benefited from insights of a couple of radical-liberal craftsmen. These craftsmen claim to bring up reflexive realism to the commercial cinema. Madhur Bhandarkar is one of them. The output is a critical narcissistic engagement with the dominant theme of commercial cinema, i.e., the life and culture of wealthy individuals and moneyed professional. Bhandarkar has offered us, thus, an intense movie Heroine. Here, he continues to pour out his critical liberal take on his subject which we have seen him doing in Page 3, Corporate, and Fashion(2008). Very soon I will suggest where he makes departure in his latest venture.

The Heroine’s protagonist, Mahi Arora (Karina Kapoor) yearns for love, company and certainty in her life. She does so in the midst of her pursuit of climbing and remaining at the peak of achievement and success. It is a 19thc bourgeois notion of love, simply another name of a ‘marriage of convenience’ rather than of love. It is contrary to a meaning of love which we find in Sartre’s and Fanon’s work(1952): Love means a person is in the quest for something what s/he likes to have within him/her. Mahi is a celebrity, Bollywood star and a character of the 21st century’s matured professional world. The 19thc bourgeois notion of love descends in Mahi’syearning from the intervention made by her mother. Mahialready had two moments of break up in her youthful life. These moments failed to perturb and rub her professional spirit and the ‘happy-going’ orientation of life. The mother’s intervention reorients her at one stroke. The sharp editing of the movie and its singlefocus do not lend this shift become preachy nor penetrative.

Heroine DVD Cover

Heroine DVD Cover

Hereon, Bhandarkar repeats himself in this movie what he has already created in Fashion(2008). Mahi looks for the combination of aninsuring marital life and professional stability. The goal eludes her while it is testing her patience and emotional depth. She proves herself perturbable, and emotionally vulnerable. She pays price for it. The third moment of break up visits her to take an irreparable toll. The smoke of cigrate, galas of alcohol and half-lit flat accompany her inner turmoil. [The light management is splendid in the movie.] In between Bhandarkar once again reveals to us how individualistic and economistic have become the foundation of marital life of Page 3 couples? How promiscuity not just undercuts the façade of monogamy, but functions as a tool to greasing business transection?

Mahi and her advisors ensure her comeback by exploiting sexual transection with a man of substance. The latter is this time no other than a cricket star, i.e., another Star of our cultural, entertainment industry. Bhandarkar’s take on a nexus between the cricket star and the Bollywood star is astute. Only a flamboyant batsman rather than a destructive bowler could become a part of this nexus. Nonetheless, the character of Mahi does something what is hitherto infrequent to occur in Indian cinema. Before it, we have seen in the movie Gulaland Ishqiyathat a female protagonist deploys her sexual possession to hunt for her worldly pursuit.

Mahi is back in the industry. Sooner than later, she is made to realise that she should prove that she is an actor alongside a Star. She divulges in an Art cinema for an image change and become invulnerable to her mainstream male co-star. Bhandarkr’s momentary take on this matter amuses us with the revelation of the inner world of venerate artists of the Art cinema. Its artist is forthright, even when s/he is not unproblematic.

The main plot tells us that Mahi has learnt to prioritise her career first than any pull of certainty in sexual/marital life. The latter should wait. This maturity, or to call a decision, brings up at her door fourth break-up; a reunion with an erstwhile beloved; and one more round of break-up with him. In fact, the latter break-up follows Mahi’s newly acquired inability to become indulgent in the loving relationship; and that she could undertake only in favour of professional achievement. Finally, she also learnt to generate a sexual scandal around herself to attract viewers to her movie. This has become now an ‘acceptable’ pattern in the industry. After all, our memory is short about this! The scandal brings roaring favour of the viewer to her low-budget woman-centric movie (Annie), and new film offers pack her for next two years.

The door of professional achievement is an open one to her. Like Fashion’s MeghnaMathur, Mahi ends up in Europe. Meanwhile, both have gained solace and certain meaning of life by becoming caring to astruggling professional in the same industry.

Unlike Meghna, Mahi finds genuine pleasure and peace of mind when she quits the industry and merges herself in the crowd and immerses on the street. This is a romantic departure made by Bhandarkar in this movie.The explanation for this difference refers to the realisation made by Mahi how lonely an actress could become in the end of the day in this world of celebrity? How depersonalised and self-serving are participants in that world? This is a truly romantic philosophical input, and it demands suspension of any disbelief against its ‘upside-down’ impact on Mahi.

The focus on a continually evolving persona of Mahi and the application of sharp-edge editing has made the movie absorbing. A viewer may not feel cheated. One would definitely be perplexed by the fact of little search for the root of flicker and fickle in human nature of Mahi. She appears no more than a lurking symptom. Isn’t it her origin in a broken, emotionally drained family in-itself a symptomatic element of something else? However, we are witnessing more and more such characters, who may not be meeting the same end.

The Heroine is a commentary on a nexus among professionals (private lives of men, women and transgender), their profession (economic activity), and entertainment capital. Bhandarkarhighlights how the first two are inextricable in the regime of the third, as we find these in the Bollywood. Here, crockery, duplicity and double-crossing define business transection and are rules of the game. Im/morality submits to the regime of entertainment capital. When Mahi feels disgusted with it, she should become an onlooker and prefer oblivion.

Bhandarkar further brings to us a radical-liberal commentary on the popular cultural forms of urban life. The urban cultural forms include the cinema, fashioning, media channels, and cricketing sport. Glamour, luxury, and boisterous living seem to drive its participants. They value human links to the point when they find them useful to satisfy base desires for money, veneration and carnal sensation. They share few deeper concerns for camaraderie, collective consciousness for love and humanism. Indeed, the collective unconscious predominates. How much the reaction of Mahi in the ways of withdrawal from this devouring collective unconscious is a desirable option to others? Pessimism of Bhandarkar marks it different from what his Fashion and Page 3proposed to us.

Yet, Bhandarkar’s pessimist resolution to the problem does not loom large on the movie. The casts have been eager to step into the director’s frame. They have gratified the close-up camera by sufficiently contorting their facial muscle, and reserving their body language to bring characters on the screen. These sound technical sides of the movie reins pessimism of the resolution from casting any uninviting spell over viewers.

Dhiraj k NiteDhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, an emerging film critic,  University of Johannesburg,  Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi. You can contact him through   dhirajnite@gmail.com.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Parallel Cinema: A fraternal critique of Nehruvian socialism- Dhiraj K Nite

By Dhiraj K Nite

hrishikesh

Hrishikesh Da (1922-2006) was a cinematic craftsman known for pioneering a middle-path between the melodrama and extravagance of mainstream cinema, on the one hand, and, on the other, the shrieking realism of art cinema. He was the most successfulpractitioner of the product of this variously called middle cinema or parallel cinema in the Bollywood. The following commentary briefly surveys his cinematic expression with a view to question the conventional wisdom that parallel cinema was an expression of the Nehruvian socialist ethics on celluloid. It reveals the extent ofHrishiDa’s cinematic efforts as a fraternal critique of the claim made by such ethics, and his technical improvisation in achieving this on celluloid.

Nehruvian socialism, the popular assumption suggests, informed and inspired a variant of cinematic craft, called Parallel cinema. The latter chose the realsocial issue(opposed to melodramatic fantasy) and its socio-political context asa subject of its narrative; adopted a socialist perspective; and minimised crash commercialism in its presentation. Unlike the so-called art cinema, parallel cinema kept an eye open to the demand of Box office. Its cast, location and screenplay, therefore, charged higher costs.

 

The cinemagoer saw HrishiDa continuously developing this particular craft by directing and editing a large number of Hindi movies from the late 1950s and in the subsequent four decades. The prestigious Dada SahebPhalke Award, awarded to him in 1999, was the recognition of his mettle. The popular assumption about his endeavour does not help us understand how distinctive was HrishiDa as a practitioner of this craftsmanship? Nehruvian socialism inspired only certain content of his story. What about his cinematography, narrative style, screenplay, and other aspects of cinema production? He was after all not dependent on theNational Film Development Corporation. He looked out for producers, and took into account the box office. He worked with a specific principle and improvised a specific technique in doing so. What were these?

Narrative strategy

The story often unfolded in flash-back in his presentation. It was only a small element of his narrative strategy in his earliest directorial venture Anuradha (1960). Soon it was to become a hallmark of his craft. It marked a break from his contribution as an assistant to the production by directors,like Bimal Roy. He effectively harnessed the power of this technique in acclaimed movies, like Satyakam (1969: a righteous person), Anand (1970: a wholesome life taller than astronomical time), NamakHraam (1973: a phenomenological path of self-realisation), and Bemisal (1982: the significance of platonic love and inter-subjectivity). His presentation of story in flash-back generated curiosity between viewers. It did not have much emphasis on thrill at the cost of explanation offered for the main plot, and of an idealised resolution prescribed by the director for the problem which the plot concerned itself with. His details related to explanation and resolution, avoided all possibility of turning out preachy. These drew viewers to a secular logic of social development and human action. There, the divine intervention or pursuit did not have constitutive role to perform: which was contrary to the hallmark of commercial cinema. Hrishi Da was at his best in delivering this in movies, like Satyakam and NamakHraam. He lost this touch in his last directorial venture, Jhooth Bole KauwaKaate (1998). The latter appeared as a critique of the new love story of the defiant adolescenton celluloid. Here, Hrishi Da underscored the decision of two adult girl and boy to persuade their parents for the recognition of affectionate relationship between the couple. Here, no explanation was offered for such engaging behaviour of protagonists as opposed to those of defiant adolescents. Hence, viewers found the movie preachy and lacking details. What accounted for this slippage in his technique? Seemingly, the Bollywood saw a shift in favour of functionalism in the 1990s. The ageing Hrishi Da seems to have been a victim of it.

His narrative worked on wholesome comedy in family movies, like Bawarchi(1972), ChupkeChupke (1975) and GolMaal (1979).In his other movies the comedy was a subplot. These movies were acclaimed for noticeable absence of double-meaning dialogue. The latter has taken sway in many current comedy ventures.

Screenplay

His screenplay concerned itself with the main pursuit of Hrishi Da, i.e., explanation for and characterisation of protagonists in his movies. He was at par excellence in Anupama (1966) and Bemisal.The former movie depicted the meaning of life lived through by a reticent, traumatised girl in the midst of plenty. The statement was that pecuniary opulence does not amount to spiritual elevation. In the latter, the sources of vice and virtue in humankind were under his scanner. In his couple of early movies some houses, dwellings and most actors were the same. Locales were as per story and modest budget. Dialogue was sharp, focused, straightforward and Poetic. Lyrics received greater attention than the accompanying instrumental composition. Stories drove lyrics and songs. Therefore, listeners have not remembered songs of his particularly 60s’ movies. On top of everything, he eschewed from absorbing the new pulse of viewers for expensive scenic locale in the 90s, in his comedy venture Jhooth Bole…

Cinematography and film-editing

Cinematography is usually the shoddiest feature in Bollywood. Hrishi Da began his career as a cameraman in the 1940s. Unlike many of his colleagues, he relied on close-up shots, still and straight-angled camera. The former necessitated the fact that the director persuades actors to mould themselves in his frame. Hence, actors were able to exude emotion through facial contortion, voice modulation, and body gesture. He was remarkable in his effort. He worked with actors, like Dharmendra, Sharmila, Amitab, and AmolPalekar. All of them later became well known for their superlative talent. At the stage they joined in the venture of Hrishi Da, they were between the youngsters and bereft of stardom.Notably, Amitab performed some of his socially memorable roles in HrishiDa’s company. One can readily recall Anand, NamakHaraam, Abhiman (1973), Mili (1975), and Bemisal, where Amitab was shore off of his image of angry young man.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee was indisputably the ablest cinematic editor of his time. He performed this job in a large number of movies, including those of Bimal Roy from the 1950s. Here, he was succinct. Once again, his concern for explanation and characterisation defined his editing. His all filmfare awards recognised this particular skill, including for Do BighaZamin(1953: the everyday ways of resistance to depeasantisation and land enclosure) andMadumati(1959) and his greatest directorial venture Anand.

anupma

Ideological Bent

Let’s see how far Nehruvian socialist he was in his details and plot!The characters invariably belonged to the professional class in his narrative. His characters embodied the spirit of new, enterprising, advancing humankind. The latter were a social, public person. Their ideal was an attachment to social progress. Indeed, the latter defined national progress.Such ideal meant in daily life the ethics of social service, fraternal relationship between classes and gender, welfare of underprivileged, and a pleasant contented life for everyone. His movie Anuradha epitomised all of these. Seemingly, Hrishi Da lost this touch in his commercially successful venture Bemisal. Here, Amitab (Dr Sudhir Roy) committed murder of an honest nurse to save dignity of the family of his friend cum well-wisher. But, his image was extenuated from it, and the soul turned out pious without any remorse. Sudhir’s crime was bracketed, like melodramatic revenge committed upon an anti-social person. This was a singular preposterous lapse in his directorial venture. One can see it as his vulnerability to viewers’ appreciation for a hero in negative character on the celluloid in the 1970s on.

The resolution proposed in his movies was pre-eminently an individualist initiative of the protagonist. The character appeared as uniquely eccentric on this front in the movie Satyakam.NamakHraam was possibly an exception, where the source of change lied in social collectivity and ideological awareness. The latter was a schema in his work. Hence, one finds characters evolving, and this very process stands out as the main plot.

He was far from being any propagandist and apologist of Nehruvian socialism. He zeroed in on exposing the perpetuation of many of those problems, which the Nehruvian polity claimed to uproot. Viewers readily remember Anuradhafor the missing medical service in the countryside; Anupamafor bourgeois parental authoritarianism; Satyakamfor the persistence of rotten administrative and cultural life in the form of corruption and ostracization; NamakHraamfor the perpetuation of class exploitation and bourgeois chicanery. His protagonists were dialectical antithesis of those problems, and of the limitation of Nehruvian polity. His characters in Anand and Mili (1975) represented the extraordinary human spirit how to live a full life and radiate envious charm in the surrounding.In this sense, it is folly to reduce HrishikeshDa’s parallel cinema to the alter-ego of Nehruvian socialism. Nor the latter can help us appreciate the craft of parallel cinema and distinctiveness of HrishiDa’s craftsmanship in the very terrain. 

 Dhiraj k NiteDhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, an emerging film critic,  University of Johannesburg,  Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi.

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