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A piece on how the Indira Gandhi Government was shaken after a review of the film

WebdeskJun 25, 2021, 05:49 AM IST

A piece on how the Indira Gandhi Government was shaken after a review of the film

The Day the Aandhi film review was front-paged in Motherland, Shri Dubashi, our chief economic writer, told me when I ran into him on that day in the corridor: "Nothing I ever write now in my journalistic career will equal the heady impact of this review." And how right he was.


The Motherland newspaper that ran everything from politics and current affairs to sports and cartoons was admirably headed by Shri K. R. Malkani. Our Editor was a modest gentleman who had the courage of his convictions and articulated his thoughts boldly in his writings. On the same day, when Shri Dubashiji had prophesied on the significance of the story, Shri Malkaniji called me to his cabin. Looking straight into my eyes, he said: "Go and do the Aandhi review.'


Somehow I had missed the Delhi premiere of Aandhi and was chary of reviewing it because it was a spade calling the political film, as colleagues had told me.


My review was bold and frank. The opening sentence of my review said it all: "The film is based on the private and public life of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi." This impactful sentence said it all.


The next day, Shri Malkaniji wrote another bold and open political commentary on the picture, this time under the byline of 'By Our Film Critic,' which everyone in journalism knew to be me. It also appeared on page one. Before typing out his story, Shri Malkaniji went to the newspaper library and collected so much material from other film critics, which too had shown that the film Aandhi was a thinly disguised version of Indiraji's public and private life.


The film, starring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar created ripples across the political spectrum, making the Prime Minister take notice. Suchitra Sen, showing a streak of white in her hair, looked and acted like Indiraji. All her acolytes, like Dev Kant Barooah and ML Fotedar, were brought to life on the screen.


The first act of the Indira Government after clamping down the Emergency overnight was to ban Aandhi. Banning made that film much more viewed and, nearly everybody saw it on their videos or hired videos. Those were the days when you could rent videos. Many journalists like Shri K. R. Malkani and Kuldip Nayyar were arrested for long years. Coomie's husband, Virendra Kapoor, noted for his bold pieces too, was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for a long time because of the machinations of a Sanjay Gandhi's female admirer who rose to prominence during the Emergency.


I had a narrow escape as our genial receptionist, Shri Singh at the Motherland office on Rani Jhansi Marg, had refused to give out my South Delhi address.


Years later, Shri Kalra, who was Motherland's chief accountant, and Organiser, summoned me to his Jangpura Extension home and handed over a splendid sum of Rs.18,000.


Oh! Those were the days. Heady days indeed.


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