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Review Stars from Another Sky The Bombay Film World of the 1940s

Stars from Another Sky The Bombay Film World of the 1940s

Unforgettable reminiscences about the eccentric glamorous yet angst ridden Hindi film world of the 1940s Saadat Hasan Manto one of the greatest short story writers of the Urdu language was also a film journalist and story writer for the Hindi film industry in Bombay As an insider he was privy to the most private moments of the men and women who have dazzled generations of audiences In this series of sketches Ashok Kumar the screen idol of yore emerges as a shy yet brilliant actor forever looking to flee the eage. It was J Devika who gifted me the book Stars from Another Sky by Manto that was four years ago I read it recently when i was pushing myself to read non fictionOne of my classmates and ex friend had once told me that he had read one collection of short stories by Manto and then went on to read all of his work The author was that addictive he had said I realized it was true for most Manto fans I have not yet read his short stories or other works but from Stars from Another Sky i have come to realize how much of a misogynist he was The ideas he nurtured and emanated about women and their sexuality are abhorrent This is not a book review It is a record of how the writer had wronged women in the pretext of writing about the Bombay Film World of the 1940sIn the Introduction of the book Jerry Pinto talks about these abysmal practices of Manto He doesn t have a problem with it because he considers these to be a writer s freedom of expression He writes in the end One may not agree with Manto one may have serious misgivings about his politics one may not feel completely comfortable with his negative strategies but he is never less than entertaining When you have put down this book you will feel as if a friendly voice cheerfully malicious and yet vulnerable in its self revelation has been stilled You will miss itI did not miss it Nor will any woman who think they are people In the translator s note by Khalid Hasan we will find one such woman Her name was Nayyar Bano She had written to Manto stating her problems with the book To me it appears too rooted in family values morality etc which are things i do not subscribe to but i respect her and her opinion because it was a lone voice calling a spade a spade Look at what she had to say about Manto s writingsRegardless of how far a person has strayed from the path of virtue or how morally depraved he is can you imagine him sitting at home surrounded by his wife and children and regaling them with the experiences that you have describedHe would never talk such filth he would never talk about women as if they were mere condiments spicing the main dish How is it then that whenever the word woman has come to his Shyam s lips it has invariably been prefixed with the epithet sali How come that when he finds his bed without a woman he sets it on fire What service to mankind or public morals is being performed by printing such things in newspapersAfter all this world is not the sole property of men that they should wallow in filth and contaminate not only themselves but the innocent as well Is there no reckoning Where should one seek refugePerhaps fathers should now teach their sons splash around in pools of liuor and drag these sali women with them for amusement Perhaps mothers should now teach their daughters how to lay fresh and clever traps for menShe wrote And what did Manto have to say to this woman critic of hisI felt pity for Nayyar Bano and her mental condition I said to myself thatI should make it up to her But then I thought if I tried to do that in the manner that I wished she might faintI did not want her to suffer a shock she might not survive the experiencethere is only one way to bring them people like Nayyar Bano back to health They should be forced to witness thousands of bottles of liuor being opened with their corks flying all over the place and their contents poured into a pool After that one shouldscream every obscenity one knew and if one couldn t do it oneself men should be hired for the purpose read aloud every filthy advertisement for aphrodisiacs and remedies for private male and female ailments from magazines such Shama Besween Saddi and Roman not once but repeatedlyManto wanted all this to be done simply because a woman had uestioned him and his writing I feel it was because he had no answers to her In the above portion he is a scared writer who has resorted to shunning a woman as mad Last time i heard that was done was in 17th century or something I shall now point out the way the writer s style and vocabulary itself are misogynistic I am one of those who believe that there is a male language and female language in literature There are also attempts to create male literature and hide female literature by never talking about it Manto in the book is the epitome of male language In Ashok Kumar The Evergreen Hero Manto says about actress Devika Rani he talked her into abandoning the warm bed of her lover Najmul Hasan in Calcutta and return to Bombay Talkies where her talents had a greater chance of flourishingLater about Ashok Kumar he says Ashok was not a professional lover but he liked to watch women as most men do He was not even averse to staring at them especially at those areas of their anatomy that men find attractiveIn Rafi Ghasnavi Manto makes clear his attitude about women once again Like what has been suggested in the above occasions he truly believes women are commodities to be tested out Those days I was wholly idle restless and bored all the timeOn seeing a bunch of schoolgirls on the street I would pick one out and imagine that I was having an affair with herEven though the following belongs to another topic altogether I am also uoting Manto s views on partition It throws light on how things were during that time and it s by a person who had experienced all that himself Historically it is relevant In Bombay the communal atmosphere was becoming vicious by the day When Ashok and Vacha took control of the administration of Bombay Talkies all senior posts somehow went to Muslims which created a great deal of resentment among the Hindu staff Vacha began to receive anonymous letters that threatened him with everything from murder to the destruction of the studio Neither Ashok nor Vacha could care less about this sort of thing It was only I partly because of my sensitive nature and partly because I was a Muslim who expresswed a sense of unease to both of them on several occasions I advised them to do away with my services because the Hindus thought that it was I who was responsible for so many Muslims getting into Bombay Talkies They told me that I was out of my mind Out of mind I certainly was My wife and children were in Pakistan When that land was a part of India I could recognize it I was also aware of the occasional Hindu Muslim riot but now it was different That piece of land had a new name and I did not know what the new name had done to it Though I tried I could not even begin to get a feel for the government which was now said to be oursThe day of Independence 14 August was celebrated in Bombay with tremendous fanfare Pakistan and India had been declared two separate countries There was great public rejoicing but murder and arson continued unabated Along with cries of India zindabad one also heard Pakistan zindabad The green Islamic flag fluttered next to the tricolor of the Indian National Congress The streets and bazaars reverberated with slogans as people shouted the names of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and uaid e Azam Muhammad Ali JinnahI found it impossible to decide which of the two countries was now my homeland India or Pakistan Who was responsible for the blood that was being shed mercilessly every day Where were they going to inter the bones that had been stripped of the flesh of religion by vultures and birds of prey Now that we were free had subjection ceased to exist Who would be our slaves When we were colonial subjects we could dream of freedom but now that we were free what would our dreams be Were we even free Thousands of Hindus and Muslims were dying all around us Why were they dyingBack to his objectification In Nargis Narcissus of the Undying Bloom he describes the actress thus She was a thin legged girl with an unattractive long face and two unlit eyes She seemed to have just woken up or about to go to sleep But now she was a young woman and her body had filled out in all the right places Nur Jehan One in a Million begins this way I think I first saw Nur Jehan in Khandan She was certainly no baby then no sir by no stretch of imagination She was as well stacked as a young woman would wish to be with the assets women bring into play when reuired by the situation In Sitara The Dancing Tigress from Nepal he once again stoops to page three journalism Tara had many affairs including one with Shaukat Hashmi who was married to Purnima who later divorced him Alaknanda passed through many hands and in the end settled down with the famous Prabhat Studio actor Balwant Singh How long she lived with him I do not know In my memory such descriptions of personal read sexual life of women existed only in some Malayalam films written by Shaji Kailas starring Suresh Gopi or Mammootty When did Manto graduate from the Mallu school of misogyny Again he says Sitara was made of different clay and even a man like Nazir could not keep her from hopping into bed with other men Later on we will come to know that Manto s problem was that he could not handle a sexually independent woman First of all none of them slept with him or wanted to sleep with him Hurt male egopenis ego Then these women whom he painted in such crass style in his page three journalistic venture were all successful and couldn t care less about what Manto thought about them Manto himself says that Sitara hated the sight of me In fact the woman had a problem with his journalism Subseuently they ended up being some sort of Femme Fatale for Manto I ran into Arora on the street He was walking with the help of a stick and his back was bent He had always been thin but he looked in extremely poor shape that day I felt that he had difficulty even walking as if there was no life left in himExpressing surprise at his appearance I asked him what was wrong Almost out of breath with fatigue he managed a faint smile and replied SitaraManto Sitara Al Nasir who lost his slim upright and handsome figure after a few years and became fat and flabby was a sensation when he first came with his fair almost pink complexion nurtured by the cool hill air of his native Dehra Dun He was so good looking that one could almost compare him to a beautiful woman When I returned to Bombay from Delhi after accepting an offer from Shaukat Hussain Rizvi I met him at Minerva Movietone I just could not believe my eyes His pink complexion had become ashen and his clothes hung loose on him He seemed to have shrunk and all energy and strength appeared to have been sueezed out of him My dear what have you done to yourself I asked because I was worried about his health He whispered the answer in my ear Sitaramy dear Sitara Sitara was everywhere I wondered if Sitara s only purpose in life was to infect men with pallor from the England trained Arora to the Dehra Dun born Al Nasir Nazir had banished Sitara from his life and once his mind was made up he never changed it Sitara he did not give a damn about but he was worried about his nephew whom he had brought all the way from Lahore so that he could make something of himself He did not want him to fall into Sitara s clutches He knew her well and he also knew that she fed on young men like Asif All I know is that Asif had married in Lahore with great fanfare and brought his bride to Bombay settled down on Pali Hill and in less than three months the marriage was on the rocks Who but Sitara could have been responsible for it She was a woman of experience and knew how to make herself attractive to a man rendering him useless for other women That was how she had weaned Asif away from his new bride and that was why he had come back to her That woman Sitara had something other women lacked Asif left his wife because she probably did not have the ualities that he had found in Sitara Was it that she had left Asif with no taste for inexperienced virgins Of course in extra marital relationships or any relationship for that matter the woman was at fault She is the one who lured the unsuspecting man to her fatal ualities I think compared to Manto people were progressive during Sati The audacity with which the author talks about sex lives of women as if he was the person they were confiding in is pathetic It is some voyeuristic way of putting down women who made choices in bed Especially when the choice was not to have Manto in it in my opinion Look at the way in which he talks about Nur Jehan s sex life as though she had told the author how she felt when she had sex And there was Nur Jehan who could produce the most perfect note from her throat but who found herself unable to make Shaukat depart from her heart She could sing the khayal with the ease of a maestro but the only thing on her mind these days was the young and willowy Shaukat who had given her the most joyous moments of her life who had sent a tingle through her body that the finest music had been unable to transmit How could she forget the man who had given her such perfect physical fulfillment And later Nur Jehan had blossomed after moving in with Shaukat It is only physical contact with a man that gives the final touches to a woman s beauty and by now Nur Jehan was a full blown woman The slight girlish figure she had had in Lahore had been transformed by Bombay Her body was now privy to all varieties of carnal pleasure and though some people still called her Baby Nur Jehan she was no baby but a woman who had known love and its ecstasy A bit later we get to know what the author thinks of male female relationships in general It is no wonder that a person who thinks the only relationship possible when two people of opposite sex are alone is sex is only interested in the sex lives of his subjects The place did not offer much by way of privacy so it is to be assumed that young Asif must have witnessed and certainly heard what a man and a woman do when they are aloneHis body was young sinewy and powerful his blood warm all he wanted was an opportunity to prove his manhoodAnd the way in which a person s manhood could be proved was by having sex according to Manto Another grotesue description can be found in Baburao Patel The Soft hearted Iconoclast Let s see how he is an iconoclast The door opened and a strong legged bosomy dark complexioned Christian girl walked into the room Baburao winked at her Come here She walked up to his chair Turn around Baburao told her When she did he slapped her bottom resoundingly Get some paper and a pencil About the same woman he adds later after telling the readers that she was Baburao s mistress and stenographer and secretary all at onceRita Carlyle was not a one man woman but because of Baburao she had become upmarketWhat a wonderful commodity woman is in Manto s world In Paro Devi The Girl From Meerut I found the most disgusting piece of writing by Manto Talking about Asok Kumar s shyness around Paro whom he found attractive Manto says He simply did not have the courage to grab her and take her to bed Later comes the horrendous description about Paro When she was sueezing water out of her clothes Ashok and I caught sight of her leg all the way up to the thigh When we had packed up and were driving home Ashok said to me Manto that was uite a leg I felt like roasting it and eating it In my opinion Saadat Hasan Manto has no place in journalism He might have written unforgettable stories created great art but his regressive views on women will land him in that heap of people who when it comes to women fail to realize that they are people

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R advances of his female fans; Nargis comes across as just another young girl looking for companionship among her peers before she steps on the ladder that will forever take her away from the comforts of an ordinary middle class life; and Shyam the dashing handsome hero is portrayed as a straightforward flirtatious young man pining for the woman he loves Manto also describes in detail the obsessions of Sitara Devi; the unfulfilled desires of Paro Devi; and the intriguing twists and turns which transform Neena De. A uirky anecdotal view of the Hindi film industry from a time when even my grandparents were kids Like the back cover states most of the glittering stars from that galaxy are unknown to us today with the exception of Ashok Kumar Nur Jehan Nargis and KL Saigal I remember when I was growing up and there were these really old movies on Doordarshan I used to often wonder as to how some of these people became such big stars so far removed were they from my generation s notion of heroes heroines movies and starsIn fact Saigal with his nasal voice singing Jab dil hi toot gaya wasis one of the most parodied stars of that age among school kids if they at all knew himBut with age comes maturity and while I may still not see in them the same appeal as I would in the later year actors and those of my generation I can understand their allure in a country that was still under the boot of foreigners still striving for freedom And these stars and their movies I guess provided some measure of escape to the masses Not uite unlike todayThe book however is a collection of anecdotes about those stars told by someone who was a part of the coterie And while I do not doubt that the stories are factual they are also uite subjective You see Manto s own personality revealing itself as he tries to tell you how Ashok Kumar the superstar really uite shy when it came to women or how Nargis was just an ordinary girl not uite the beauty an assessment I agree with looking for friends And while he tells us about these stars who have endured the test of time he also talks of those not so famous now Naseem the fairy face whose daughter Saira Banu turned out to be a bigger star or Rafi Ghazni the casanova music directorThe stories are about people and uite like how we ordinary people perceive the stars to be incestuous fickle egoistic But sometimes they surprise us with their vulnerabilities their desires their follies and their failings which make them like us than the distant starsManto s writing style is whimsical meandering moody but true to the age and people he was writing about and hence suits the material to a TI am now looking forward to reading some of his other work If you are looking for something different I suggest you give this collection a try The Isles even my grandparents were kids Like the back cover states most of the glittering stars from that galaxy are unknown to us today with the KING exception of Ashok Kumar Nur Jehan Nargis and KL Saigal I remember when I was growing up and there were these really old movies on Doordarshan I used to often wonder as to how some of these people became such big stars so far removed were they from my generation s notion of heroes heroines movies and starsIn fact Saigal with his nasal voice singing Jab dil hi toot gaya wasis one of the most parodied stars of that age among school kids if they at all knew himBut with age comes maturity and while I may still not see in them the same appeal as I would in the later year actors and those of my generation I can understand their allure in a country that was still under the boot of foreigners still striving for freedom And these stars and their movies I guess provided some measure of Ty jesteś moje imię escape to the masses Not uite unlike todayThe book however is a collection of anecdotes about those stars told by someone who was a part of the coterie And while I do not doubt that the stories are factual they are also uite subjective You see Manto s own personality revealing itself as he tries to tell you how Ashok Kumar the superstar really uite shy when it came to women or how Nargis was just an ordinary girl not uite the beauty an assessment I agree with looking for friends And while he tells us about these stars who have The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy endured the test of time he also talks of those not so famous now Naseem the fairy face whose daughter Saira Banu turned out to be a bigger star or Rafi Ghazni the casanova music directorThe stories are about people and uite like how we ordinary people perceive the stars to be incestuous fickle Complete Amber Sourcebook egoistic But sometimes they surprise us with their vulnerabilities their desires their follies and their failings which make them like us than the distant starsManto s writing style is whimsical meandering moody but true to the age and people he was writing about and hence suits the material to a TI am now looking forward to reading some of his other work If you are looking for something different I suggest you give this collection a try

Saadat Hasan Manto â 2 Summary

Vi from an ordinary housewife into a pawn in the hands of film companies He writes with relish about the bunglings of the comedian VH Desai and the incredible dedication of Nawab Kaashmiri to the art of acting There are also stories about the rise of Nur Jehan as the greatest singer of her times; and the various peccadilloes of the musician Rafi Ghaznavi With subjects ranging from film journalism to the sexual eccentricities of these stars Manto brings to life a generation with his characteristic verve and hones. The book Stars From Another Sky is a collection of sketches of the yesteryear stars of bollywood Manto proves that he is as good at writing non fiction as much as fiction The accounts are truly racial and definitely controversial They not only give insights on the lives of these scandalous 1940s Indian actors but also the changing landscape of Mumbai and Lahore during the freedom of independence as well as partition Many a times Manto mentions how the films would stop due to these uprisings and curfews Manto after the partition moved from Mumbai to Lahore leaving behind a prosperous career in script writing and freelance writing His pieces are truly of the tabloid nature be it commenting on Sarita devi s promiscuity or making fun of Nur Jahan s conical brassiere One can t help but be transformed to the black and white world of motion pictures in Bombay of the 40s with his sometimes funny sometimes nostalgic and almost always scandalous accounts


10 thoughts on “Stars from Another Sky The Bombay Film World of the 1940s

  1. says:

    Absolutely heartbreakingly love this book It introduced me to Manto I simply could worship this book Bollywood stuffs nobody

  2. says:

    It was J Devika who gifted me the book 'Stars from Another Sky' by Manto that was four years ago I read it recently when i was pushing myself to read non fictionOne of my classmates and ex friend had once told me that he had read one collection of short stories by Manto and then went on to read all of his work The author was that addictive he had said I realized it was true for most Manto fans I have not yet read his short stories or other

  3. says:

    A collection of Manto's writings on the Bombay film industry of the 1940's The book would have been all the enter

  4. says:

    Manto was a misogynist The way he has written about actresses in the book is deplorable Ugh Don't know if I will be able to read another story b

  5. says:

    I picked this book up a few years ago when Penguin India inducted the translation Khalid Hasan into their Classics library The translation had o

  6. says:

    A uirky anecdotal view of the Hindi film industry from a time when even my grandparents were kids Like the back cover states most of

  7. says:

    Manto is known for his caustic and provocative short stories However very few people know that he was very closely involved with the Bollywood as well This book 'Stars from Another Sky' is a collection of Manto's f

  8. says:

    Manto does it again This book is a collection of sketches about some famous personalities of Indian film industry of 1940s mainly Manto was an active personality himself in the film industry and used to write stories for films Having developed

  9. says:

    The book Stars From Another Sky is a collection of sketches of the yesteryear stars of bollywood Manto proves that he is as

  10. says:

    A collection of real life stories as Manto recollects his time in the Bombay Film industry as a writer advisor and an insider with an outsiders perspective The book is replete with a cornucopia of colourful characters and flamboyant p

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