COVER STORY

Peculiar things happened

63-Aandhi Unkindest cut: A still from Aandhi. The film was running its 23rd week when it was banned in India.
  • The lady herself must have been quite afraid. Sanjay Gandhi, it was widely believed, was the main actor. He had this rush of blood in his head, which gave him the idea that he could do anything.

Gulzar

India has had only one spell of Emergency when democracy was suppressed. But it was a bad experience in every way, socially, politically and nationally. We are lucky, considering our neighbours don't have the kind of democracy we have.

The Emergency, in fact, began in a hushed up manner. I remember there was a mood of uncertainty and peculiar things were happening. Out of the blue some people in authority started speaking politely. Phones started working. So, too, did the post offices. All this made the common man uncomfortable because he was not used to it. The whole behaviour was artificial. When this happens, you feel that something is wrong. You start fearing that. The uncertainty was like an invisible sword.

Leaders opposed to the Congress, among others, were arrested. But we never learnt of it through the trusted channels. The news of the disappearance of journalist Kuldip Nayar did not appear in newspapers, but travelled in hush-hush tones through word of mouth. Blank front pages of newspapers hit people. Those who spoke were removed. Those who did not let their silence speak.

The lady herself must have been quite afraid. Sanjay Gandhi, it was widely believed, was the main actor. He had this rush of blood in his head, which gave him the idea that he could do anything. He had songs of Kishore Kumar banned on All India Radio because he refused to sing at a Congress rally.

One day, a few people walked into my office and said they were from the Youth Congress. They wanted me to make a film on their movement. I asked them whose orders they were conveying. They said Sanjay Gandhi's. I said let him talk to me. They spoke rudely to me and left in a huff.

Sukhdev, a documentary filmmaker who was my friend from college days, was coerced into making a documentary on the nasbandi camps.

My film Aandhi was running its 23rd week―two weeks short of its silver jubilee―and I was in Moscow where it was to be screened at a festival. The screening was stopped and I learnt that it had been banned in India. The government wanted two or three scenes to be changed. It was never the story of Indira Gandhi. But it was the first film on a politician, a woman politician at that. And, there could not have been a better role model for us.

I have seen the freedom movement, Naxal movement, Emergency, change of government and now ghar wapsi. The common man today is very conscious. He may be illiterate, but he knows what is happening. That is why democracy has succeeded in India. The common man will never encroach on anyone's religion. And, he does not have to be taught secularism. It is in our nature. The Emergency was shortlived because of the common man.

The people's attitude in India is what protects our freedom, particularly the freedom of expression. People from the media, writers and others were arrested, but they stuck to their freedom of speech. It could not be suppressed. And, it would not be in future. Look at the farmer who gave up his life at a rally in Jantar Mantar. That needs courage. We saw people doing likewise during the Mandal agitation. This pro-freedom feeling is inherent in us.
Gulzar is poet, lyricist and film director.

Emergency
Why did the moon hide in a dusty thicket of cloud?
And just as it did, and the night grew claws
And all the unknowing travellers in the jungle could do
Was scream, to shield their faces from being clawed.
Why did the moon hide in a dusty thicket of cloud?
And just as it did, vampires hanging from the branches
Slithered down the trees, and those crossing the forest,
Heard through the teeth digging into the necks:
‘If you want to cross, give us your blood!’
Why did the moon hide in a dusty thicket of cloud?
Travellers of the blood-soaked night fell to their knees,
And looking up, beseeched the moon: Light! Give us light!
Peeping out of the cloud, it revealed a shiny lunar dagger.
Why did the moon hide in a dusty thicket of cloud?
Gulzar wrote the poem in Urdu a few months into the Emergency. It was published in a small Urdu publication. Nirupama Dutt translated it into English for THE WEEK.

This browser settings will not support to add bookmarks programmatically. Please press Ctrl+D or change settings to bookmark this page.
The Week

Get the full story

You can subscribe the week e- magazine to read the entire article. Available package details are listed.

Related Reading

    Show more