Khawaja Ahmad Abbas
Khwaja Ahmad Abbas
7 June 1914
|Died||1 June 1987 (aged 72)|
|Other names||K A Abbas|
|Occupation||Film director, screenwriter, novelist, journalist, columnist|
|Saat Hindustani; Mera Naam Joker|
|Awards||National Film Awards; Golden Palm|
|Part of a series on|
|Progressive Writers' Movement|
Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (7 June 1914 – 1 June 1987) was an Indian film director, screenwriter, novelist, and a journalist in Urdu, Hindi and English languages. He won four National Film Awards in India, and internationally his films won Palme d'Or (Golden Palm Grand Prize) at Cannes Film Festival (out of three Palme d'Or nominations) and the Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. As a director and screenwriter, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas is considered one of the pioneers of Indian parallel or neo-realistic cinema.
As a director, he made Hindustani films. Dharti Ke Lal (1946), about the Bengal famine of 1943, was one of Indian cinema's first social-realist films, and opened up the overseas market for Indian films in the Soviet Union. Pardesi (1957) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Shehar Aur Sapna (1963) won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, while Saat Hindustani (1969) and Do Boond Pani (1972) both won the National Film Awards for Best Feature Film on National Integration.
As a screenwriter, he wrote a number of neo-realistic films, such as Dharti Ke Lal (which he directed), Neecha Nagar (1946) which won the Palme d'Or at the first Cannes Film Festival, Naya Sansar (1941), Jagte Raho (1956), and Saat Hindustani (which he also directed). He is also known for writing the best of Raj Kapoor's films, including the Palme d'Or nominated Awaara (1951), as well as Shree 420 (1955), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973) and Henna (1991).
His column ‘Last Page’ is one of the longest-running newspaper columns in the history of Indian journalism. The column began in 1935, in The Bombay Chronicle, and moved to the Blitz after the Chronicle's closure, where it continued until his death in 1987. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1969.
Abbas was born in Panipat, Undivided Punjab. He was born in the home of Altaf Hussain Hali, a student of Mirza Ghalib. His grandfather Khwaja Gulam Abbas was one of the chief rebels of the 1857 Rebellion movement, and the first martyr of Panipat to be blown from the mouth of a cannon. Abbas's father Ghulam-Us-Sibtain graduated from Aligarh Muslim University, was a tutor of a prince and a businessman, who modernised the preparation of Unani medicines. Abbas's mother, Masroor Khatoon, was the daughter of Sajjad Husain, an educator.
Abbas attended Hali Muslim High School, which was established by his great grandfather, Hali. He was instructed to read the Arabic text of the Quran and his childhood dreams swung at the compulsive behest of his father. Abbas matriculated at the age of fifteen.: 30
He gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature in 1933 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1935 from Aligarh Muslim University.
After leaving university, Abbas began his career as a journalist at the National Call, a New Delhi-based newspaper. Later while studying law in 1934, started Aligarh Opinion.
He joined The Bombay Chronicle in 1935 as a political correspondent and later became a film critic for the newspaper.
He entered films as a part-time publicist for Bombay Talkies in 1936, a production house owned by Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani, to whom he sold his first screenplay Naya Sansar (1941).
While at The Bombay Chronicle, (1935–1947), he started a weekly column called 'Last Page', which he continued when he joined the Blitz magazine. "The Last Page", (‘Azad Kalam’ in the Urdu edition), thus became the longest-running political column in India's history (1935–87). A collection of these columns was later published as two books. He continued to write for The Blitz and Mirror till his last days.
Meanwhile, he had started writing scripts for other directors, Neecha Nagar for Chetan Anand and Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani for V. Shantaram.
In 1945, he made his directorial debut with a film based on the Bengal famine of 1943, Dharti Ke Lal (Children of the Earth) for the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). In 1951, he founded his own production company called Naya Sansar, which consistently produced films that were socially relevant including, Anhonee, Munna, Rahi (1953), based on a Mulk Raj Anand story, was on the plight of workers on tea plantations, the National Film Award winner, Shehar Aur Sapna (1964) and Saat Hindustani (1969), which won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration and is also remembered as Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan's debut film. He wrote the story for the controversial themed film in 1974 Call Girl starring Zahera.
Abbas wrote 73 books in English, Hindi and Urdu. Abbas was considered a leading light of the Urdu short story. His best known fictional work remains 'Inquilab', based Communal violence, which made him a household name in Indian literature. Like Inquilab, many of his works were translated into many Indian, and foreign languages, like Russian, German, Italian, French and Arabic.
Abbas interviewed several renowned personalities in literary and non-literary fields, including the Russian Prime Minister Khrushchov, American President Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Mao-Tse-Tung and Yuri Gagarin.
He went on to write scripts for Jagte Raho, and most of the prominent Raj Kapoor films including Awaara, Shri 420, Mera Naam Joker, Bobby and Henna.
His autobiography, I Am not an Island: An Experiment in Autobiography, was published in 1977 and again in 2010.
In 1968, Abbas made a documentary film called Char Shaher Ek Kahani (A Tale of Four Cities). The film depicted the contrast between the luxurious life of the rich in the four cities of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Delhi and that of the squalor and poverty of the poor. He approached the Central Board of Film Certification to obtain a 'U' (Unrestricted Public Exhibition) certificate. Abbas was however informed by the regional office of the Board that film was not eligible to be granted a 'U' certificate but was suitable for exhibition only for adults. His appeal to the revising committee of the Central Board of Film Certification led to the decision of the censors being upheld.
Khwaja Ahmad Abbas further appealed to the Central Government but the government decided to grant the film a 'U' certificate provided certain scenes were cut. Following this, Abbas approached the Supreme Court of India by filing a writ petition under Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. He claimed that his fundamental right of free speech and expression was denied by the Central Government's refusal to grant the film a 'U' certificate. Abbas also challenged the constitutional validity of pre-censorship on films.
However the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity pre-censorship on films. 
Haryana State Robe of Honour for literary achievements in 1969, the Ghalib Award for his contribution to Urdu prose literature in 1983
Vorosky Literary Award of the Soviet Union in 1984, Urdu Akademi Delhi Special Award 1984, Maharashtra State Urdu Akademi Award in 1985 and the Soviet Award for his contribution to the cause of Indo-Soviet Friendship in 1985.
His books in English, Urdu and Hindi include: including:
For detailed listing :
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