Gandhian Abbas Wouldn't Approve of Anna: Historian
Legendary filmmaker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was a believer of Gandhian principles but would not have approved of Anna Hazare and the manner in which the whole issue of corruption was "hijacked" for ulterior motives, says historian Suresh Kohli.

"He (Abbas) believed in Gandhi, and admired Nehru. He would surely not have approved of Anna Hazare, and the manner in which the whole issue of corruption has been hijacked for ulterior motives. Gandhi never approved of that.

"He never allowed his supporters to hijack his vision, and silently watched the blackmailed methodology that has seeped into contemporary body politic," Kohli, who has edited Abbas' book of stories An Evening in Lucknow, told PTI.

According to Kohli,Abbas had a unique storytelling style.

"Like in other areas of creative expression, Abbas had an unusual approach to telling a story. Most of his stories are a mix of fact, and fiction, observed or experienced reality compounded with fantasy to make the work readable. He felt he must communicate his feelings, observations, philosophy with as wide a spectrum as possible."

In An Evening in Lucknow, published by Harper Perennial, Abbas brings forth through his stories his rich background in journalism and filmmaking. The stories embrace varied themes and contexts, with protagonists from cities and villages.

He manages to capture the dilemmas of all his characters, be it a Nawab, a nurse or an untouchable. He addresses themes of superstition, caste and romance, each in his own unique and rich style of writing.

Abbas writes with equal felicity of a modest young proof reader in Mumbai vying for the attention of a European girl (The Umbrella) and Chanda, an outcaste, old woman in a village (Sword of Shiva). Often satirical and hard-hitting, the stories give the reader a glimpse into his social conscience and perhaps his commitment to progressive causes.

The book comes with a PS section that has interviews with the author, a letter from Mulk Raj Anand, and other information.

Kohli feels writers of yesteryears were able to highlight social issues in a more compassionate manner.

"This was because they were influenced by the living realities of the time. The world was small, social and political issues touched everyone."

Unfortunately, Abbas became a victim of his self- proclaimed will of being a 'communicator', he says.

"He was dubbed a journalist by literary critics because of his unabashed concern with the working classes; the compassion that he brought in his journalism made the hardcore newsmen call him a fiction writer; commercial film makers called his films documentaries.

"But it was always the human element, the poor peasant or city worker, the lower rung of working classes, the decadence in public life - were the issues he sought to highlight in a humane, compassionate manner, trying to lift their spirits through his writing rather than make fun of them."

Abbas was a prolific political commentator, short story writer, novelist, scriptwriter and a filmmaker who preferred to call himself a communicator.
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