Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fear Is The Key

The name Hitchcock stands for mystery, suspense, and fear. As a maker of suspense films, he was unique because, although he was not a writer, it is largely because of his films that the mystery novel is one of the most popular genres of fiction today. To be read again and again, a mystery story has to be more than a mere puzzle, and Hitchcock knew this better than anyone else. And as the world celebrates his 101st birthday, his influence is as strong as ever, writes Kuldip Dhiman.

AS darkness descends on a remote motel, a woman enters the bath and turns the shower on. We hear the eerie sound of water falling to the floor. Presently, someone enters the room, but unmindful of the intruder, the woman continues to enjoy her shower. As the dark figure approaches the woman, we watch with bated breath, and literally move to the edges of our seats. We would like to scream and warn the woman. But just as it happens in a bad dream, we are paralysed with fear.

That is exactly what the creator of this scene, Alfred Hitchcock, loved to do. And he enjoyed every minute of it; so did the viewers.

"Our nature is such that we must have these 'shake-ups,' or we grow sluggish and jellified," Hitchcock, the universally acclaimed master of suspense, wrote in Why Thrillers Thrive. Generally regarded as the creator of the suspense thriller film, Hitchcock managed to captivate his viewers with a combination of anxiety and relief. "Little children go on a swing," he once observed.. "They go higher and higher and then they scare themselves and stop at the crucial point. And after they get off the swing, they're laughing."
 

 
That is precisely the way the audiences react to a Hitchcock film. While you are in the cinema hall, he keeps you on tenterhooks, and the willing suspension of disbelief is total. Many other filmmakers have spun suspense-filled tales, yet, when you talk about suspense, the first name that springs to mind is Hitchcock. People don't go to a Hitchcock film for the stars alone, they go to a Hitchcock film, because it is a 'Hitchcock' film. Many would not like to place him next to directors like Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese or David Lean, although Hitchcock could match the greatest of directors in content or film technique. It has something to do with a bias against the thriller genre, for most critics have failed to recognise its literary worth.
Hitchcock is unique because although he was not a writer, it is largely because of his films that the mystery novel is one of the most popular genres of fiction. To be read again and again, a mystery story has to be more than a mere puzzle, such as who the murderer is, and Hitchcock knew this better than anyone else. In an introduction to one of his anthologies, he explained: "The difference lies in the fact that Suspense here is accompanied by Danger - danger mysterious and unknown, if possible. Or, if the danger is known - then as inexorable or as insurmountable peril as may be imagined."

With Dial M For Murder, Psycho, Frenzy and his immensely popular TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hitchcock showed us that to scare someone, you don't have to show skeletons, snakes, scorpions or scary monsters. Hitchcock could scare us with such beautiful and harmless creatures as seagulls in his film Birds. He used a mix of a strong storyline, believable and interesting characters, crisp and witty dialogue, appropriate locale, and high technical support, such as music, brilliant photography and tight editing to make his spine-chilling films.

The use of the so-called 'travelling matte shot to capture the policeman's fall, like that in Saboteur and Rear Window was achieved by double printing. The method is described by Leonard South, director of photography for Family Plot, in Donald Spoto's The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. First 'an actor was dropped from a height onto mattresses and rubber padding. Then in the laboratory, miniatures of the background were painted in and the second take was made (alternatively, and actor could be positioned in a swivelling chair and the camera swung up and away from him, with the additional painting done as described).

In Birds he combined live action, animation, mechanical birds, live trained birds, and complex composite photography and editing to produce over 14 hundred amazing shots. One of Hitchcock's famous trick shots can be seen in the final moments of Vertigo where the simultaneous forward zoom and reverse tracking shot of the miniature of the stairwell, doubled with a shot of James Stewart descending a short flight of steps. The shots of Gregory Peck and railway tracks in Spellbound are examples of outstanding editing. In this film based on Freudian dream theory, Hitchcock used paintings by Salvador Dalli, to create those spectacular dream sequences. A perfectionist to the core, Hitchcock relied on a tight script, and had a storyboard made of each scene. He understood every department of filmmaking, and would often ask his photographer what lens he had on the camera. One wonders what Hitchcock would have done with the latest digital imaging techniques.

Had Hitchcock relied on technique alone, the world would have forgotten him long ago. His greatness lies in the superb storytelling techniques that he evolved and perfected over the years. When he told you a story, you wanted to believe it no matter how illogical and strange the plot was. In many of his films, the hero and other characters behave in an unrealistic way. In North By Northwest, for example, Cary Grant is mistaken for a spy by the villain, James Mason. When he tells the police that he had been kidnapped by James Mason and his henchmen, the police and even his own mother refuse to believe him. In real life though, it is very difficult for such things to happen, but Hitchcock is so convincing that we go along with him willingly. He must have believed in the Aristotelian dictum: in a plot, a probable improbability is preferable to an improbable probability. In the dedication of The Thirty-Nine Steps, to Tommy Nelson, John Buchanan said that his aim was to write 'romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.' Hitchcock couldn't have agreed more. To tell his story, Hitchcock often used his cinematic licence, and even altered the original story. In an interview with the famous French director, Truffaut, he said, "To insist that a story teller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representation painter that he show objects accurately."

Born 101 years ago on August 13, 1899 as Alfred Josef, in Leytonstone, England, this acknowledged master of the suspense thriller began his career in 1919, illustrating title cards for silent films at Paramount's Famous Players-Lasky studio in London, he rose to the position of assistant director in about four years. In 1922 he got his break as director for film, No. 13 or Mrs. Peabody. This film remained incomplete, but the experience gave Hitchcock rare insight into the art of filmmaking. Then came the Anglo-German production The Pleasure Garden (1925), his first completed film as director. But it was in The Lodger (1926), that we see some of Hitchcock's typical motifs that were to earn him fame world-wide: an innocent protagonist is falsely accused of a crime. The more he tries to prove his innocence, the more he gets involved in a web of intrigue. The films that followed were usually full of characters who construe things wrongly because they put too much faith in what is, in legal parlance, called 'circumstantial evidence'.

With the introduction of sound in the 30s, film technique was transformed dramatically, and Hitchcock was quick to adapt to the change. Because of the absence of sound and, therefore, dialogue, the silent films relied on strong visual images to carry the story forward. To cash in on the new development, most directors began to make their movies full of dialogue at the expense of visuals, but not Hitchcock. He continued to rely on strong visual techniques of the silent era, but enriched his films with soulful music and even silences to keep the viewers spellbound. An early example of Hitchcock's technical virtuosity was his creation of, what a critic has called, "subjective sound" for Blackmail (1929), his first sound film. This was followed by Murder, in which Hitchcock first made explicit the link between sex and violence. But Hitchcock at times carried his technical virtuosity a bit too far, as in the case of his unsuccessful film Rope. In this film based on Patrick Hamilton's play, he tried an experiment in which he intended to make the entire film in uninterrupted ten-minute takes. Those who understand film technique, might appreciate what an impossible task it could be, for an average shot ranges from five seconds to fifteen seconds. Hitchcock realised his mistake and later said, "I undertook [it] as a stunt. That's the only way can describe it. I got this crazy idea to do it in a single shot. It was quite nonsensical because I was breaking my own theories on the importance of cutting and montage."

But it was with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), a commercial and critical success, that established Hitchcock's favourite cinematic motif: an investigation of family relationships presented not in a chronological order, but in a forward-and-backward movement. The end result was heightened suspense with moviegoers gasping for breath at every twist in the tale.

Even in his personal and professional life, a twist was forthcoming. During the shooting of The Lady Vanishes (1938), producer David O. Selznick invited Hitchcock to Hollywood to make a film on the sinking of the Titanic. Now, with hindsight, six decades later, one wonders what Hitchcock might have done with a theme like that. Anyhow, the film was never made, but Selznick signed Hitchcock to make a film based on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, a story of a girl who marries a British nobleman but lives in shadow of his former wife. Over 20 actresses were tested for the role that eventually went to Joan Fontaine. The film was a great success and it won rave reviews. It fetched the producer Academy Award winner for Best Picture and the cinematographer the award for best Cinematography, but Hitchcock got nothing.

Though he directed about 55 films in his long career spanning half-a-century, Hitchcock's fame rests on the films that he made in the 50s and the 60s. Most of his earlier firms with the exception of Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, are mere historical curiosities now. But then quantity has never been the main criterion to judge talent. And Hitchcock was well aware of this, that's why he made the second version of films like The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps. Referring to The Man Who Knew Too Much, he told Truffaut: "Let's say that the first version was the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional."

In the next two decades, Hitchcock produced a string of memorable films such as Dial M for Murder (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), a remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and the black comedy The Trouble with Harry (1955).

Hitchcock was well aware of the voyeur in every one of us, Rear Window (1954) exploited this trait to the maximum. James Stewart, a photographer who is temporarily bedridden, starts observing strange doings in his neighbourhood. Soon he begins to believe that one of his neighbours has murdered his wife. Vertigo (1958), is another classic that explores a man's obsession with a woman who didn't exist. With a rivetting script, excellent actors, breath-taking locales, high production standards, and sensitive direction, Vertigo is an object lesson in film technique. The virtual cliffhanger, North by Northwest (1959) written by Ernest Lehman is perhaps Hitchcock's most typical film.

For the kind of fear he managed to generate, Hitchcock rarely showed violence and gore on the screen. This is exemplified by the famous killing scene in Torn Curtain. "I have always felt that you should do the minimum on screen to get the maximum audience effect," he told a psychiatrist who interviewed him for Redbook magazine in 1963. "I believe the audience should work." And he made them work, indeed, as a music conductor does. "The audience is like a great organ," he once remarked, "that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note on them and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react that way. And someday we won't even have to make a movie — there'll be electrodes implanted in their brains, and we'll just press different buttons and they'll go "ooooh" and "aaaah" and we'll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won't that be wonderful? It might be wonderful indeed, but most of us would rather have Hitchcock frighten us to death with his murder mysteries.

Ironically enough, this man who scared the living daylights out of moviegoers all over the world, was himself a very frightened man. "If they [the audience] did but realise it," he admitted to an interviewer, "I'm more scared than they are by things in real life." There is a ring of truth in this statement. When Hitchcock was a little boy, goes a widely circulated story, his father gave him a note and asked him to deliver it at the nearby police station. When the policeman read the note, he locked Hitchcock up in a cell. He opened the cell after five minutes and released the terrified boy, and said. "This is what we do to naughty boys." That experience was to haunt Hitchcock all his life. Nobody knows what went on in his mind during those five minutes, but the experience taught him the psychology of fear.

There are some who maintain that there is no real Alfred Hitchcock outside his films. But this is a gross generalisation, for Hitchcock was a harmless eccentric who reminded us of his hugely popular cameo appearances in his films. He was a devoted husband and loving father. This master entertainer, whose films gave you sleepless nights, was prone to dozing off in public. On one occasion he took Loretta Young and Carol Lombard to dinner, and in the middle of it fell sound asleep between two of the most glamorous women in the world. On another occasion, he dozed off at a dinner party and continued to sleep until all the other guests had tiptoed away. When his wife, Alma, woke him up, he said, "Wouldn't that be rude to leave so soon?"

Over a century after his birth and two decades after his death, Hitchcock's stature as a serious filmmaker is growing by the day. His films are shown at film schools and film workshops to teach young filmmakers the inns and outs of cinema.

And though he was given an honorary Oscar, it is still a mystery to his fans and critics why he was never awarded an Oscar for direction.

Hitchcock might well have told the Academy judges that select the Oscar winners what Cary Grant tells James Mason in North By Northwest: "Apparently the only performance that's going to satisfy you is when I play dead."

 http://www.tribuneindia.com/2000/20000820/spectrum/main1.htm
 

Fear Is The Key

The name Hitchcock stands for mystery, suspense, and fear. As a maker of suspense films, he was unique because, although he was not a writer, it is largely because of his films that the mystery novel is one of the most popular genres of fiction today. To be read again and again, a mystery story has to be more than a mere puzzle, and Hitchcock knew this better than anyone else. And as the world celebrates his 101st birthday, his influence is as strong as ever, writes Kuldip Dhiman.

AS darkness descends on a remote motel, a woman enters the bath and turns the shower on. We hear the eerie sound of water falling to the floor. Presently, someone enters the room, but unmindful of the intruder, the woman continues to enjoy her shower. As the dark figure approaches the woman, we watch with bated breath, and literally move to the edges of our seats. We would like to scream and warn the woman. But just as it happens in a bad dream, we are paralysed with fear.

That is exactly what the creator of this scene, Alfred Hitchcock, loved to do. And he enjoyed every minute of it; so did the viewers.

"Our nature is such that we must have these 'shake-ups,' or we grow sluggish and jellified," Hitchcock, the universally acclaimed master of suspense, wrote in Why Thrillers Thrive. Generally regarded as the creator of the suspense thriller film, Hitchcock managed to captivate his viewers with a combination of anxiety and relief. "Little children go on a swing," he once observed.. "They go higher and higher and then they scare themselves and stop at the crucial point. And after they get off the swing, they're laughing."
 

 
That is precisely the way the audiences react to a Hitchcock film. While you are in the cinema hall, he keeps you on tenterhooks, and the willing suspension of disbelief is total. Many other filmmakers have spun suspense-filled tales, yet, when you talk about suspense, the first name that springs to mind is Hitchcock. People don't go to a Hitchcock film for the stars alone, they go to a Hitchcock film, because it is a 'Hitchcock' film. Many would not like to place him next to directors like Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese or David Lean, although Hitchcock could match the greatest of directors in content or film technique. It has something to do with a bias against the thriller genre, for most critics have failed to recognise its literary worth.
Hitchcock is unique because although he was not a writer, it is largely because of his films that the mystery novel is one of the most popular genres of fiction. To be read again and again, a mystery story has to be more than a mere puzzle, such as who the murderer is, and Hitchcock knew this better than anyone else. In an introduction to one of his anthologies, he explained: "The difference lies in the fact that Suspense here is accompanied by Danger - danger mysterious and unknown, if possible. Or, if the danger is known - then as inexorable or as insurmountable peril as may be imagined."

With Dial M For Murder, Psycho, Frenzy and his immensely popular TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hitchcock showed us that to scare someone, you don't have to show skeletons, snakes, scorpions or scary monsters. Hitchcock could scare us with such beautiful and harmless creatures as seagulls in his film Birds. He used a mix of a strong storyline, believable and interesting characters, crisp and witty dialogue, appropriate locale, and high technical support, such as music, brilliant photography and tight editing to make his spine-chilling films.

The use of the so-called 'travelling matte shot to capture the policeman's fall, like that in Saboteur and Rear Window was achieved by double printing. The method is described by Leonard South, director of photography for Family Plot, in Donald Spoto's The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. First 'an actor was dropped from a height onto mattresses and rubber padding. Then in the laboratory, miniatures of the background were painted in and the second take was made (alternatively, and actor could be positioned in a swivelling chair and the camera swung up and away from him, with the additional painting done as described).

In Birds he combined live action, animation, mechanical birds, live trained birds, and complex composite photography and editing to produce over 14 hundred amazing shots. One of Hitchcock's famous trick shots can be seen in the final moments of Vertigo where the simultaneous forward zoom and reverse tracking shot of the miniature of the stairwell, doubled with a shot of James Stewart descending a short flight of steps. The shots of Gregory Peck and railway tracks in Spellbound are examples of outstanding editing. In this film based on Freudian dream theory, Hitchcock used paintings by Salvador Dalli, to create those spectacular dream sequences. A perfectionist to the core, Hitchcock relied on a tight script, and had a storyboard made of each scene. He understood every department of filmmaking, and would often ask his photographer what lens he had on the camera. One wonders what Hitchcock would have done with the latest digital imaging techniques.

Had Hitchcock relied on technique alone, the world would have forgotten him long ago. His greatness lies in the superb storytelling techniques that he evolved and perfected over the years. When he told you a story, you wanted to believe it no matter how illogical and strange the plot was. In many of his films, the hero and other characters behave in an unrealistic way. In North By Northwest, for example, Cary Grant is mistaken for a spy by the villain, James Mason. When he tells the police that he had been kidnapped by James Mason and his henchmen, the police and even his own mother refuse to believe him. In real life though, it is very difficult for such things to happen, but Hitchcock is so convincing that we go along with him willingly. He must have believed in the Aristotelian dictum: in a plot, a probable improbability is preferable to an improbable probability. In the dedication of The Thirty-Nine Steps, to Tommy Nelson, John Buchanan said that his aim was to write 'romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.' Hitchcock couldn't have agreed more. To tell his story, Hitchcock often used his cinematic licence, and even altered the original story. In an interview with the famous French director, Truffaut, he said, "To insist that a story teller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representation painter that he show objects accurately."

Born 101 years ago on August 13, 1899 as Alfred Josef, in Leytonstone, England, this acknowledged master of the suspense thriller began his career in 1919, illustrating title cards for silent films at Paramount's Famous Players-Lasky studio in London, he rose to the position of assistant director in about four years. In 1922 he got his break as director for film, No. 13 or Mrs. Peabody. This film remained incomplete, but the experience gave Hitchcock rare insight into the art of filmmaking. Then came the Anglo-German production The Pleasure Garden (1925), his first completed film as director. But it was in The Lodger (1926), that we see some of Hitchcock's typical motifs that were to earn him fame world-wide: an innocent protagonist is falsely accused of a crime. The more he tries to prove his innocence, the more he gets involved in a web of intrigue. The films that followed were usually full of characters who construe things wrongly because they put too much faith in what is, in legal parlance, called 'circumstantial evidence'.

With the introduction of sound in the 30s, film technique was transformed dramatically, and Hitchcock was quick to adapt to the change. Because of the absence of sound and, therefore, dialogue, the silent films relied on strong visual images to carry the story forward. To cash in on the new development, most directors began to make their movies full of dialogue at the expense of visuals, but not Hitchcock. He continued to rely on strong visual techniques of the silent era, but enriched his films with soulful music and even silences to keep the viewers spellbound. An early example of Hitchcock's technical virtuosity was his creation of, what a critic has called, "subjective sound" for Blackmail (1929), his first sound film. This was followed by Murder, in which Hitchcock first made explicit the link between sex and violence. But Hitchcock at times carried his technical virtuosity a bit too far, as in the case of his unsuccessful film Rope. In this film based on Patrick Hamilton's play, he tried an experiment in which he intended to make the entire film in uninterrupted ten-minute takes. Those who understand film technique, might appreciate what an impossible task it could be, for an average shot ranges from five seconds to fifteen seconds. Hitchcock realised his mistake and later said, "I undertook [it] as a stunt. That's the only way can describe it. I got this crazy idea to do it in a single shot. It was quite nonsensical because I was breaking my own theories on the importance of cutting and montage."

But it was with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), a commercial and critical success, that established Hitchcock's favourite cinematic motif: an investigation of family relationships presented not in a chronological order, but in a forward-and-backward movement. The end result was heightened suspense with moviegoers gasping for breath at every twist in the tale.

Even in his personal and professional life, a twist was forthcoming. During the shooting of The Lady Vanishes (1938), producer David O. Selznick invited Hitchcock to Hollywood to make a film on the sinking of the Titanic. Now, with hindsight, six decades later, one wonders what Hitchcock might have done with a theme like that. Anyhow, the film was never made, but Selznick signed Hitchcock to make a film based on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, a story of a girl who marries a British nobleman but lives in shadow of his former wife. Over 20 actresses were tested for the role that eventually went to Joan Fontaine. The film was a great success and it won rave reviews. It fetched the producer Academy Award winner for Best Picture and the cinematographer the award for best Cinematography, but Hitchcock got nothing.

Though he directed about 55 films in his long career spanning half-a-century, Hitchcock's fame rests on the films that he made in the 50s and the 60s. Most of his earlier firms with the exception of Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, are mere historical curiosities now. But then quantity has never been the main criterion to judge talent. And Hitchcock was well aware of this, that's why he made the second version of films like The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps. Referring to The Man Who Knew Too Much, he told Truffaut: "Let's say that the first version was the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional."

In the next two decades, Hitchcock produced a string of memorable films such as Dial M for Murder (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), a remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and the black comedy The Trouble with Harry (1955).

Hitchcock was well aware of the voyeur in every one of us, Rear Window (1954) exploited this trait to the maximum. James Stewart, a photographer who is temporarily bedridden, starts observing strange doings in his neighbourhood. Soon he begins to believe that one of his neighbours has murdered his wife. Vertigo (1958), is another classic that explores a man's obsession with a woman who didn't exist. With a rivetting script, excellent actors, breath-taking locales, high production standards, and sensitive direction, Vertigo is an object lesson in film technique. The virtual cliffhanger, North by Northwest (1959) written by Ernest Lehman is perhaps Hitchcock's most typical film.

For the kind of fear he managed to generate, Hitchcock rarely showed violence and gore on the screen. This is exemplified by the famous killing scene in Torn Curtain. "I have always felt that you should do the minimum on screen to get the maximum audience effect," he told a psychiatrist who interviewed him for Redbook magazine in 1963. "I believe the audience should work." And he made them work, indeed, as a music conductor does. "The audience is like a great organ," he once remarked, "that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note on them and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react that way. And someday we won't even have to make a movie — there'll be electrodes implanted in their brains, and we'll just press different buttons and they'll go "ooooh" and "aaaah" and we'll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won't that be wonderful? It might be wonderful indeed, but most of us would rather have Hitchcock frighten us to death with his murder mysteries.

Ironically enough, this man who scared the living daylights out of moviegoers all over the world, was himself a very frightened man. "If they [the audience] did but realise it," he admitted to an interviewer, "I'm more scared than they are by things in real life." There is a ring of truth in this statement. When Hitchcock was a little boy, goes a widely circulated story, his father gave him a note and asked him to deliver it at the nearby police station. When the policeman read the note, he locked Hitchcock up in a cell. He opened the cell after five minutes and released the terrified boy, and said. "This is what we do to naughty boys." That experience was to haunt Hitchcock all his life. Nobody knows what went on in his mind during those five minutes, but the experience taught him the psychology of fear.

There are some who maintain that there is no real Alfred Hitchcock outside his films. But this is a gross generalisation, for Hitchcock was a harmless eccentric who reminded us of his hugely popular cameo appearances in his films. He was a devoted husband and loving father. This master entertainer, whose films gave you sleepless nights, was prone to dozing off in public. On one occasion he took Loretta Young and Carol Lombard to dinner, and in the middle of it fell sound asleep between two of the most glamorous women in the world. On another occasion, he dozed off at a dinner party and continued to sleep until all the other guests had tiptoed away. When his wife, Alma, woke him up, he said, "Wouldn't that be rude to leave so soon?"

Over a century after his birth and two decades after his death, Hitchcock's stature as a serious filmmaker is growing by the day. His films are shown at film schools and film workshops to teach young filmmakers the inns and outs of cinema.

And though he was given an honorary Oscar, it is still a mystery to his fans and critics why he was never awarded an Oscar for direction.

Hitchcock might well have told the Academy judges that select the Oscar winners what Cary Grant tells James Mason in North By Northwest: "Apparently the only performance that's going to satisfy you is when I play dead."
 

 
 

Dump your old beliefs; here is new hypothesis

The Vedic People: Their History and Geography by Rajesh Kochhar. Orient Longman Limited, New Delhi. Pages 259. Rs 425.

UNTIL about 100 years ago it was conveniently believed that India was originally inhabited by Asuras or pagans, as some would like to put it, and it was later invaded by the civilised Aryans. But the chance discovery of Harappa in 1826, and the subsequent researches conducted by Alexander Cunningham in the 1830s and R.D. Banerji and Sir John Marshall in the 1920s, turned the accepted theories of India's historic past upside down.

As these scholars excavated the sites, they soon realised that these finds predated the Rigveda and, what is more, they showed that the people who lived there were far more advanced than the Rigvedic Aryans. By 1946, 37 Harappan sites had been found, and now the number is about 2,500.

The awesome expanse of the greater Indus valley civilisation spreads over an area of more than a million square kilometres, with its westernmost site in Sutkagen Dor on the Iran-Baluchistan border, and the easternmost site in Alamgirpur on the banks of the Yamuna's tributary, the Hindan, 45 km north-east of Delhi.

More than the extent of this ancient civilisation, it is its urban character and sophisticated townplanning that has surprised researchers. These cities were so carefully laid out that they remind you of modern cities like Chandigarh. Incidentally, one Harappan site was discovered in 1969 while digging up the foundation of the city centre is Sector 17, Chandigarh!

But more than 150 years after the excavation of Harappa, scholars have still not been able to solve the mystery that shrouds it: who were the Indus valley people? Were they the original inhabitants of India, or were they too invading migrants like the Aryans? Another thing that confounds historians and archaeologists is the sudden demise of this thriving civilisation. Were the invading Aryans responsible for it? And who were the Aryans, and when did they invade India, if indeed the did? Which came first, the Ramayana or the Mahabharata?

Since the date of the Aryan invasion of India (2000 BC) neatly coincides with the demise of the Indus valley civilisation, it was assumed by scholars like R.D. Banerji and Wheeler that the Aryans actually destroyed the Indus people in the "battle of the kings". Wheeler was quite clear about his verdict: "On circumstantial evidence, Indra stands accused."

The latest scholar to join the debate is Prof Rajesh Kochhar, Director, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi. In his book "The Vedic People — Their History and Geography", he argues that far more significant than the speculation on the origin of the Harappan cities was the speculation about their death. He refutes Wheeler and the rest strongly by declaring: "Even if Indra stands accused, he cannot be prosecuted in a Harappan court."

To prove his point, Kochhar goes about his business in a scientific fashion, basing his hypothesis on archaeological remains, Vedic and Zenda Avestan texts, linguistic comparison of the Sanskrit, Prakrit and Persian languages, geomorphology, astronomy and satellite imagery. He demolishes the argument that the Indus valley civilisation was an incidental extension of the developments of west Asia, by pointing at the discovery of Mehrgarh, about 250 km north-west of Mohenjodaro in the Kachi plain between the Indus and Baluchistan hills. Archaeological evidence there shows that the twin cities grew independent of any central or western Asian influence.

The other point he makes is that the Aryans were certainly not the original inhabitants of India, and that the Rigveda was composed in south Afghanistan. The main clue to the geography of the Rigveda is provided the river Saraswati on whose banks many hymns were composed. We must, Kochhar cautions, distinguish between the celebrated Saraswati of northern India and the river mentioned in the Rigveda, because the Harappan and the Rigvedic Aryans couldn't possibly have inhabited the heavily forested Gangetic plain. To clear the forests they would have needed tools made of iron, and since iron was unknown to them, this was beyond the capacities of both the Harappans and the early Rigvedic Aryans. Large-scale settlement on the east of the Yamuna-Ganga doab had to wait until after 900 BC, when iron came to be used in India.

Now, if we take it that the Rigveda is a pre-Iron Age document, then the Vedic people could not possibly have been familiar with the territory east of the Ganga. "This territory contains three rivers," says Kochhar, "whose names figure in the Rigveda: the Ganga itself, the Gomati and the Sarayu. The Ganga is an inconspicuous river in the Rigveda. Its name appears in a very late hymn. It has been accepted for a long time on contextual grounds alone that the Rigvedic Gomati is not the Gomati of east Uttar Pradesh but the present-day Gomal, a tributary of the Indus in Baluchistan. If the present-day Gomati is not the Rigvedic river, most probably it was not known to the Rigvedic people at all. This makes it even less likely that a river further east would have been known. The present-day Sarayu (Sarju) of the Ganga plain cannot therefore be the Rigvedic Sarayu. Where then was the Rigvedic Sarayu?"

Could the insignificant Ghaggar, then, be the mythical Saraswati? Basing his observations on satellite imagery of the region, Kochhar tells us that the Ghaggar is important not only from the Vedic point of view but also from that of the Harappans. The Ghaggar was the lifeline of the Harappans, because out of a sample of about 1,400 Harappan sites, more than 75 per cent are situated on the banks of the Ghaggar-Hakra channel.

Hence, to learn more about India's pre-historic age we must study "the hydrological history of the River Ghaggar. Even if it turns out that the Ghaggar was a powerful river in 2000 BC, it would not automatically prove that the old
Ghaggar was the Rigvedic Sarasvati, because every mighty river need not be Sarasvati. But if it turns out (as is likely) that the Ghaggar has been more or less in its present state for say 10,000 years or more, then the Ghaggar would automatically be ruled out as a candidate for identification with the Rigvedic Sarasvati."

Let us now direct our attention to the Aryans. Since they are silent about their origins and their society, we are forced to look for evidence elsewhere, and Kochhar directs us to the Parsi text Zenda Avesta. Even a casual reader will be struck by the linguistic similarity of Sanskrit and Avestan texts. It has been suggested for a long time that both the Aryans and the Avestans (Parsis) were of the original Euro-Aryan descent. Here one might argue that is it not possible that the Aryans and the Avestan peoples were originally from India and migrated westwards later? This is quite impossible because India does not figure in the Avestan and Pahlavi literature; it is safe to conclude that "India could not have been the original home of the Avestan people. Secondly, the Avestan people do not exhibit any cultural layer preceding the Aryan. This shows that as in the case of the Indo-Aryans, the Aryan-ness of the ancient Iranians is intrinsic and not acquired."

The argument could go on and on, and we might still not come to a satisfactory conclusion because though we have rich Vedic literature, we have nothing material to prove the existence of the original inhabitants of India, especially of the Aryans. One scholar, Prof S.R. Rao, has been claiming for some time that he has deciphered the Indus valley script. He also, it appears, has excavated an underwater site in Gujarat, which is purported to be the ancient city of Dwarka. Unfortunately, Prof Rao has so far not been able to convince serious historians and archaeologists of the veracity of his discoveries.

Rajesh Kochhar's book is a welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the subject. He does not propose any bold new hypothesis, but does succeed in giving credence to the theory that the Aryans came to India from Central Asia. What sets his book apart from the others is the author's command on the language, and the sheer felicity and brevity with which he writes, making his point sharply, concisely, and clearly. Research papers should be written like this. But he should have included some photographs of the archaeological sites, especially that of Mehrgarh.

Coming to the debate itself, Rajesh Kochhar has been bold enough to admit at the end that in "scientific interpretation, there is no last word." Top

Lawful Entry

By Kuldip Dhiman
 
SHE is still a student pursuing her masters in Law. Specialising in constitutional law from Panjab University, Radhika Thapar already has had two of her books published and the third is to be released soon. That is not surprising, for besides having a good command of the subject, she also has a talent for expressing complicated legal terms in a readable prose. But what is she writing about?

"These books are part of a series called Legal Helpline for students. My first book was the Law of Contract, the second one was Jurisprudence and the one to be released soon is about the Hindu Law."

How did she get interested in writing? " I always loved expressing my feelings on paper, then I had a few book reviews and articles accepted by The Tribune. That really was a shot in the arm, and I took up writing more seriously after that."

Now that she is writing about legal matters, what does she think ails Indian judiciary? "The main complaint I hear from the people is that our law is slow and often the crooks go scot-free. While I am not defending the legal community, I must add that the public must also cooperate with the law. You cannot be passive and expect the law to come to your aid. And of course we have to streamline the legal system by getting in more and more young judges."

Being a promising lawyer, Radhika also has social concerns. "We must rise above individual gain and work for the social cause. By social cause I do not mean starting huge organisations and undertaking great projects. Even if I could make a difference to one life, that would be quite an achievement. Some say India is in the dumps, but I do not agree. We are certainly marching forward. Why are we in a hurry, let's be patient and positive. If we work hard for the country and not for ourselves alone, India will definitely shine."

Intelligent and versatile, Radhika is always in demand whenever a cultural show or a fashion show is organised in the university. She anchored a TV show called Hamare Adhikar for Doordarshan. In 2003, she compeered a show for the Wadali brothers.

Radhika will certainly go ahead with her legal career, though writing will remain one of her main loves.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20051108/ttlife.htm#7

Why we tolerate dictators

By Kuldip Dhiman
 
WHEN Joseph Stalin died in 1953 after a quarter-century of brutal rule, he was not only the indisputable master of the then Soviet Union but also of other Soviet bloc countries, covering nearly two million square kilometres with a population of 1,34,188,000. Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Peron, Ceausescu, Suharto also ruthlessly controlled their people for decades and finally ruined their countries. In comparison, no democratically elected leader can boast of such a long reign. And the way Castro, Gaddafi, Saddam and Milosevic are carrying on in spite of all efforts to dislodge them, the question arises: how do these tyrants manage to hold on to power for so long, and more importantly, why do we tolerate them? Moreover, with the recent coup by the army in Pakistan, the question naturally arises — could a dictator grab power in India?

Fear psychosis has been used by tyrants because they couldn't be bothered with public welfare. But with the spread of education and communication, tyrants can barely rule their subjects unmindful of world opinion. Much to their dislike, dictators now have to maintain a veneer of respectability. In line with Plato's concept of the 'Philosopher King', they have to appear intelligent and cultured. Since most of the modern dictators are neither philosophers nor kings — Stalin was the son of a cobbler, Hitler of a minor official, Gaddafi of a Bedouin, Milosevic of a school teacher — to gain acceptance and respect of the masses, they have to rely heavily on ideology so that they are seen as saviours of their country, not usurpers.

For the first year or so after grabbing power, it is generally smooth sailing; things appear to be moving in the right direction, and the country seems to be doing well because there are no strikes or demonstrations. People breathe a sigh of relief, especially if the previous democratic regime was incompetent. At last there is someone who gets things done, they think. People are lured into a false sense of security. But after the euphoria of the 'promised utopia' wanes and people begin to see the true colours of their new ruler, the rein of terror begins as it was witnessed in the erstwhile Soviet Union, Cuba, China, Uganda, Nigeria, some Arab countries and the banana republics.

In The Prince, the bible of all despots and dictators, Machiavelli tells us that once power is acquired, the state could either be governed with love or fear. But 'since love and fear can hardly exist together, it is far safer to be feared than loved.' Napoleon was in full agreement with Machiavelli when he declared, 'My dominion is founded on fear. If I abandoned the system, I should immediately be dethroned.... When a king is said to be a kind king, his reign is a failure.'

To justify their misguided ideologies, dictators quote philosophers out of context, and even misinterpret them deliberately. And while doing so, they have no compunctions at all about using the doctrines of even those thinkers who are against totalitarianism. William James, Henri Bergson and Freidrich Nietzsche had quite unwittingly played an important part in the shaping of later etatist-authoritarian thought, although all the three of them were bitter critics of totalitarianism. And ironically, Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838-1909), the philosopher whose doctrines were directly borrowed by Jew-haters like Mussolini, Hitler and the Communists, was actually a Polish Jew! He believed that the state originates in conquest and is maintained by power, force, and intimidation. Without power or force, the state would cease to exist.

While terrorising anyone who shows signs of dissent, dictators use propaganda to keep the ordinary masses under control. Hitler's propaganda methods typify the ones used by other totalitarian regimes, and even democracies use these techniques effectively. "It is possible by means of shrewd and unremitting propaganda", Hitler wrote, "to make people believe that heaven is hell, and hell is heaven". To get the most out of it, propaganda must be "aimed always and primarily at the emotions, and very little at men's alleged reason". "Propaganda", he stressed, "had no more to do with scientific accuracy than a poster had to do with art.... The greater the mass of men to be reached, the lower its intellectual level must be." Propaganda must deal with a few simple points driven home by endless repetition — tell a lie a hundred times and it gets believed. Too many issues confuse the masses. This technique is used successfully during elections even in democratic countries such as India: every party has usually only one basic election issue, be it the Emergency, communal disharmony, external threat, Ayodhya, Kargil, or the nationality of a candidate.

Another cardinal principle of propaganda is that rational arguments must never be used. Rational thinking means asking questions, but when people start asking questions, anarchy follows. So it becomes imperative to crush the inquisitiveness of the masses. The eighteenth-century Swedish-German philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, said that if you wish to control the masses, you must fashion them in such a way that they simply cannot will otherwise than you wish them to will. This is by no means an original thought, because more than two thousand years ago, Plato advocated a lot more cruel methods to control the masses in his Republic. He believed that infants should be separated from their mothers as soon as they are born, so that the state can bring them up as ideal citizens. Although dictators would love to follow this wonderful advice, even an utter fool can see it is impractical. So they create youth wings instead, thus transforming an entire generation of loyal men and women who would die for them without asking any questions. Macaulay suggested that many an army had prospered under a bad commander, but no army had ever prospered under a 'debating society'. Hence, the so-called freewill freedom of thought and expression must be crushed totally, because the will becomes really free when its freedom in the ordinary sense has been totally destroyed. To Gumplowicz the notion that man is a free being is absurd. "This fancied freedom and equality is incompatible with the state and is a complete negation of it."

And if any one dares to disagree with the state ideology, he must be crushed pitilessly. Here Nietsche's writings come in handy:"A man loses power when he pities," he wrote, "Pity thwarts the law of development which is the law of selection. It preserves that which is ripe for death; it fights in favour of the disinherited and the condemned to life. By multiplying misery, quite as much as by preserving all that is miserable, it is the principal agent in promoting decadence."

The ultimate propaganda technique the authoritarian rulers use is the principle of the big lie. "With the primitive simplicity of the masses a great lie is more effective than a small one,"Hitler says, "because they (the masses) often lie in small matters, but would be too ashamed to tell a great big lie. Hence it will never occur to the broad mass to suspect so large a lie, and the mass will be quite unable to believe that anyone could possibly have the infernal impudence to pervert the truth to such an extent." Hardly an original thinker, Hitler clearly borrowed this from Aristotle who contended that the masses could be impressed by "the magnificent lie." China has used this method so successfully, that 10 years after the army massacred 155 students, and injured many more at the Tiananmen Square, many Chinese don't believe that it ever happened."No, our army couldn't have done that," they say even after evidence is shown to them.

But all propaganda is useless if the leader does not keep the masses motivated. No one can go on ruling forever by merely promising to provide the populace with the plainest physical wants such as food and clothing. As soon as their bellies are full, people start demanding other things such as better education, better conditions, and worst of all even freedom. Hence, a more effective way of swaying the masses is to keep them busy by appealing to some vague dream of glory, empire, nationality, or religion, and external threat. Awaken in their minds a chauvinistic sense of racial, religious, and cultural superiority, and then tell them that their superior race or religion is threatened by other inferior races or religions. Create so much distrust, hate, and insecurity that people begin to believe that their world would end without their leader. Tell them that in the struggle for existence only the strongest and the best survive — in other words kill or be killed. To justify this belief, they again go back to Nietzsche who believed that war and courage have done more great things than charity, and every natural gift must develop itself by contest. Mussolini twisted this out of context and made Italians believe that strife is the origin of all things, and the day when "there would be no more strife would be a day of melancholy, of the end of things, or ruin.... Peace is hence absurd or rather it is a pause in war."

The political scene in India now is not very different from what it was in Europe when Mussolini and Hitler and the Communists came to power. People are quite sick of frequent changes in government; it makes them uneasy and insecure. Lurking in the shadows of political heavyweights, there might be one unassuming party worker or a dissatisfied general who might assume total control of the country. Yes, it is highly unlikely to happen, but political sociologist William Montgomery McGovern warned us over 50 years ago:"Wherever there is widespread belief that dictatorship is the best form of government, it is not difficult to find persons to fill the office of dictator; and wherever there is a widespread dislike of dictatorship, it is difficult, if not impossible, for such persons as Mussolini or Hitler to seize the reins of power." Didn't we get a taste of authoritarianism not too long ago when the entire nation of nearly a billion was rendered impotent for 18 months?

Going back to the original question — why do we tolerate dictators and, perhaps, even love them in spite of being aware of their cruelty and ruthlessness? The ordinary masses are only too happy to be goaded like a herd of cattle, too selfish and too preoccupied with their own safety. As long as they are safe, their families are safe, their jobs are safe, and as long as their own existence is not directly threatened, they hardly care who is ruling them. Or perhaps they even get some sort of masochistic pleasure out of the whip of a dictator.

Mussolini was once asked if it was possible for a dictator to be loved by his people. He said yes it was, because the "crowd loves strong men. The crowd is like a woman."

http://www.tribuneindia.com/1999/99nov06/saturday/head1.htm
 

The country of countless contradictions

Book Review by Kuldip Dhiman

Assignment India edited by Christopher Thomas. Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi. Pp. 250. Rs 395.

FOR some it was just another assignment; for some it was the best job in journalism; and for others it was an adventure of a lifetime. They came here, got over the culture-shock, mingled with the multitudes, and tried to understand the confusing history, culture, and politics of India.

"Assignment India" is a collection of 10 nostalgic essays written by veteran correspondents representing such illustrious institutions as the BBC, the VOA, Reuters, Daily Telegraph (London), The Times (London), the Guardian, the Washington Post and others. A project of the Indo-British Historical Society and Har-Anand Publications, "Assignment India" is a tribute to the golden jubilee of India's Independence. But unlike most tributes, this volume, mercifully, does not read like government-sponsored propaganda.

What makes this book interesting is that it is a collection of impressions and reflections, not judgements. Although some of the contributors came here expecting to find an India of Kipling, they soon grew wiser. "Our stay," confess John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore of the Washington Post, "was a constant exercise in discarding preconceived notions and stereotypes. Two-thirds of the way through our tour, when we admitted to a friend that the longer we were in India, the more confused we became, he replied, "When you realise how much you don't know, that is the beginning of knowledge of South Asia."

Yes, no one knows India, not even Indians. What can one say about a land that is an amalgam of diverse peoples, cultures, religions and languages. Christopher Thomas, editor, puts it succinctly in the introduction: "India has produced more clich├ęs than chillies: my own contribution to this over-abundance of slick phrases is plagiarised from an Irishman who told me in Belfast: 'The man who understands Ireland is misinformed.' The quote transports well to India, because so much has been dissected and disgorged, there might seem to be nothing left to say. But nothing has been said: there is not even an Indian who understands more than a fragment of the country, let alone a foreigner."

Whether one likes these vignettes and personal impressions that fill the pages of the present volumes is a matter of opinion. One thing can be said with certainty — they are written in a very lively style. Devoid of journalistic jargon, statistics, tables and charts that we are so familiar with, the book is entertaining and riveting.

It is a delight to share the experience with old India hand Doon Campbell (not to be confused with Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mountbatten's Press Attache) who was here since the late forties. He remembers covering the first Independence Day when one-fifth of humanity awoke to freedom. Later he recalls his interview with Mahatma Gandhi, Jinnah and others leading personalities. Then we have Mark Tully, who has always maintained that India was more important to him than the BBC. Mark Tully is so popular (at times unpopular) that whenever the masses of the subcontinent see a white journalist, they ask him, "Are you Mark Tully of the BBC?"

The assassination of Gandhi, wars with Pakistan and China, the creation of Bangladesh, the dreaded Emergency, Indira Gandhi's comeback, Sanjay Gandhi's rise and fall, Rajiv Gandhi death, the opening of Indian economy, nuclear tests — so much has happened in the past half a century. So much has changed, and yet it seems nothing has changed. Most Indians still live below the poverty line, thanks to the power-hungry politicians and their stooges. Nobody will seriously disagree with Christopher Thomas when he derides Indian politicians: "I believe there is no vindictive adjective too strong to describe them, considering what they have done and continue to do with their grubby manipulations and hateful ambitions...."

What is alarming about us is that we have begun to accept our lot with appalling passivity. Exploitation of the poor, rapes, bride-burning, female infanticide, child labour, gang rape, sexual harassment, violence, corruption: nothing shocks us anymore. The only power we have is the power to vote and we use it quite vindictively. The leaders that we overthrow in elections are replaced with another group which is equally bad, if not worse. But do we have any choice? We have politicians like Jayalalitha who redefined the concept of corruption while in office; Bal Thackeray, the Al Capone of Bombay; Devi Lal, a Haryana bull carrying his own china shop with him; Benazir Bhutto, a once-great champion of democracy reduced to an autocratic feudal ruler whose second term was an exercise in holding on to power and punishing her enemies and the Press.

"What staggers me is," writes the editor, "that people forgive them, so that they can be dumped decisively in one election and come striding back in the next with a thumping majority, only to exploit people all over again in their drive for staggering personal enrichment from the sweat of the poor." We seem to suffer from the Stockholm syndrome — a condition in which the captive begins to sympathise with his captor. So after a while, we forget and forgive, and even begin to justify and admire the methods of the people who exploit us.

If the general picture is not very flattering, the lot of the backward classes and women is even worse. In one case, Rani, a 31-year-old farm labourer from Tamil Nadu describes how she and her mother-in-law mashed poisonous oleander seeds with a dollop of oil and forced it down her two-day-old daughter's throat.

"I never felt any sorrow...There was a lot of bitterness in my heart toward the baby because the gods should have given me a son." But it is not only the uneducated and the downtrodden who have this inborn dislike for the female child. Even in the most educated and progressive families, the preference is usually for the male child. We grow up with an inborn prejudice against women. "More down to earth was the curious tale of village Kulu ka Bas in Rajasthan, where the men have only one source of income: the prostitution of their daughters."

The picture is not all that bleak; there are lighter moments too. Derek Brown remembers taking delight in dictating to his copytaker in London, the name of a Sri Lankan politician, Animalaivaradarajaperumal. And one can imagine Khrushchev squirming with embarrassment as he reviewed an army parade in Burma "to the strains of Colonel Bogey, played by the regimental pipe band." When a labourer was asked if his wife took the birth control pill, he replied, "She takes it every day....And some days, I take it, too."

Paradoxes are part of our culture. We have more science graduates and engineers than any other country has except the USA; we make missiles, tanks and satellites but "when the space scientist wants a non-conductive transport to take the shiny electronic satellite from its laboratory to the launch pad he calls up a bullock cart to carry it".

In spite of rampant corruption, exploitation, bureaucracy, crime and violence, we can be proud of at least one thing; our democracy.

"Perhaps that should be the enduring memory of India," sums up Derek Brown of the Guardian, "The people. The vast numbers involved. And their love of the democratic process."

http://www.tribuneindia.com/1998/98dec06/book.htm#2

Any other ‘Pran’ out there

The hunt is on for all the Prans of the world. Thanks to Pran's spectacular screen career, his name became synonymous with villainy, and to such an extent that in the decades following the 1960s, many believe, very few male babies were named Pran. Kuldip Dhiman writes about the character and the unique competition to find out how many other Prans are around.

It is the climax scene of Ram aur Shyam. Dilip Kumar is on the one end of the screen, presently Pran appears with a whip in his hand. There is a lull in the cinema hall.

As Dilip Kumar snatches the whip from Pran's hand and begins to whip him mercilessly, Dadi ma, the childless Sindhi woman of our neighbourhood suddenly began to cry out, "Maar. . . aur maar isko! Ek aur maar. . . bahut sataya hai isney."

After the show an informed person told Dadi ma that Pran was a bad man only on the screen; in real life he was actually a wonderful person. Dismissing the man, Dadi ma said, "Woh aadmi to achcha ho hi nahin sakta".

That was the kind of intense loathing Pran managed to evoke in filmgoers.

With sterling performances in films like Halaku, Madhumati, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Bahti hai, Johny Mera Naam and many others, Pran grew in the public imagination as the very personification of evil. It is not unusual for the audience to confuse the screen character with the person, but in Pran's case the identification was so great that in the decades following the 60s, it is widely believed, hardly any children were named Pran. It was an era when there were other great villains like Ajit, K. N. Singh, Jeevan, Madan Puri, Prem Nath and others, but parents still named their children Ajit, Jeevan, Prem and so on for we come across young men with such names, but we rarely come across a Pran.

Wondering what it was like to join the ranks of mythical characters like Ravana, Duryodhana and Shakuni, a contact was made with the great actor himself on the phone to ask him how his family and friends reacted to the awesome impact his roles had created in the minds of the public.
 
"The claim that mothers were reluctant to name their children Pran after my advent in the film world is the greatest critical acclaim for my work. My family had no problems with the notoriety I had gained because of my roles. But one day my daughter Pinky, when she was little, came up to me and said, 'Daddy, won't you ever play the nice man.' She had been disturbed because her friends at school had probably said something nasty about me. That set me thinking. I began to wonder if I should go for a change of image, but that was an extremely difficult thing to do in those days. But I got a chance to change my image in Manoj Kumar's Upkaar. This film changed the course of my acting career. Slowly, people began to change their views about me. Otherwise, I have had no problems with my name and career as villain.

Sometime back, a group of college students from UP, members of Pran Fan Club, met the much-loved actor. They told an amused Pran that they had gone through the lists of students of various educational institutions in UP, and they did not find a single student named Pran.

Intrigued by such incidents, Pran's family have launched a competition called 'Hunt for Pran'. This coincides with a biography of Pran by Bunny Reuben, published by Harper Collins that will be released on October 1, 2004. The book titled . . . and Pran will be released by Amitabh Bachchan, who has also written its foreword. The title of the biography was aptly suggested by his daughter Pinky Bhalla.

"You see," Pran says, "my name used to usually appear at the end of the star cast. For instance, a poster often read like this: Bimal Roy's Madhumati- Starring Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthi Mala, Johnny Walker, Jayant, Tiwari . . . and Pran. Here I suddenly remembered something amusing. Rikshawalas in Delhi used to pronounce the word 'and' as 'end' and exclaim- Arey! End main Peeran bhi hai! Phir to zaroor dekhenge."

There are two parallel competitions. One is for the oldest person named Pran born after 1960. The winner, and his 'brave' mother who chose to name him Pran, would be invited to the book launch, and will receive the first copy, provided the claim is proved with necessary documents. The other competition is for the youngest man named Pran before 1960. With this, the organisers hope get an indication about the 'missing generations.' Entry details are available on www.pransikand.com. The competition closes on August 31, 2004.

I tried conducting a little research on my own. In my life, I must have met thousands of people, but I have come across only two persons named Pran. One worked with me in Muscat. "People give a funny smile , says he, "when I introduce myself, especially over the phone. The first thing everyone says is: Are you Pran, the villain? But once I tell them my name, no one ever forgets it. I am proud to be known as Pran, because I know the actor Pran is a very nice man in real life."

And the other Pran is well-known to The Tribune readers as Pran Nevile. He says, "I have great regard for Pran as a human being and as an actor, and I know of him from the his Lahore days before he became an actor. He used to often come to Nisbat Road there. But this widely-circulated story about mothers not naming their sons Pran has no basis, it is just one of those stories about celebrities that get into circulation, thanks to the media. I have been in the foreign service all my life, and I have had no problems with my name."

But there is some truth in the claim. Whenever asked to suggest a name for their newborn sons, I often suggested the name Pran. Quite predictably, the reply was: "Rahne do yaar, humne bete ko chor, daku, badmash thoda banana hai." These parents were only joking in return, but nevertheless, they never named their sons Pran.

Whatever the case might be, it is a bit difficult to prove or disprove the claim for the research work required to test it would be a mammoth task.

Perhaps all the Prans among our readers could settle the matter by coming out of the cold.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040822/spectrum/main4.htm

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The rishi from Germany

Kuldip Dhiman

Arthur Schopenhauer
by Thomas Mann. Rupa. Pages 162. Rs 150.

So long as we are given up to the throng of desires with its constant hopes and fears we never obtain lasting happiness or peace.

 

THIS might look like a translation of a Vedic or Buddhist verse, but these are the words of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the German philosopher who took off from where the other great system builder Immanuel Kant left. Although some of Schopenhauer's philosophy is similar to Indian philosophy, he discovered the latter after he had more or less formulated his own worldview.

The Living Thoughts of Schopenhauer by Thomas Mann, a Nobel Laureate himself, is a short book that contains the essence of the great philosopher's work along with the author's own interpretation of it. It is, however, not clear if this is also the original title of the book since its printing history, which could be extremely valuable to the serious reader, is not given. Written in an academic style, the book will prove very useful to an advanced student of philosophy, but not to someone who is new to the subject. It is not a Schopenhauer-made-easy kind of book. Mann presumes that the reader is familiar with the philosophic and historical context in which he wrote.

Schopenhauer believed that anyone who wished to understand him, would have to first understand the works of Kant and Plato. Both talk about the phenomenal world and the 'other' world. The true reality lies beyond the phenomenon, though we might call it 'Idea' or 'Das Ding an sich.'

 

  
What he took, writes Mann, was the 'idea' and the 'Ding an sich'. But with the latter he did something very bold, even scarcely permissible— he named it and also defined it. He called it the Will. The Will is the ultimate and absolute. It is the irreducible, primeval principle of being, the source of all phenomena, the begetter, the impelling force producing the whole visible world and all life.

Schopenhauer regards the body as an appearance whose reality exists in the will. The will is not subject to space and time and the categories of Kant. All knowledge is foreign to the will, it is something independent of knowledge; it is entirely original and absolute. The will, this 'in-itself-ness' of things, writes Mann, exists outside time and space and causality, demands objectivation, which occurs in such a way that its original unity becomes a multiplicity. Schopenhauer called it principium individuationis — the principle of individuality.

Schopenhauer made valuable contribution to Ethics and Aesthetics as well. According to him, like art, virtue is not a thing to be learned. Just as a man cannot become an artist by having explained to him the essence of the creative state, so he cannot shun evil and ensue good by instruction. The will cannot be 'taught' because it is free and absolute.

Schopenhauer took a bleak view of life, or so it seems. Pain is positive, he says, and pleasure is negative as happiness is nothing but the absence of pain. What causes our suffering is our willing. If we gave up the will we might experience the ultimate bliss, the state of nothingness, or Nirvana.
 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20021208/spectrum/book2.htm