JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

Notes

I wish to thank Jyotika Virdi for her careful work editing this memoir for Jump Cut.

[1] Emperor Ashoka (third century BC) must be the only king in the world to have suffered from a sense of remorse at the carnage he and his armies inflicted in gaining a victory in Orissa. He abandoned the path of violence and embraced Buddhism. His engraved edicts on granite columns found all over India bear testimony to his humanism. His Dharma Chakra, the wheel of Dharma, is the emblem on the Indian national flag. Historians call him Ashoka the Great. In his edicts, he refers to himself as Devanaam priya (he who is beloved of the gods) that is the Sanskrit euphemism for a fool. One wonders whether he assumed this title as a mark of repentance for his folly in going to war.

[2] Rs. 120 would have been about US $15 at the then rate of exchange. But living was cheap; we were able to hire a servant at the salary of four rupees per month. Milk was a rupee for 6 litres and the milkman brought his cow to residents and milked it in front of customers to demonstrate it was not diluted with water; 20 kilos of the best rice was available for seven rupees. We lived well enough and even sent some money home.

[3] John King Fairbanks, Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast (Stanford CA: StanfordUniversity Press, 1969).

[4] ‘Swadeshi’ means buying and using Indian goods; ‘satyagraha’ literally means insistence on truth but is translated in political language as civil disobedience; ‘khadi’ is cloth made from homespun yarn.

[5] My yarn was so bad that my mother made wicks from it for oil lamps used for ‘pooja’ (prayer service). She would not allow me to waste good cotton and decided any spinning in our house would be done by her.

[6] Part of the allure of a particular national song that was very popular with us was shouting taboo words like “bastard,” which would elicit strict censure if a child, especially a girl child uttered them. I remember lustily singing the line, “And throw the Bastard out.”

[7] From Louis Malle’s letter dated 3 December 1967; “Already you must be thinking: this Frenchman has faded away for good. We will never hear of him again. He was just a passing cloud. Well, since I came back to Paris, I’ve thought of only one thing: find a way to get back to India. My “Victory, Julie Christie” project has been postponed which delighted me, and I’m trying now to build up my other project of a subjective film about India, a voyage to the sources. It is difficult to concretize, the best way being to work it out as a commitment from the French television. Well don’t worry or rather worry. I’ll be back! And soon! When I know more about it, you’ll receive an official letter, full of questions and reclaims.”(Emphasis is Malle’s.)

[8] One cut was, “Delete the view of a dog peeing against a post in a street.” I do not know which censor guideline the shot violated.

[9] Philip French, Malle on Malle (London: Faber and Faber Publications, 1994), p.79.

[10] The four studies are: Pierre Berton’s Hollywood’s Canada (1907-1975 films); Dorothy Jones’ The Portrayal of India and China on American Screen (1896-1955 films); and Anand Mitra’s Through the Western Lens. All these deal and mainly with U.S. films; Prem Choudhry’s Colonial India and Making of Empire Cinema: Image, Ideology and Identity deals mainly with three empire films of the thirties and refers to some post-colonial films made both in USA and Britain.

[11] One finds references to films made from 1896 but nothing more than titles are available.

[12] I am glad that I have been able to return the favors to some extent. The Danish Film Archive for example has only a jumbled copy of the remake of Robert Dinesen’s 1917 film Maharajah’s Favourite Wife directed by August Blom in 1918 as the first film broke all box office records. I found a good copy of it in the Prague film archive and informed them about it.

[13] The sums allocated by Government controlled institutions are ludicrous. I have no desire to embarrass anybody by mentioning how much money, with the best of its efforts the NFAI was able to provide. Suffice it to say that the money that it provided was barely sufficient for buying 20 good books. I mention this fact here only in the hope that the NFAI would be able to convince the Government to revise its norms for funding.

[14] A director from Uzbekistan told me about such films made in his country and offered to help if I was to go there. Within the resources available, it was not possible.

[15]Edward W. Säid, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Publications, 1979), p.79

[16] Fern Haber Honi, Beyond Postmodern Politics (New York: Routledge, 1998), Introduction, p.1.

[17] Use of colored language is quite common in such manipulations. When Vladimir Putin became the President of Russia, headlines in many American newspapers screamed, “Master spy becomes Russia’s President.” No such headlines appeared when the senior George Bush, formerly head of the CIA, became President. (My use of the word screamed is also use of a coloured word used for emphasis).

[18] Salman Rushdie, “Outside the Whale,” in Imaginary Homelands (New York: Granta Books/Penguin, 1991), pp. 87-101

[19]Stuart Chase, Tyranny of Words (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1959), p.1.
[20] In the heady days of 1947, just when India had achieved Independence, I went from England, to participate in the World Youth Festival in Prague. A Czech student who was then an ardent communist wanted to convince me why Communism would be good for India. The trouble was that we had no common language. I had started learning Czech and in three weeks had made fair progress as Czech is very close to Sanskrit. But my mastery of Czech though adequate for mundane things, did not allow any sophisticated political argument in that language. The young man was learning English and both of us had a smattering of German. It was my enthusiasm for a free Nehruvian India and his for the communist cause that sustained such dialogues, carried on with help of dictionaries and involved language contortions in Czech, German and English. He was actually quite sweet and had composed a very useful English sentence with somebody’s help that he used to trot out at the end of a lengthy argument. It was quite a classical remark. He would say, “I think I understand what you mean but I am not sure whether what I understand is what you mean”. Had we both been fluent either in English or Czech, perhaps we might have thought that we had understood each other without actually understanding anything much. Who knows!

[21] The British film The Drum (Drums in USA) meant one thing to the British and another to Indian audiences. The agitation against this film in Bombay in 193, was unprecedented as it involved about 40,000 people from all strata of society, and the film was finally banned.

[22] Those who have observed children playing and talking would have no difficulty in realizing how innovative children are in perceiving patterns and making connections. I would like to quote just one instance. In 1952, we got our first telephone in Patna. My second daughter Bharati was delighted when she looked at the telephone number that the telephone technician had fixed on the dial. “Oh, our number is on the wall calendar too,” she observed. “Not at all,” I said. “Our number is 2 5 9 1” I enunciated each number carefully. “But that is what the calendar says. See 2591,” insisted my 6-year-old daughter. It was I who could not see beyond the conventional mode of reading from left to right; my daughter had no difficulty in reading both ways.

[23] How training in a particular discipline shapes perception, makes interesting reading. I quote an example from the book The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biography of the mathematical genius Ramanujam, written by Robert Kanigel. A great mathematician, Professor Hardy of Cambridge University, had helped bring Ramanujam to the attention of the academic world. Ramanujam was ill and Hardy had taken a cab to see him. Hardy noticed the number of the cab 1729. He must have thought about it a little because as he entered the room where Ramanujam was lying, with scarcely a hello, Hardy blurted his disappointment over the number. It was, he declared, “rather a dull number.”

“No, Hardy,” Ramanujam said. “It is a very interesting number. It is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.” Kanigel adds, “Finding numbers that were the sum of one pair of cubes was easy. But two pairs never till you reached the number 1729”. The two pairs of cubes are 12 raised to power of 3 plus 1 raised to the power of 3 gives the sum of 1729. The other pair is 10 raised to the power of 3 plus 9 raised to the power of 3 also adds to 1729. (p. 312 of the above book)

[24] The recent examples are Fire and Water by Deepa Mehta, a Canadian filmmaker of Indian origin. Theatres were attacked in some places when Fire was being shown. Shooting for Water was stopped even before it began. The action was taken by vigilante groups with no constitutional authority, whose leaders were motivated by a very different agenda. But the fact is that they were able to rouse the passion of mobs on the issue of portrayal of reality—as shown or as proposed to be shown. The Indian Censor Board had cleared both films for screening (Fire) and for shooting (Water).

[25] Introduction by Arthur C. Clarke in the book, A Frog in My Soup, by Miller Harry (Delhi: Penguin Original, 1997).

[26]Octavio Paz, In Light of India(London and New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997), p. 75.

[27] Shashi Tharur, India—From Midnight to the Millennium (New York: Harper, 1998), p.8

[28] Here I use the word Hindu as it was understood for several centuries. Judaism and Hinduism are perhaps the only religions that have been named after a place and not by the name of its creators. India’s ancient texts do not mention Hinduism; they mention the religion as ‘Sanatan Dharma’ (The ancient way of life). The word ‘Hindu’ appears in Persian writing dating from the fifth century and refers to people in the land of the river Indus (Sindhu in Sanskrit) and meant all Indians. Even as late as the 1930s, Indians no matter what their religion might be were known as Hindus. The records of the Gadhar party, started in North America for India’s struggle for freedom. mentions Maulavi Barakt-ullah as a Hindu. Salman Rushdie in his book, Jaguar’s Smile, refers to his visit to Nicaragua. There he was described as a Hindu writer. Hinduism, Brahmanism are terms coined by others than Indians.

[29] Bjorn Landstrom, The Quest for India (New York: Doubleday, 1964), p.1.

[30] Incidentally this mistake by Columbus cost me more time and effort in gathering films on India and Indians. When I searched archival holdings, keywords “India and Indians” pulled up titles like A Camino das India (On Way to India) or India A Filha do Sol (India, Daughter of the Sun). However many of these films (nearly 20%) were about Indian tribes in North and South America. Almost a fifth of my efforts proved ‘Love’s Labour Lost.’

[31] In Carne’s film, the heroine, played by Arletty, drapes a stole over her shoulder like a sari and tells her beau, played by Jean Baptiste, that they should pretend that they were in India.

[32] In the Polish film, the hero who is travelling in a coupe of two berths that he had reserved for himself has to surrender one berth to accommodate a woman passenger, as the train was crowded. She is ill at ease with him. So he tells her the story of the wise Brahmin who travelled with a crab as a companion.

[33] Amita Malik, No Holds Barred (New York: Harper Collins, 1999), p. 248.

[34] Rajpath, formerly known as King’s Way under the British Rule in Delhi, is an important road in Delhi. It connects the official residence of the President of India to the India Gate. All processions such as Republic Day parades, etc. are held on this road.

[35] A friend from Nepal had brought me a delicious loaf of Woody’s bread baked in a wooden oven.

[36] The Shri Shaila and Shri Vijay dynasties of Indian origin disappeared from Indonesia and South East Asia in the fifteeenth century. But a king of the Chakri dynasty that claims its descent from the Sun dynasty (Bhaskar Wong sha in Thailand or Bhaskar Wamsha – Surya Wamsha of Lord Rama) still occupies the throne of Thailand. The title of Thai kings is Rama.

[37] Dr. Frank is Professor Emeritus of Amsterdam University and is currently a visiting Professor at the Miami and Florida International Universities.

[38] Andre Gunder Frank, “The Wertheim Lecture: Asian Age” in ReOrient – Historiography and Social Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).


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