INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – REMEMBERING DEVIKA RANI AND SAHIR LUDHIANVI

International Women’s Day (IWD)

It started in early twentieth century. The industrial era had brought with it problems of aspiring needs of milling populations. Amongst these, the one problem that came to fore was oppression of women and gender inequality. For the first time in the year 1908, 15000 women marched through the streets of New York demanding equality with their male counterparts. This led to National Women’s Day being held on 28th Feb or last Sunday of the month. In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen and following the success of it, it was announced that IWD would be held on 19th March. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since.

Remembering Devika Rani on Her Death Anniversary and Sahir Ludhianvi on His Birth Anniversary, 08 March

I have a Facebook Group called ‘Yaad Kiya Dil Ne’ for serious music lovers (not the ones who just copy-paste You Tube urls of songs and clap their hands for a job well done). In this group, besides monthly thematic music fest, we pay tribute to actors, singers, lyricists and composers involved with the making of the songs.

It is only appropriate (a magnificent coincidence) that we should remember these two icons: Devika Rani and Sahir Ludhianvi on this important day, the International Women’s Day (08th March). IWD is the day for remembering the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. We shall be doing so for Devika Rani. We shall also recollect what Sahir wrote about women.

Devika Rani

Devika was the first lady of the Indian Cinema (not just Hindi movies) who was active in the Indian movies from 1928 to 1943 and who chose to live life her own way. My wife and I, on our visit to Kulu and Manali last September, went out of our way to visit the Roerich Art Gallery and Roerich House in Naggar, about 25 Kms from Manali.

Please have a look at the accompanying pictures, a remembrance of our visit. In their house, her room and her prized possessions (including a type-writer) have been maintained exactly as they were. Then there is a separate Devika Rani and Svetoslav Memorial:

She was born on 30th March 1908 in Waltair (Andhra Pradesh) as Devika Rani Choudheri to Colonel MN Choudheri, IMS (Indian Medical Services) and Mrs. Leela Choudheri. She came from a distinguished family. She was the grand-niece of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Her father rose to become the first Indian Surgeon General of Madras.

Her schooling was in London. She graduated in Arts from there, specialising in textile designing and architecture. She had started work as a textile designer in London when she met Himanshu Rai, who was instrumental in her joining his films production unit and contribute towards Indian films.

In 1929, at the age of 21 years, she married Himanshu Rai. Initially, she assisted him in only production related activities such as Art Direction and Costume Designing. However, in 1933, she debuted as an actress in his movie Karma, in which their kissing scene is still regarded as one the longest kissing scene in Indian movies (of more than four minutes). After her schooling in London, she had done courses in acting and music at he Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Royal Academy of Music. However, after joining hands with Himanshu Rai, during a visit to Germany, inspired by their methods of film-making, she enrolled for a film-making course at Universum Film AG studio in Berlin. She also took an advanced course in Acting.

Himanshu Rai then started the famous films studio called Bombay Talkies, the second oldest movie studio in the Indian movies and also the best equipped. Himanshu started the studio in the year 1934 and she continued running it after his death in 1940. In 1935, Bombay Talkies first production Jawani Ki Hawa was launched. It starred Devika Rani and Najm-ul-Hassan, and was shot fully on a train.

During the making of the movie Jeevan Naiya, her second film with the hero Najm-ul-Hassan, she eloped with him. Her husband Himanshu Rai, having spent a lot of money on that movie already, was going to be in ruins.

Ashok Kumar’s uncle Sashadhar Mukherjee, who was an assistant sound-engineer at Bombay Talkies got in touch with Devika Rani and Najm and convinced Devika to return to Himanshu. Two of the reasons he was able to convince her is relevant on this International Women’s Day: One, in India, at that time, it was next to impossible to get legal divorce; and two, women who eloped were regarded as prostitutes and also disowned by their own families. Thus she was made to be convinced that she won’t ever get divorce from Himanshu and marry Najm.

She, therefore, did the next best thing. Through Sashadhar Mukherjee she sought and obtained financial independence from her husband as a condition for her return. Another condition was that he would pay entirely the expenses for running the house. And, lo and behold, Himanshu agreed to this, in order to save face in society and to prevent his studio from going bankrupt. Today, when we celebrate IWD again and remember how wretched are the lives of Indian women (Please read ‘Is There Reason To Celebrate Women’s Day In India?’ which is what I wrote on the eve of IWD seven years ago and one of my first essays after I formed this blog), please remember that Devika Rani was gutsy enough to do this in 1936.

On her return, Himanshu Rai dropped Najm-ul-Hassan altogether and got Ashok Kumar, Sashadhar Mukherjee’s cousin (later Joy Mukherjee’s father) to do the role. This marked the debut of Ashok Kumar’s long career in the movies.

She made a number of movies with her co-star of Jeevan Mrityu Ashok Kumar. Their 1936 movie Achhut Kanya is still considered iconic.

I am giving you a song from the movie Achhut Kanya of 1936 that was penned by JS Kashyap (known by his nickname Natawa) and sung by Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar (during those days there was no playback singing and actors and actresses sang their own songs). Saraswati Devi (the second Hindi and Indian female music director after Jaddan Bai; Usha Khanna, the living female MD is the third one) composed the song.

The song is all about her saying that she is a free bird and he saying that he would have her. Finally, he succeeded in that Sashadhar and Ashok Kumar started another film studio called Filmistan and she had no support to continue running Bombay Talkies. She had to thus give up films.

Please enjoy: Main ban ki chidhiya ban ke ban ban bolun re….

(de: mai.n ban kii chi.Diyaa ban ke ban ban boluu.n re
a: mai.n ban kaa panchhii ban ke sa.ng sa.ng Doluu.n re) – 2

de: (mai.n Daal Daal u.D jaauu.N
nahii.n paka.Daa_ii mai.n aauu.N) – 2
a: (tum Daal Daal mai.n paat paat
bin paka.De kabhii na chho.Duu.N
sa.ng sa.ng Doluu.n re ) – 2
de: ban ban boluu.n re

de: mai.n ban kii chi.Diyaa ban ke ban ban boluu.n re
a: mai.n ban kaa panchhii ban ke sa.ng sa.ng Doluu.n re
de: mai.n ban kii chi.Diyaa ban ke ban ban boluu.n re
a: sa.ng sa.ng Doluu.n re

In 1944, she quit film idustry and in 1945 she married Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich, son of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich. That’s how Lyn and I visited their house in Nagger (Manali). Both Roerich and Devika were favourites of Jawahar Lal Nehru and the gallery has quite a few photos of them together. During her stay in Manali, Devika Rani made a few documentaries on wildlife, which are dutifully kept in the gallery. She died of bronchitis in 1994—a year after Roerich died—in Bangalore.

In 1958, Devika Rani was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour. In 1969, when the Dadasaheb Phalke Award was instituted (the highest award for films in India), she became its first proud recipient. In the year 1990, USSR honoured her with Soviet Land Nehru Award. Finally, in Feb 2011, a postage stamp honouring her was released by the Government of India.

Sahir Ludhainvi

Sahir (Magical) Ludhianvi was born on this day in 1921 as Abdul Hayee. His mother, left on her own, her estranged husband and Sahir’s father, and hence, she forfeited willingly any claim over her husband’s assets. Sahir and his mother stayed together though the father, after remarrying, made abortive attempts to obtain custody of the son.

I am presently engaged (on my Facebok Page Lyrical) in paying tribute to Sahir and hence do not want to write about him at great length here.

Suffice it to say that having seen the deprivation of his mother, Sahir was full of feelings for women: his mother and the two that he was romantically inclined with Amrita Pritam (Punjabi writer and poet) and Sudha Malhotra (Singer).

I have, in my tribute on Lyrical, already covered the 1958 movie Sadhana, a BR Chopra movie that starred Vyjayanthimala as a prostitute whom Sunil Dutt’s mother (Leela Chitnis) finally had to accept as his wife.

After the 1957 Guru Dutt movie Pyaasa, after doing 18 movies together, Sahir had parted ways with SD Burman and was making songs with many different music directors. N Dutta (also known as Datta Naik) was a prominent Music Director with whom Sahir worked in more movies than with others (you might remember their Dhool Ka Phool with the famous songs: Na ye Hindu banega na musalmaan banega, and Dhadakne lgi dil ke taaron ki duniya).

Here is a song that both of them created in Sadhana and the song after 49 years is still representative of how we treat women in Indian society. Its lyrics are amongst the most powerful lyrics that Sahir ever penned (Indeed, this was the starting song of my tribute to him; I having jumped many years to give this song).

It is just a coincidence (on IWD) that Vyjayanthimala won the Best Actress award for her role in the movie.

Please enjoy: Aurat ne janam diay mardon ko….

aurat ne janam diyaa mardo.n ko, mardo.n ne use baazaar diyaa
jab jii chaahaa kuchalaa masalaa, jab jii chaahaa dutkaar diyaa

tulatii hai kahii.n diinaaro.n me.n, bikatii hai kahii.n baazaaro.n me.n
na.ngii nachavaaii jaatii hai, aiyyaasho.n ke darabaaro.n me.n
ye vo beizzat chiiz hai jo, ba.nT jAtI hai izzatadaaro.n me.n

mardo.n ke liye har zulm ravaa.N, aurat ke liye ronaa bhii khataa
mardo.n ke liye laakho.n seje.n, aurat ke liye bas ek chitaa
mardo.n ke liye har aish kaa haq, aurat ke liye jiinaa bhii sazaa

jin hoTho.n ne inako pyaar kiyaa, un hoTho.n kaa vyaapaar kiyaa
jis kokh me.n inakaa jism Dhalaa, us kokh kaa kaarobaar kiyaa
jis tan se uge kopal ban kar, us tan ko zaliil-o-khAr kiyaa

mardo.n ne banaayii jo rasme.n, unako haq kaa faramaan kahaa
aurat ke zindaa jal jaane ko, kurbaanii aur balidaan kahaa
qismat ke badale roTii dii, usako bhii ehasaan kahaa

sa.nsaar kii har ek besharmii, gurbat kii god me.n palatii hai
chakalo.n me.n hii aa ke rukatii hai, faako.n me.n jo raah nikalatii hai
mardo.n kii havas hai jo aksar, aurat ke paap me.n Dhalatii hai

aurat sa.nsaar kii qismat hai, fir bhii taqadiir kii hotii hai
avataar payambar janatii hai, phir bhii shaitaan kii beTii hai
ye vo badaqismat maa.N hai jo, beTo.n kii sez pe leTii hai

Finally, here is something from my Page: Make Your Own Quotes in which I make and publish quotes and encourage others to do so:

© 2017, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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