New Release – Bread Beauty Revolution: Khwaja Ahmad Abbas 1914–1987

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BBR Front Cover

edited by
Iffat Fatima & Syeda Saiyidain Hameed

Published in association with Khwaja Ahmad Abbas Memorial Trust

November 2015 • 10.5 x 8 inches • 212 pages (Paperback with gatefolds) • ISBN 978-93-82381-42-6 • Rs 1500

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas distinguished himself by his ceaseless passion for revolutionary politics, which he expressed through his writings and films. He was a visionary who strongly believed that creative and artistic interventions are indispensable to nation-building. Bread Beauty Revolution, spanning the years 1914 to 1987, encapsulates Abbas’s work, ideas and ideals. It also provides an insight into the beginnings of modern India. The volume encapsulates 74 books, 40 films, 89 short stories and 3,000 pieces of journalistic writing by Abbas. His work flows in three languages – Urdu, Hindi and English – and he translated his own writings freely from one language to another. The volume is sectioned in ten parts: (i) ‘Abraham and Son’, about Abbas’s birth and upbringing; (ii) ‘I Write as I Feel’, which includes Abbas’s first and best known short story ‘Ababeel’ (Sparrows), the story of Abbas’s struggle after the publication of his short story ‘Meri Maut’ (also called ‘Sardarji’), and Mulk Raj Anand’s letter celebrating his literary genius; (iii) ‘My First Love Affair’, on his lifelong relationship with and unabashed admiration for Jawaharlal Nehru; (iv) ‘Naya Sansar’, the witnessing of the birth of an independent India; (v) ‘Dharti ke Lal’, recounting Abbas’s love–hate relationship with the Left movement of which he was an outspoken advocate as well as fearless critic, his account of the birth of IPTA, writing the play Zubaidah and being invited to make the film Dharti ke Lal; (vi) ‘Bambai Raat ki Bahon Mein’, about another love that gripped his mind and soul, the Indian film industry; (vii) ‘Reminiscences’, containing personal accounts by people whose lives Abbas influenced, as well as a short story by him, ‘Achchan ka Aashiq’ (Achchan’s Lover); (viii) ‘Jagte Raho’, an account of Abbas’s fight against the censorship imposed on his film Char Shehar Ek Kahani (Four Cities, One Story), 1968, which led to the famous case, K.A. Abbas versus the Union of India, and the landmark judgment in his favour holding that pre-censorship of cinema was a violation of freedom of expression; (ix) ‘Ek Aadmi’, Abbas’s ‘beginning’ as well as his ‘end’: his review of Shantaram’s film Aadmi which brought him to the film world, and Ek Aadmi, his last film, which had a posthumous birth; and finally, (x) ‘Rahi’, named after the eponymous movie Abbas made in 1953 about tea garden workers.

Iffat Fatima is an independent filmmaker from Kashmir, based in Delhi. Her films include Lanka: the other side of war and peace, The Kesar Saga, In the Realm of the Visual and Boojh Sakey to Boojh. Her video installation, Ethnography of a European City: Conversations in Salzburg, questions some of the assumptions in the east vs. west polarity/dichotomy/disparity. Her recent film, Khoon Diy Baarav (Blood Leaves Its Trail), explores issues of violence and memory in Kashmir.

Dr Syeda Saiyidain Hameed is a former Member of the Planning Commission of India. She is a feminist and a writer who is widely recognized for her passionate engagement in public affairs and social issues, especially for women, minorities and peace. She is the Founder Member of the Muslim Women’s Forum and a Founder Trustee of the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia. An author of books on Islam, Sufism, gender and development, and modern Indian history, Dr Hameed was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007.


New Release – Kumar Shahani: the shock of desire and other essays

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KS book cover

edited & introduced by
Ashish Rajadhyaksha

September 2015
9.25 x 7.25 inches
392 pages
Paperback with gatefolds
iSBN 978-93-82381-61-7
Rs 2000

The fifty-one essays compiled in this book were written over a forty-year period by India’s leading
independent filmmaker. They provide new insights into a turbulent era in modern India’s cultural history.
Although known primarily as a filmmaker, Kumar Shahani has taught, spoken and written on a variety of
subjects over this period, that include the cinema, but also politics, aesthetics, history and psychoanalysis.
In these essays Shahani addresses diverse political issues, aesthetic practice, questions of artistic freedom and censorship. There are also personal essays on filmmakers and artists including his teachers and colleagues. Shahani’s often polemical positions, as they occur in several previously unpublished essays and presentations, are essential contributions to film and cultural histories of the Indian cinema as well as of the New Cinema worldwide.
The book includes a comprehensive introductory essay, ‘Kumar Shahani Now’, by Ashish Rajadhyaksha.

Kumar Shahani (b. 1940) began his filmmaking career with the celebrated Maya Darpan (1972), which made him one of the most significant directors of the New Indian Cinema. He has since made feature films such as Tarang (1984), Khayal Gatha (1989), Kasba (1990), Bhavantarana (1991), Char Adhyay (1997) and Bamboo Flute (2000), which have received wide international recognition. Less well known is his work as a teacher and his interventions as a public intellectual. He has taught in several film schools in India and internationally, made short workshop films with students, and lectured extensively on academic and other platforms.

Ashish Rajadhyaksha is co-editor of the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (1999), author of Ritwik Ghatak: A Return to the Epic (1984) and Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency (2009).

Terror and Performance

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Rustom Bharucha

June 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
xvi+252 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-37-2
Rs 695

Focusing on four primary motifs – ‘September 11’, Islamophobia, Truth and Reconciliation, and non-violence – this book offers a non-Eurocentric perspective on the dangerous liaisons between terror and performance. Instead of equating ‘terror’ with ‘terrorism’, it offers alternative epistemologies and narratives of terror by drawing on a vast spectrum of human cruelties relating to war, genocide, apartheid, communal and ethnic violence, in India, Rwanda, South Africa and Palestine, among other parts of the global South.

From exposing the liberal biases of ‘September 11’ as the paradigmatic event of terror in our times, the book reflects on how the ‘war on terror’ has catalysed an upsurge of Islamophobia in the performances of everyday life. Against the fictions of ‘passing’, ‘covering’ and ‘queering’ Muslim identities, the book juxtaposes the very real terror of genocide and communal violence in which Muslims have been marked and killed.

Extending the concept of ‘performance’ beyond theatre practice, the book also interrogates the performativity of political discourse with particular reference to state-sponsored processes of Truth and Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda and post-apartheid South Africa. By contrasting the conflicting modalities of Truth and Reconciliation, it questions how the performances of guilt, confession and forgiveness can be valorized at the expense of securing justice for the victims.

To what extent can non-violence serve as an instrument of justice in the age of terror? Is it possible to envision justice outside the strictures of the law? The concluding chapter of this book probes these questions through the activist performances of Mahatma Gandhi in a larger context of critically re-examining his role as a one-man Truth Commission. Affirming the need for non-violent political resistance, Terror and Performance envisions how a turbulent peace may be realized through the uncertainties of the here and now.

Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of several books, including Theatre and the World, The Politics of Cultural Practice, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, Rajasthan: An Oral History and Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin.

People’s ‘Warrior’ – Words and Worlds of P.C. Joshi

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People's Warrior cover

Edited by Gargi Chakravartty

March 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
xxii + 474 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-36-5
Rs 995

Faced with many disappointments within the Communist Party to which he had dedicated his life and in the realm of politics beyond, P.C. Joshi turned to a deep and life-long engagement with the history of the Party. It was an engagement that led to the creation of a rich archive on the complex history of the Indian Left. On 1 December 1970, this collection was formally acquired by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Joshi himself was the Director of this archive for the first five years, ably assisted by K. Damodaran. In 1974, the archive was set up as an adjunct to the School of Social Sciences, JNU, with its own advisory body.

The materials in the ‘P.C. Joshi Archives on Contemporary History’ consist primarily of documents and papers from the personal collection of P.C. Joshi. The cataloguing style that he developed, along with K. Damodaran, has been retained to the present. As such, it is divided between materials classified by year and those classified by themes. The materials include rare magazines and journals, publications of communist parties and various other Left groups from several parts of the globe; and books, pamphlets, photographs, and copies of important files and letters relating to the Communist Party of India.

P.C. Joshi himself had long been writing on a wide range of issues, commenting on contemporary political developments, on Party positions and strategies, on historical events and processes, and on debates and concerns among workers and peasants, artists and writers, students and the youth. Many of these were published in the journals with which he was associated, though some important reflections remained unpublished. This volume contains a selection from P.C. Joshi’s large body of writing, which will serve as an introduction to the man, his writings and his times. The articles are presented here in a chronological framework, starting with excerpts from P.C. Joshi’s memorable deposition in the Meerut Conspiracy Case and continuing to his last writings before he fell critically ill. The first chapter, titled ‘In His Own Words’, is an autobiographical note that he wrote on 7 November 1970. In addition to a selection of Joshi’s writings, the volume contains invited articles by scholars/writers which evaluate and contextualize P.C. Joshi and his times.

Gargi Chakravartty, formerly a faculty member of Maitreyi College, University of Delhi, is also a social activist. She is the author of Gandhi’s Challenge to Communalism (1987), Coming Out of Partition: Refugee Women of Bengal (2005) and P.C. Joshi: A Biography (2007).

Towards a New History of Work

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Towards a New History of Work cover 

Edited by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

March 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
x+ 286 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-35-8
Rs 575

This collection of essays is the outcome of a conference, organized by the Association of Indian Labour Historians in collaboration with the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, on the histories of work, from the long-term and comparative perspective. Why did the conference organizers and participants propose to look beyond ‘labour history’ to look at ‘the history of work’? Perhaps because at this moment of history we are in the midst of a huge change which compels our attention to turn to the notion of ‘work’ as distinct from that of ‘labour’. This change appears to us in the form of a technological transformation that affects not just our view of history, but our life itself. Every time we use the computer or the internet or the cyber networks we experience this transformation – which brings home to us the fragility of the conventional boundary between ‘labour’ and ‘work’. The information technology revolution has created a new space for some workers as a result of the relocation and dispersal of work, often to the home of the workers. In fact, this situates such information technology workers in a position analogous to that of the late medieval or early modern European artisans – an interesting recursive pattern in labour history. Moreover, in the less developed countries where capitalist relations do not exhaustively define all production relations, we have a large proportion of the economically active population without being in someone’s employment, and thus it seems that the term ‘worker’ possibly accommodates them better than the term ‘labourer’. Further, when we consider the long run of history, the same proposition holds for the workers of the pre-capitalist era in many countries – i.e. the artisans and others who remained self-employed even if they were tied to a dependency network. The term ‘labourer’ appears to be inappropriate, as some authors in the present volume have argued, to people of that class in the pre-modern period in India or elsewhere. There are many other issues which need rigorous re-thinking in the agenda of constructing a ‘history of work’. In considering how the nature of ‘work’ is being transformed, the term ‘work’ needs to be defined because in common parlance it means many things. If value addition to a marketed product or service is the criterion, a pro tem working definition accepted since Adam Smith, there are problems to sort out. For instance, there may be work which is socially useful but not marketed, e.g. the home-maker’s or house-wife’s work, a vital question from the gender history point of view. These and many other questions surface in the segment of the current discourse of ‘the history of work’ represented in this volume.

The papers collected in the present volume (to be followed by another volume of selected papers presented at the conference) have been arranged thematically into four sections in order to highlight some issues in focus at the conference and also to allow a cross-national perspective to develop. The first group of papers addresses the long run of history, extending to the late medieval and early modern period. The second section comprises papers on work communities and the development of their identity. The third group of papers looks at two of the oldest occupations in history, that of soldiers and sailors. We have here the scope to look at history of the longer range. Finally, we turn to the question: how was ‘work’ or ‘labour’ perceived by those who actually performed it? In the fourth section of the book we have essays which elaborate on that perception of work, the complexities of self-perception and the socially ascribed status of workers in different domains.

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, the editor of this volume, was formerly Professor of Economic History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Vice-Chancellor, Visva Bharati University, West Bengal; and Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. He is the founder president of the Association of Indian Labour Historians. His work ranges from economic history to cultural and intellectual history of modern India. Amongst his many books are Financial Foundations of the British Raj: Ideas and Interests in the Reconstruction of Indian Public Finance, 1858–1872 (2005), Talking Back: Idea of Civilization in the Indian Nationalist Discourse (2010) and Rabindranath Tagore: An Interpretation (2011).

Cover image: Ramkinkar Baij, The Call of the Mill.
Ramkinkar Baij (1906–1983), eminent sculptor and painter, was a student and a teacher at the school of fine arts, Kala Bhavana, 1925–71, in the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan, West Bengal; born in a ‘low caste’, he was close to the tribal Santhals whose migration to industrial employment is depicted in this sculpture entitled The Call of the Mill.

Cover design: Parthiv Shah,

UNMEDIATED – Essays on Media, Culture, Cinema

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Sashi Kumar Cover

Sashi Kumar

March 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
448 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-32-7
Rs 895

This collection of Sashi Kumar’s contributions to various journals and magazines for over three decades – from the late 1970s to the present – is informed by his exposure to, quest and passion for, practice in, and contemplation on the media as a broad category of culture and the ecology, and including film, print, television, radio and the net. It is informed too by the author’s brief engagement, in between, with advertising across different media, and an entrepreneurial phase of establishing and running a satellite and cable television enterprise at the cusp of the transition from the analogue to the digital.

This is broadly a reflective collection of essays on the media, mediated culture and film/cinema that is Indian and international in its scope. It is not, or about, daily retail journalism. It provides perspective to the agency of the media; aspects of freedom of expression and creativity; coercive and persuasive forces at work in the media and in culture; filmic genres and the oeuvre of distinctive filmmakers; the art, craft and aura of cinema; the emerging media ecology; cognitive shifts triggered by technology; the push and pull of convergence and digitization; the rampantly unequal media order and the rise of digital capitalism; and the new mutuality of the writerly, readerly, aural and oral.

Sashi Kumar is a journalist, broadcaster, documentary and feature filmmaker, media thinker and initiator. He launched the Asianet satellite television channel and cable network in the early 1990s. Towards the end of that decade he founded, and continues to chair, the Media Development Foundation, which runs the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

Project Cinema City

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Project Cinema City

Edited by Madhusree Dutta, Kaushik Bhaumik, Rohan Shivkumar

December 2013

11 x 9.25 inches
560 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-22-8
Rs 3500

Project Cinema City is an anthology of text and image essays, documentation transcripts, maps, graphics, annotated artworks and films on various configurations of the cinema and the city of Bombay/Mumbai. This volume has evolved out of and is the culmination, in a sense, of Project Cinema City: Research Art and Documentary Practices – an expansive project initiated by Majlis, a centre for multi-disciplinary art initiatives in Mumbai, and developed over five years, from 2008 to 2012.

Project Cinema City is primarily a set of enquiries into the labour, imagination, desire, access, spaces, locations, iconization, materiality, languages, moving peoples, viewing conventions and hidden processes that inform the cinemas the city makes, and also the cities its cinema produces. The enquiries are based on the hypothesis that cinema in the terrain of cinema city is as much everyday practice as it is a part of a speculative desirescape. Hence this volume presents cinema as a manufacturing enterprise that alters through shifts in materials, technologies, labour inflow, distribution territories, demographic patterns and development policies, and the city as a phenomenon that continuously evolves through the interface between lived reality and the reality perceived in cinema.

The main aim of this volume is to convey the richness of documentation made through the parent project – a richness that, hopefully, will also convey to the reader the scale and diversity, and the crisis and creativity of the relationship between cinema and city in Bombay. In its free mixing of images, graphics, field notes, information and commentary, the book, quite like the parent project, maintains a work-in-progress status. This temperamentality, we would like to believe, mirrors the vacillating characteristics of the medium of mass imaginations: cinema.

The book is divided into three sections. The first, Mapping Imaginations: Terrains, Locations, deals with the spatiality, materiality and habitability of the cinema city. The basic argument put forth by the essays included here is that cinema is essentially a spatial system that functions through an entanglement of forms of production and representation of/in cinema. This section addresses the spatial system of cinema as it is incorporated within the broader genres of urbanity, modernity, vocationality and desirability of the city.

The second section, Performing Labour: Bodies, Network, is about the act of producing and the labour that produces – skill, work, character, aspiration, dissent, transgression, duplication, ancillaries – and the myriad ways in which they populate the cinema city. With the death of manufacturing industries in Bombay, the service and entertainment sectors have become the mainstay of aspiration-induced migration to the city. This section deals with the organized and unorganized accumulation of labour, performing bodies, and aspirational talent at the altar of cinema.

The third section, titled Viewing Limits: Narratives, Technologies, deals with the multiple niches and varied strategies through which cinema is arranged and rearranged in the everyday life of the city and its citizens. Every alteration in genre, narrative, technology, economy, infrastructure, etc., influences the way cinema multiplies its effect on the lived realities of the city and its citizens. While some of these effects are physically related to the cinema, others are remote and merely provisional.

The contributors to the book include filmmakers, visual artists, designers, architects, photographers, historians and other social scientists.