Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 5, 1985 p. 81.


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Leslie A. Hemming

PROGRESSIVE WRITER, PROGRESSIVE FILMMAKER:

THE FILMS OF RAJINDER SINGH BEDI

Rajinder Singh Bedi is best known for his short stories depicting middle-class life in minute detail Influenced like many of his contemporaries, by the Progressive Writers Movement1 Bedi has particularly been able despite the relatively narrow canvas of his stories, to articulate in them telling criticism of various aspects of Indian religious, political and social life In addition to pursuing his literary activities, for the last thirty years Bedi has also been involved—again like a number of his contemporaries—with the Bombay film industry ^ Well- respected and much sought after as a free-lance dialogue writer for Hindi films Bedt not only worked with some of the leading directors of his generation but also wrote produced and directed several of his own films What is remarkable about these films is that despite the economic and social constraints placed on Indian filmmakers, Bedi managed to articulate in his films many of the same political and social concerns that he had initially dealt with in his literary writings

The son of a Khatn Sikh father and a Brahmin mother, Bedi spent his early life in Lahore 3 Like most Punjabis of his generation, he was educated in Urdu Never having graduated from college Bedi began working as a clerk in the Lahore post office in 1933 and remained there until 1941 when he joined the Urdu section of All India Radio Lahore He left that job in 1943 to work for a small Lahore film studio Maheshwan Features, which too he left in disgust a year and a half later when he discovered that none of his material was actually being used Bedi then rejoined All India Radio and was posted to Jammu where he remained until 1947 Following Partition, Bedi moved to Bombay and managed to land a job writing dialogue for D D Kashyap Under Kashyap's direction, Bedi earned his first screen credit for dialogue in the film Badi Bahen 4 released in 1949 During the next thirty years Bedi wrote screenplays for and had the opportunity to work with such well-respected directors as Bimal Roy, Sohrab Modi. Amar Kumar and Hnshikesh Mukherjee The twenty-seven films5 for which he received credit for either screenplay or dialogue include Mirza Ghalib (1954) Bimal Roys remake of Devdas

The best source n EngI sh on the Progressive Writers Movement is Coppola (1975) Also see various articles in Coppola (1974)

Because of their aolity to write accurate and realistic Urdu dialogue or to write songs and ooetry in Urdu many Urdu enters have found heir source of livelihood n the film industry The long list of them ncludes such well respected names as Saadat Hasan Manto Knshan Chandar Ismat Chugtai All Sirdar Jafn Khwaja Ahmad Abbas Kaif Azmi Akhtarul Iman and Majruh Sultanpun With the exception of Abbas and Bedi almost all of these have remained content with writing for others and have not ventured into production and direction For general sources on the history of Indian cinema see Rangoonwala (1975) Barnouw and Knshnaswamy (1980) IAMPAS (1981) Directorate of Film Festivals (1981) and the various articles in Kak (1980)

Most of the oiographical mater al nere comes from interviews of Bedi conducted oy me in Bombay during February and AprI 1982 Narang and Flemm ng (1984) w II contain some biograph cal matenal on him Bedi (1972) s also useful

Transliteration of th s and other flm names follows their listings in trade sources and Indian film reference materials Detailed ^formation on this and many of the other films mentioned in the text can be found n Rangoonwala (1970) More recent films are covered in Dharap s annual surveys

In my nterviews with him Bed claimed nvolvement with seventy films However diligent searching among all the materials at the National F Im Archive of India Pune turned up only twenty seven for which Bedi was listed in tne credits as having written either the dialogue or screenplay

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