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Khawaja Ahmad Abbas
Abbas in 1939
Born7 June 1914 (1914-06-07)[1]
Died1 June 1987(1987-06-01) (aged 72)
Other namesK A Abbas
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, novelist, journalist, columnist
Years active1935–1987
Notable work
RelativesAltaf Hussain Hali (grandfather)

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (7 June 1914 – 1 June 1987)[2] was an Indian film director, screenwriter, novelist, and journalist in Urdu, Hindi and English.

He won four National Film Awards in India. Internationally, his films won the 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, he is considered one of the pioneers of Indian parallel or neo-realistic cinema.[3]

As a director, he made Hindustani films. Dharti Ke Lal (1946), about the Bengal famine of 1943, which was one of Indian cinema's first social-realist films,[3] and opened up the overseas market for Indian films in the Soviet Union.[4] Pardesi (1957) was nominated for the Palme d'Or. 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),[3] 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 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).[5]

His column 'Last Page' was one of the longest-running newspaper columns in the history of Indian journalism. It 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.[6] He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1969.

In total, his works include 74 books, 90 short stories, 3000 journalistic articles and 40 films.[7]


Family background

Abbas belonged to the Ansari family of Panipat, tracing its roots back to Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a close companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and among the famed personalities that it produced we find: the 12th century Sufi saint Abdullah Ansari of Herat in Afghanistan; his maternal granfather Altaf Hussain Hali, a student of Mirza Ghalib and himself an Urdu poet of repute; his paternal grandfather Khwaja Ghulam Abbas, 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; his father Ghulam-us-Sibtain, among the first graduates from Aligarh Muslim University, who was a tutor of a prince and a businessman who modernised the preparation of Unani medicines; Abbas's mother, Masroora Khatoon, was the daughter of Khwaja Sajjad Husain, an educator keen on female education, having established the first school for girls in Panipat.[8]

Early life and education

Abbas was born in Panipat, undivided Punjab.[9] He attended Hali Muslim High School, which was established by his maternal grandfather, Hali.[8] He was instructed to read the Arabic text of the Quran and matriculated at the age of fifteen.[10]: 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.[11]

Illness and death

Abbas suffered from a heart attack in the 60s, followed by another more serious heart attack, a paralytic stroke as well a on set accident injuring his legs, but he kept working till his death at the age of 72 on the 1st of June 1987.[12]



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.[9]

He joined The Bombay Chronicle in 1935 as a political correspondent and later, became a film critic for the newspaper.[9]

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).[9]

While at The Bombay Chronicle (1935–1947), he started a weekly column called 'Last Page', which he continued when he joined the Blitz magazine.[5] "The Last Page", ('Azad Kalam' in the Urdu edition) became the longest-running political column in India's history (1935–87).[13] A collection of these columns was later published as two books. He continued to write for The Blitz and Mirror until his last days.

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.


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).[9] In 1951, he founded his own production company called Naya Sansar,[9] 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 and screenplay for the controversial themed film in 1974 Call Girl directed by Vijay Kapoor, starring Vikram and Zahera.

He went on to write scripts for Jagte Raho and prominent Raj Kapoor films including Awaara, Shri 420, Mera Naam Joker, Bobby and Henna.[9]


Abbas wrote 74 books in English, Hindi and Urdu[14] and was considered the leading light of the Urdu short story.[15] His best known fictional work remains 'Inquilab', which made him a household name in Indian literature.[16] Like Inquilab, many of his works were translated into many Indian and foreign languages, like Russian, German, Italian, French and Arabic.

His autobiography, I Am not an Island: An Experiment in Autobiography, was published in 1977 and again in 2010.[6]

Censorship case

In 1968, Abbas made a documentary film called Char Shaher Ek Kahani (A Tale of Four Cities).[17] 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 the 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.[18]

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.[18] Abbas also challenged the constitutional validity of pre-censorship on films.[19]

However the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of pre-censorship on films. [20][21]

Awards and honours



Haryana State Robe of Honour for literary achievements in 1969, the Ghalib Award for his contribution to Urdu prose literature in 1983[29]

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.



He wrote 74 books in English, Urdu and Hindi,[34] including:

For detailed listing :[35][36]


Books on Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

Articles on Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

V. K. Cherian (31 October 2016). India's Film Society Movement: The Journey and its Impact. SAGE Publications. p 61–. ISBN 978-93-85985-62-1.

See also


  1. ^ "Ahmad Abbas: The man who gave us Amitabh Bachchan". The Hindu.
  2. ^ "Death anniversary of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas today". 1 June 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Rajadhyaksha, Ashish (2016). Indian Cinema: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 61. ISBN 9780191034770.
  4. ^ "With love from India to Russia". Russia Beyond. 22 October 2009.
  5. ^ a b K. A. Abbas – Films as writer:, Films as director:
  6. ^ a b "A Piece of the Continent: K.A. Abbas wrote an iconic column, but will be most remembered for the socially relevant films he produced". 17 May 2010. Archived from the original on 26 October 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  7. ^ Krishnankutty, Pia (7 June 2020). "Writer, filmmaker, journalist — Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was master of all trades". The Print.
  8. ^ a b Saiyidain Hameed, Syeda (18 October 2017). "Khwaja Ahmad Abbas: The Inveterate Communicator". Sahapedia. Archived from the original on 5 February 2024.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Rajadhyaksha 1999, p. 39.
  10. ^ Abbas, Khwaja Ahmad (1977). I Am Not An Island. Vikas Publishing House. ISBN 070690477X.
  11. ^ Krishnankutty, Pia (7 June 2020). "Writer, filmmaker, journalist — Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was master of all trades". ThePrint. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  12. ^ K.A. Abbas (1914-1987) by Carol J. Slingo from Jump Cut, no. 33, Feb. 1988, p. 99
  13. ^ "The Legacy Project – View Entire Literary Sampler". Archived from the original on 21 June 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  14. ^ AUTHOR: Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (1914–87): Communicator of repute -DAWN – Books and Authors; 13 October 2002 Archived 20 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Indian Scripts". Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  16. ^ "India Today Magazine". Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Char Shaher Ek Kahani (A Tale of four cities) | the Life & Times of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  18. ^ a b "K. A. Abbas vs The Union Of India & Anr on 24 September, 1970". Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  19. ^ Bhatia, Gautam (13 June 2016). "A case for cutting out the censor". The Hindu. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  20. ^ Bhatia, Gautam (7 May 2016). "Film censorship and the courts". Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  21. ^ "Eastern Book Company – Practical Lawyer". Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  22. ^ 5th Annual BFJA Awards – Awards For The Year 1941 BFJA Awards Official website. Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "10th Karlovy Vary IFF". Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  24. ^ "4th National film Awards" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  25. ^ Khwaja Ahmad Abbas – Awards – IMDb IMDb Awards
  26. ^ "8th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Archived from the original on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  27. ^ "WebHost4Life – Web Hosting, Unix Hosting, E-Mail, Web Design". Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  28. ^ "Berlinale 1966: Juries". Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  29. ^ "Ghalib Institute". 20 October 2013. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  30. ^ "Tomorrow Shall Be Better". Alan Goble. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  31. ^ "Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein (1968)". The Hindu. 8 April 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  32. ^ Ashish Rajadhyaksha; Paul Willemen; Professor of Critical Studies Paul Willemen (10 July 2014). Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Routledge. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-1-135-94318-9. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  33. ^ "Khwaja Mohammed Abbas". K. A. Abbas Memorial Trust. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  34. ^ M.K. Naik, "Abbas, Khwaja Ahmad (1914–1987)" in Eugene Benson (ed.), Bholi, Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Routledge (2004), p. 2
  35. ^ Results for 'au:Khwaja Ahmad Abbas' > 'Khwaja Ahmad Abbas' [][permanent dead link],
  36. ^ South Asian literature in English, Pre-independence era Archived 30 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 July 2004. Retrieved 15 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Cited sources