The Paradox of Progress I: Naya Daur (1957)

I was seven years old when I accidentally discovered, while attempting to tune in to BBC commentary of a European Championship soccer game, that I could eavesdrop on conversations held over cordless phones in our home using a Short Wave radio. (The late 1980s were ugly for a soccer fan in India.) I distinctly remember that moment of discovery. How fascinating it was, and how disturbing it was. With it came the realization that information overheard by the wrong people could land genuinely good people in serious trouble. Technology is beautiful, but like everything in life, its effects are inevitably and directly proportional to the intentions of those using it.

An invaluable realization at that age, which, along with love of Lego (think connectedness, not architecture) and sport (collaboration!), influenced my career aspirations, what I studied, what I taught while in graduate school, and what I practice professionally today. As a technologist and aspiring futurist, I consider myself an advocate for the development and application of technology to enhance human processes, not to replace them. (My experience has been that that balancing act of adopting the new while holding on to the old is extremely tricky, although I relish being at the intersection of the debate.) This almost begins to summarize a small but important part of the paradox of progress. And this is why Naya Daur (1957) has fast become one of those films I am excited to discuss, but am rather embarrassed to admit I saw just recently.


I'd first seen Naya Daur a couple of weeks before it was screened at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, which added much to the viewing experience. The Festival program included the synopsis of the B. R. Chopra-directed film, which you can read by clicking on the image to the right.

It's a remarkable cinematic package, especially when placed in context of the era in which it was released. Like the other biggies of 1957 (and what a year for film it was) -- Pyaasa and Mother India -- its message remains relevant. Unlike its counterparts, it is the closest to being a pure entertainer.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can shower it with is that I think Lagaan (2001) drew inspiration in quite beautifully paying tribute to the film, with the period of time the villagers were given to prepare for the contest!


By now, if there's one thing you know about me, it's more than likely that I rather enjoy films involving villagers in some sort of contest for dignity and survival, and love stories that underlie such contests ;)


The premise behind it is noble. Naya Daur begins with a quote from the Mahatma Gandhi (like Swades (2004) did), but in many ways also addresses Aristotelian ethics -- that it is incumbent upon us to try to fulfill the potential we have in innate nobility. The manner in which an honest portrayal of this is accomplished in the film is fun and engaging, with a beautifully crafted narrative arc that is absorbing, albeit predictable.


While the role of the media in advertising the villagers' challenges to the country at large is positively portrayed, courtesy photographer and journalist Anjana (Johnny Walker), the role of government is simply ignored. Possibly an admission of their reactive tendencies not aligning well with the objectives of the message of film? I kept waiting unsuccessfully for specific references to whether the writer (Akhtar Mirza) thought the kinds of progress proposed by the antagonist would eventually lead the country to inflation or stagflation (assuming scalability across rural India). Any related commentary would have only made the argument more substantive.


Not something I hold against the film, though. That balancing act applies just as much to creating a film such as this with the intent of maximizing likelihood of acceptance among the masses. There are only so many who would be interested in correlating the free market economy to federal economic policy.


Aside from the cast (Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Jeevan, Ajit, and Walker are all excellent, that we know) and brilliant art direction (enhanced by the film being re-released in color in 2007), the music is the clear front-runner for best complement. It's hardly a surprise given it's O. P. Nayyar collaborating with lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi.

There's Saathi Haath Badhana which speaks to collectivism. Is Desh Ka Yaaron Kya Kehna bleeds patriotism. When it's not the mischievous Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri, it's the romantic Maang Ke Saath Tumhara (a fantastic duet by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhosle), or the pivotal and beautifully integrated and lyrically superior song in praise of God in Aana Hai To Aa Rah Mein, also by Rafi. This song (please skip the last two minutes if you haven't seen the film) follows a typically but not uniquely Gandhian philosophy on the unity of religions.


Of course, Johnny Walker gets yet another good fun song by Rafi in Main Bambai Ka Babu. And there's a fantastic song part of a play staged at the village in Reshmi Shalwar Kurta Jaali Ka, with vocals by Shamshad Begum and Bhosle, and featuring the lovely Kumkum (left) and Minoo Mumtaz!


It's easy to want to keep discussing a film like Naya Daur, and it's easy to acknowledge its significance to Hindi cinema. If you haven't seen it, you must, if only to appreciate that the film is, from start to finish, aware of the position of its audience within the progress paradox. Now, more than ever, its message stands out loud and clear.

Movie/Music rating: 4.75/5 (Fantastic)
'Classic' is the appropriate word. The colorized version is excellent, so if you haven't seen it, definitely consider.

Also see:
Naya Daur at the Bollywood Food Club.

Colorized version -- official website (with trailers):
http://www.shemaroo.com/filmdistribution/nayadaur/

And finally...
This is not something Naya Daur argues in favor of or against, but it's relevant here. Something to think about, and much more complex than it appears at the surface. What are advancement and success after all? From the November 12, 1931 issue of Young India, by M. K. Gandhi:

Industrialism is, I am afraid, going to be a curse for mankind. Exploitation of one nation by another cannot go on for all time. Industrialism depends entirely on your capacity to exploit, on foreign markets' being open to you and on the absence of competition. ... And why should I think of industrializing India to exploit other nations?

Don't you see the tragedy of the situation -- that we can find work for our three hundred millions unemployed but England can find none for its three millions and is faced with a problem that baffles the greatest intellects of England. The future of industrialization is dark. ... And if the future of industrialism is dark for the West, would it not be darker still for India?




38 comments:

theBollywoodFan said...

All: Once there is confirmation of when the ongoing multiplex strike will end, we'll discuss the upcoming films here, as always. Cheers.

Filmi Girl said...

Great post!! (I love "Maang Ke Saath Tumhara", too!)

Your set-up to interconnectedness was interesting. (Legos!) It's a theme that comes up in the 1970s films quite often - the richie rich who refuses to see that his food hording has consequences outside of his own wealth - or the man who becomes a thief or criminal based on the actions of his father...

(And I'm DYING for new movies! This strike has been so hard...)

Darshit said...

An excellent example of movie making for the masses. The movie was kinda voice for them at that time. And even in recent days, an inspired movie "bowled" over everyone with similar treated story [u know wht i'm talkin abt]

And not to forget extra ordinary music. Each song is an unforgettable one. Iss desh ka yaro kya kehna is an anthem for Bhangra lovers. And lovely 'horse-cart' song, Maang ke...Love it.

bollyviewer said...

"am rather embarrassed to admit I saw just recently" - I am even more embarassed to admit that I still havent seen it!

Sometime back, I happened to see it on Rajshri where it was up for free viewing. 10-15 min into the film I decided that it looked too interesting to be watched that way. I am now the proud possessor of the DVD, just havent gotten round to seeing it. Wish I could get hold of the B/W print, though. I am not a big fan of colorising classics - it takes away some of their magic for me.

And much as I admire Mahatma Gandhi, I completely disagree with his views on industrialisation. From what little history I've read, the Industrial Revolution led to demolition of feudalistic class barriers in Europe while mass production and the resultant cheaper products made goods and facilities available even for the poor - surely the opposite of exploitation?! And 60 years down the road (surely it is the "future", now?), industrialisation hasnt led to any nation's downfall, as far as I can see!

theBollywoodFan said...

Filmi Girl: Thank you, ji :) That's a very interesting correlation to the themes of films from the 1970s. You've probably seen more from that decade than I have. In Naya Daur, at least the richie rich was offset by a well-mannered papa richie. I just saw Amitabh Bachchan in Agneepath this past weekend, and it clearly demonized the rich (the specific teaching was that *everyone* who's made good money have done so unlawfully!), which was pretty sad.

Everything is connected! What I love about Lego is that the blocks and pieces are very precise. There's stuff I get today that I connect to stuff I have from the 1980s, and they all fit perfectly. The ones from 1949 (from before Naya Daur, would you believe it?!) fit perfectly as well. And for your appreciation of Lego, you have hereby earned yourself a trip to Legoland in Carlsbad (close to San Diego) next time you visit L.A.! :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Darshit: Of course! All those songs, such a treat. A true musical, yes? I couldn't believe the number of classical gems it contains. 1957 was such an important year, I can't get over it. Couldn't pick one from among Pyaasa, Mother India, and Naya Daur, they're all just fantastic. To top it off, Indian law that governs copyrights was also passed that year!

Bollyviewer: Remember, *old is gold*, and you must therefore see this ASAP!!! :P So before I get myself in further trouble, yes, I completely agree that this film deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible. The black and white version is still available, I think (at least it was when I ordered), although the colorized version isn't bad at all.

As for Gandhi's views on industrialization...based on my understanding of his philosophies related to the subject, he seemed to be advocating for a world that did not enforce the survival of the fittest model, which industrialization obviously does (is there one that doesn't?). That's an ideal, and it probably wasn't practical for what followed (good luck getting the other nations (or even states) to not exploit another country, which had obviously happened for nearly a century prior to independence, much of which he experienced first hand, and at various points in history -- although there's always someone exploiting someone else somewhere out there, LOL). But...

...for all the economic and technological progress in India (and there's a very valid debate to be had on the goodness of the 'progressive' Nehruvian policies instituted around that time; as a techie, I value those as much as anyone else), around 60% of the country's workforce is still employed in the agriculture sector. Never mind they contribute much less percentage-wise to the GDP (when compared to professional services, for example).

I wonder where India would've been if it had at least a couple hundred million less than a billion people. There's such a wonderful debate to be had on this subject, I'd have a hard time picking one side. On the one hand, we have calls of 'India rising'. On the other, farmers committing suicide.

shell said...

My list of movies to see grows longer and longer with each post I read! How will I ever catch up?

That aside, I fear I am out of my intellectual league in this discussion! Though I can enjoy and revell in the brilliance that Indian cinema offers, one is constantly reminded that it is a small portion of India that we see in film and that the majority face a plight that is hard to imagine as an average Canadian whose biggest woe is wondering how I'm going to keep my zip account paid up.

ajnabi said...

What an interesting post about a very interesting movie. I can definitely see a couple parallels between this and Lagaan...

Richard S. said...

BollywoodFan, you have treated us to another fine writeup, and you outlined the issues very well. I think, though, that people should see the Gandhi quote that we were treated to at the beginning of the movie:

“We are all leaves of a majestic tree whose trunk cannot be shaken off its roots which are deep down in the bowels of the earth. In this there is no room for machinery that would displace human labor and concentrate power in a few hands. Labor has its unique place in a cultured human family..."

"Dead machinery must not be pitted against the millions of living machines represented by the villagers scattered in the seven hundred thousand villages of India. Machinery to be used well has to help and ease human effort..."

Incidentally, that line about "dead machinery" being pitted against "millions of living machines" is very interesting, because of the way it resembles a line from Karl Marx in Capital:

"Capital is dead labor which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks."

Meanwhile, Naya Daur does a nice job at portraying a different kind of ethos, among the workers/villagers, to counter this. (You're right about "Saathi Haath..." being a good song about collectivism - that's why I included it, with a few translated lyrics, in my Mayday post: http://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/four-songs-for-may-day/.)

Naya Daur is so great because it is able to address these serious social issues while at the same time being, as you pointed out, the best entertainer. (The cast, the music, the dancing - all of it's so good!)

I might add, though, that I prefer the black-and-white version (which I got on DVD), as I agree with Bollyviewer that the colorization seems to take a little of the magic out of the film. (That is probably the only thing in Bollyviewer's comment here that I would agree with, but I'm already writing a very long comment, and BollywoodFan, your answer was good enough... :)
----------------
P.S. Always nice when a blog can introduce new people to a great old movie. I first learned of Naya Daur from the Bollywood Food Club.

theBollywoodFan said...

Shell: It's always a challenge to catch up on films. Ever since I started following Bollywood blogs, it's gotten worse (in a good way, of course)! :)

Agreed on that most commercial Hindi films offer not very realistic portrayals of life in India. As you know, a big part of it is intentional, the escapist stuff is much needed, I guess, although I like that there is a lot more progress in today's Bollywood toward showcasing the realistic, especially when based in urban India. This, relative to Bollywood of the 1990s.

There is no escape for those in urban India (or I should say Bombay, primarily, since that is where I lived for several years and know best, but I know this holds true for the majority of the big cities too) from imagining what life must be like for the unfortunate (no other way to put it, really; my view is no one controls the household one is born into, and 'fortune' is an appropriate word to use here). We were having a little discussion on this in the post on Tahaan a few weeks ago, and with respect to Slumdog Millionaire.

theBollywoodFan said...

Ajnabi: Thank you, and yes, it's all very cool and interesting. It's a rare instance for me, very easy to overlook the very obvious masala-ness over an extended period of the film. =)

Richard: I really should've included Gandhi's quote used at the beginning of the film, thanks for sharing. And that's an interesting Marx quote, too. I think property rights are a good thing (to say the least), because some very fundamental rights (like having the right to take one to court) seem to stem from it. Having said that, I appreciate the system isn't for everyone. Some from China remind us that there are many, many more dying of hunger across the border in India. It's almost like democracy, in some ways. Works optimally for us in the U.S., but is a major, major concern to others out there. Again, never one size (or one approach) fits all, is it?

I've always enjoyed the colorized versions of films, more I think for the lighting effects that might accompany it. But you're right about the charm of a black-and-white film being retained in its original form; you and Bollyviewer have me curious to get the original version of this film now.

And yes, it's always good when a blog can introduce new people to a great old movie. Yours falls right in that category too!

Cheers.

Richard S. said...

Hi, BollywoodFan. Thanks for the good word about my blog.

I don't want to get too deeply into political discussions here, but I guess I should answer some things...

Are you saying that industrialism or capitalism works optimally for us in the U.S.? I sure don't see it that way. And both are very much in decline here in the U.S. That is to say, whatever benefits capitalism seemed to bring for the people of the U.S., especially since WWII...are in decline here. That's especially apparent in the current crisis (especially to those of us who've been going without steady work or healthcare for a long time), but there's been a decline of living standards and real wages (not to mention quality of life - in many ways) for most people in the U.S., for many years. (Though the rich managed to get richer for a while...) And there's always been a lot of people living in terrible poverty, or living without homes, or dying for lack of healthcare, right here at home. If the degree of human suffering is even greater elsewhere, that doesn't mean everything's just dandy right in our own backyard.

The decline of industrialism in the U.S. is more apparent than anything. GM is a perfect symbol of that. The U.S. economy has been supporting itself less and less through domestic production over the years, with a drastic shift in our economy toward fictitious capital - financial speculation, etc. And you see where that brought us...

(Meanwhile, for now, I'll skip some thoughts I have about the condition and direction of our "democracy"...)

Not that things are great when/where industrial capitalism is thriving, either. I don't want to criticize Bollyviewer's comments too strongly, but how does the existence of access to cheap, mass-produced goods suffice as an argument against the idea that exploitation exists under capitalism or industrialism? How were those cheap goods produced, and what were the conditions under which most of the people in the world producing them lived and worked?

Regarding the conditions in India... Well, I've talked about Kerala for a while. There is an Indian state that made great advancements in many ways socially while experiencing a relatively low degree of industrial development and having a very low per capita GNP. There have been tons of indicators over the years showing a remarkably good social condition defying the common sense of both capitalists and Stalinists that you need a certain kind of development in order for the people to live better... Everything from near 100 percent literacy to very low infant mortality to people's active participation in the social institutions... I'm sure Kerala isn't heaven, but I've done some studying of why this state has served as an "alternative model"...

And the best explanation of how that all happened is that the communist party and socialist movmements in Kerala actually led to great advances.

Politically, communists took big hits in Kerala this year, but some argue that's because party politicians strayed from their original mission and orientation, losing many people in their base who started seeing them as hypocrites. (Perhaps some American politicians should take note.)

Though I know things can be very different in India from one state to the next... Things can't always be generalized so accurately by looking at the whole nation-state (or by looking only at the nation-state).

Since I'm writing a very long comment here, I won't touch on the ecological devastation caused by industrialism, or on the horrors of war directly connected to both industrialism and capitalist exploitation or competition...

And, sorry for writing such a long post going off on such a tangent, but I think you asked for it. :)

Bhargav Saikia said...

Haven't seen Naya Daur but I must get the DVD asap. Lovely songs.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Richard, and thanks for your comment! Politics play a big role in humanity's handling of the paradox of progress, so no worries at all about getting in a lengthy discussion on the subject. And I knew I was asking for it when I added that Gandhi quote on industrialism. :) Allow me to play devil's advocate, then. I know we can agree on what the desired outcome in each case is. It's a longer comment than Blogger accepts, I'll have to split it into two comments, so please bear with that.


Are you saying that industrialism or capitalism works optimally for us in the U.S.? I sure don't see it that way.

I sure don't either. I worded my statement poorly. I meant to say what works optimally for us in the U.S. (and, this is important...'relative' to other countries, which is not something I choose to overlook given I am an immigrant to this country) is the democratic form of government. The political process we have might not be the ideal (again, there's no one approach that works all the time and for everyone), but I think it works really well here, better than in the vast majority of countries that use it.
I understand and appreciate that there's a valid argument against it, and I'm not here to say I think that that political model would work best for everyone. It clearly wouldn't.

And that there's no separating it from the centralized v. decentralized economic model argument either. Speaking of which, I have no issues with the rich getting richer, as long as they do it lawfully and without exploiting (the word has a broad definition, I know) the not so wealthy. I do believe the rich should pay more taxes, that's a no brainer. Where democracy can go horribly wrong is when electing leaders to office (and repeatedly so!) who give corporate leaders ridiculous and direct monetary incentive to ship jobs away from their country. (Read: G.W.)


If the degree of human suffering is even greater elsewhere, that doesn't mean everything's just dandy right in our own backyard.

Absolutely agree, except that the question this leads to is, which economic and political model does one believe offers more control to those who are suffering in our own backyard? In which environment does the sufferer have more of an opportunity? And which models does that environments use? Is success (fairly) incentivized? Can one trust the government not to steal? To offer basic rights to free speech, to own property, and to due process?


The U.S. economy has been supporting itself less and less through domestic production over the years, with a drastic shift in our economy toward fictitious capital

True. From a purely economic standpoint, however, I think this argument is external to the merits or demerits of industrialism. Might be oversimplifying it, but manufacturer location alone has no impact on supply and demand.


...but how does the existence of access to cheap, mass-produced goods suffice as an argument against the idea that exploitation exists under capitalism or industrialism? How were those cheap goods produced, and what were the conditions under which most of the people in the world producing them lived and worked?

I think what Bollyviewer was getting at (and Bollyviewer, please correct me if I misrepresent your comment here) was that there is a greater likelihood that cheaper goods and services would be available in an environment that promotes free trade. But let's be flippant about it. How does the existence of access to cheap, mass-produced goods even suffice as an argument that exploitation exists *because* of capitalism or industrialism? And what about the economic and political models that allowed for the exploitation to take place? They're surely to be as accountable.

theBollywoodFan said...

(continued from previous comment...)

Thank you for the info on the recent goings on in Kerala. It's always good when advancement is prioritized. I am not in any position to discuss Kerala, given I know next to nothing about the situation there. It'll make for fun research! And it sure sounds good. Alternative approaches are always cool.


...or on the horrors of war directly connected to both industrialism and capitalist exploitation or competition.

Again, there are plenty of horrors of war directly connected to the inverse of industrialism (in fact, through the majority of human life!).


This is a very relevant discussion overall on the theme of the paradox of progress, and I thank you for sharing your views. I also agree completely on ecological devastation; the big question is, by how much have we reduced the life span of our planet because of our extrapolation of its resources, and because of the 'machinery' we use? I almost feel like a hypocrite now, my car would complain I exploited it and criticize its existence :D


Exploitation is a human problem. Frameworks are great, but if the intent is malicious to begin with, no framework will ever effectively support a community or economy. There's always room to exploit for those with the right knowledge and in the right position. At some point, we invest trust and respect in every relationship. More importantly, we believe in checks and balances (to mitigate some risks inherent in leading) which we know one model to be more effective in employing (well, at least theoretically).

The one thing I know we can all agree on is that the 'happiness quotient' (and why don't we see that as a formal index somewhere?) is what's most important. If countries ran smoothly, without corruption or terror, and with an economic model that promotes prosperity for all and continued advancement through innovation, people will buy in, no matter what the systems are (it's in their best interest to). But that vision is about as achievable as a crime-free world.

theBollywoodFan said...

Bhargav: Hope you're having fun in India! Definitely get the DVD, I think you'll really enjoy the music and film. I' looking forward to seeing 'Guide' soon! :)

always said...

Hey,
That's an amazing review. Quite insightful. Ude Jab jab zulfein is one of my favourites. Your views and opinions on Bollywood, and film making in General are quite amazing. We have a community for Indians living overseas who like to keep in touch and keep up to date on recent happenings and developments in India. Like many of us Indians, a lot of us on the community are crazy about Bollywood. Would love it if you could join us, and enliven the discussions on movies with your insights. Check us out on http://www.alwaysindian.com.
Regards

Pitu said...

Ooh sounds lovely! I find I adore Dilipsaab in his old movies (esp in 'Ganga Jumna' and 'Ram Aur Shyam') so I am sure I'll luv him here as well. And oh, Reshmi salwar is a fab song :-D As for eavesdropping, I was a regular eavesdropper on the Mahim police station convos. My radio used to pick up stuff and I used to spend hours listening to cops discussing 'nakabandis' and whatnot :-D

Richard S. said...

Oh, how I wanted to avoid an involved political discussion like the kind that I used to have when I blogged or wrote on listservs about politics rather than Bollywood! :) Oh, well...

BollywoodFan...

I'm not sure what you mean by the democratic system working well in the U.S. I don't think the system in the U.S. is all that democratic. Democracy to me means the ability of people to participate equally in the running/management of their own society and their own lives. It's true that the people in the U.S. get to vote periodically - i.e., for this or that candidate in an electoral system monopolized by two parties which are really, as Noam Chomsky (I think) once pointed out, two sides of the Business Party... The political range in the electoral choices that we're given is extremely small compared to what you find in much of the rest of the world - say, Western Europe, or India, for that matter. We don't have socialist or communist parties who can become at all visible, and even mild reformists like Nader get locked out - sometimes through all kinds of tricks and maneuvers, like the kind the Democratic Party pulled to keep him off the ballot especially in '04.

But democracy should be more than pulling a lever at the polls anyway; it should mean people's ability to participate in other ways - ranging from referenda on all sorts of things to being able to have a say in the running of communities, the management of things like housing and education, and even, I think, management of the workplaces where people have to go for so many hours every day to earn a livelihood. How much do we have a say in any of that?

Democracy should mean some freedom of public expression and protest. Here in the U.S., it's been very limited, with people restricted a lot regarding where they can go, herded behind barriers, etc. When I was active in the "anti-globalization" movement, I saw all kinds of brutality committed against people for exercising their right to get out in the street and protest. (Actually, I saw that more in kinder, gentler Canada, where I got severely tear gassed just for just milling around in one protest. Maybe Canada isn't the great democracy it's cracked up to be either - but at least they have single-payer healthcare.) And then, of course, we learned about all the mass surveillance during the Bush administration...though I think much of that existed all along; it just became more overt during those years.

(And re. the existence of due process...well, no need to talk about that, we all know what's been happening, especially in recent years...)

Somewhere along the way, you seemed to be saying that property rights are part of a good democracy, but I think that depends on what you mean by "property rights." Certainly, people should not be worried about being robbed of cherished personal property (though such a thing would cease to become so important if many more things could be shared, as in one big library). But the property rights of the landlord can compromise the democratic rights of tenants or people who seek housing, because of the power relationship. The property rights of the owner of a company certainly can compromise the rights of employees, and the systems through which most companies are run (especially if they're corporations) are much closer to fascist dictatorships than democracies. (How good are labor rights in the U.S.? Well, certainly not as good as in much of Europe, just to start...) And then there's the issue of coypright, which is often completely opposed to freedom of speech and artisitc expression, especially the way it is being used these days.

[To be continued...]

Richard S. said...

[Part 2]

Anyway... Some other points, which I'll make brief...

Can we trust the government not to steal, etc.? Of course not! But that doesn't mean we trust business leaders instead. The present cirsis has reminded people who seemed to have forgotten that many of these businessmen become big crooks, because a system based solely on profit making encourages and rewards highly unethical behavior. We can't just trust a government to guarantee all those rights, either (especially since so many politicians are owned by those businessmen), but we can trust private enterprise even less, because private enterprise isn't even supposed to be in the business of guaranteeing or respecting rights. But we can also try to obtain as much shared, democratic power over the government as possible. I couldn't agree more about the checks and balances, but that should include much easier public say in the actions of politicians and the details of their policies. (It might be a good start if a lot of leaders could be subject to public recall.) But also, we can't have good public participation without a well informed public. Does the mass media that's supposed to inform us do a good job of presenting different points of view and all the necessary information? I think that question could be interpreted as a joke.

Regarding your "flippant" comment about access to mass-produced goods, no it doesn't suffice as an argument in either direction; I couldn't agreee more. But Bollyviewer's statement seemed to connect these different things - access to cheap goods is the opposite of exploitation(?)... Though actually, if you examined the situations through which those cheap goods got produced, then you would see exploitation. :)

By the way, I'd define all capitalist employment as exploitation (the worker is exploited for profit or surplus value), but I understand that the word "exploitation" is commonly used to denote a certain higher degree of unfairness and compromising of liberties - which, of course, always exists.

Regarding industrialism - I'm not a complete primitivist; I agree that technology or machinery alone cannot be treated as an evil - it depends on how/why that technology or machinery is used or developed. That having been said, I am also proud to say that I never even learned how to drive a car. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: Ram Aur Shyam is great, and I know we've talked about Ganga Jumna, which I must order soon. My old Hindi film IQ is so low that When I saw Reshmi Salwar first, I thought it was Kumkum and Helen (not Minoo Mumtaz -- am I the only one who thinks they look alike?). I thought if it is her, I finally get her appeal! (I like her, but not *love*, although I've seen very little to begin with.) And then I discovered it wasn't her. Oh well. :o)

And dudette, that's crazy about eavesdropping. What are the chances cops these days would use a secure protocol when communicating across networks! It's probably difficult enough to collect enough taxes to pay employees, let alone provide that layer of information protection, LOL.

theBollywoodFan said...

All valid points, Richard. Each of us is entitled to our opinions, and that we can mostly say what we think (with some limits, and for the better, of course) without worrying about it much is not something I take for granted.

We mostly agree on what a democracy should be. I think we have a decent amount of say here in the government, academia, and corporate spheres. The opportunities await, and only get magnified in the long term. And I must admit to never having protested in a group, so I know nothing about the trials with that process. I do want to agree on the work hours, though. And of course, there are plenty of sacrifices to be made along the way, and that is where I agree as well. I don't know if it'd be any easier to accomplish this as an individual elsewhere.

At the bare minimum, our mayors, district reps and senators are elected. The state senators and reps are elected. And our incoming president (no matter there are only three choices, and not more) is always elected. These people make the laws, and we trust them to do their work honestly and to their best understanding. I know I wouldn't vote if I didn't believe in that. And India is a democracy, which is great, but I don't think it is even close to being a better-functioning democracy than the U.S. is, a large influencer there being the lack of an enforced legal infrastructure (which is so much better here).

You mention the U.S. in recent years, and all that's fair criticism. The last eight years will take us a while to recover from, assuming we don't go into a depression from the recession we're in (I think the government has done well to where we won't, but I'm sure we'll disagree there, I think I get it). But, it is the *people* who elected the Bush administration to a second term in office, and it is the people who must live with the consequences. We all get the leaders we deserve.

As for trusting government v business leaders, as you say, it's really not one or the other. One body regulates the other (or at least is supposed to), so that's where the checks and balances come in. And when they go wrong is when we have a Madoff situation. Also agree completely on the role of the media. It can well be interpreted as a joke! And it'd be nice if we could have well-informed political leaders too. :)

Ref: Property rights. Call me selfish, but I expect that the home I've paid for is mine unless I choose otherwise. Government -- please don't ever kick me out of it and take away my right to take you to court for doing so. It's also why I disagree on copyrights. What we have in place is, to me, better than the inverse. If I could have it one way, let it be the one that protects my original works the most.

theBollywoodFan said...

(Continued from previous...)

Though actually, if you examined the situations through which those cheap goods got produced, then you would see exploitation. :)

I know this to be untrue. Businesses, their supply chains, and manufacturing processes aside, there are several non-profits too (funded handsomely by capitalists in many cases) that work hard to provide cheap goods. Goodness does exist out there.


Your definition of exploitation is all-encompassing, as you say. Models other than capitalism and democracy would also be exploitative using it. (Think revenue minus expenses, with the expenses being larger in a non-capitalist society simply because of the opportunity cost involved!)

Which brings us back to the economic systems :) We can go on and on and on about this, and I know we won't agree, so please let's just leave it at that.

Once again, thank you for your comments. Over the next year and a half, I am to write a biography on a successful entrepreneur (voluntarily, I'm sure I'll learn something while at it), and I'll begin fieldwork on that project in the fall. I just realized this discussion could give me some good pointers to consider! I trust you don't consider this post and the comments 'exploitative', although since it'll only serve a good purpose, it's an allegation I'm gladly willing to accept :P


Oh, how I wanted to avoid an involved political discussion...

It's all connected, and as long as it's within scope of what's portrayed in the film, fair game, I guess.

I wonder what the cast and crew think of all the issues discussed. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

All: Filmi Girl has news on the multiplex strike (just ended!!!) here.

bollyviewer said...

O dear! I didnt mean to start all this political/economic debate on a filmi blog! All I meant to point in my comment was that exploitation is a human problem - it existed before industrialisation and will always exist. Its not right to blame industrialisation for it. And the response wasnt just to the Gandhi comment that you included in your post, tBF, but to Gandhi's rabidly anti-modern/science attitudes in general (he famously refused medical aid to his family members since he believed in naturopathy). His idea of Indians spinning their own cotton and wearing Khaadi was a masterstroke for the freedom movement, but a disaster for a poor country that needed to direct its energy to producing goods that could compete in the international market, and earn money to raise the living standards of the poor. In short, while cottage industry is a very laudable object, the India of 60 years ago (today, too!) needed modern implements for economic growth.

Richard, cheaper goods may be produced by cheap labor that (as far as I know) is thoroughly exploited, but at the start of industrialisation, it offered steadier employment to agricultural labor who were dependent on seasonal employment (a lot of farm labor is required during sowing and harvesting, and not in between) before the advent of factories. My admittedly small knowledge of the American Civil War also tells me that it was the industrial North's need for cheap labor that led to the North's desire to abolish slavery in the South! So, while industrialisation may exploit the poor, its not all bad news the way Gandhi predicts!

theBollywoodFan said...

Oh, just you wait to my next installment of the Paradox of Progress series, Bollyviewer! :D As I said to Richard, as long as the discussions are within the scope of what the films address, I have few issues with political/economic debates. In fact, I think some films are meant to encourage these discussions. The only downside is, they have the potential to get too close to conversations at work for some :'(

So we all agree (and I think all of humanity agrees, LOL) on exploitation being a human problem, first and foremost. If it isn't evident from my comments above, I'll say a third or fourth time -- I agree with not solely blaming industrialization (or any other system), because just like any other tool, its goodness will depend on the goodness of the people using it. Which systems promote relatively more hostile ecosystems is a different story altogether.

Modern implements are not only a prereq to a healthy economy overall, but to keeping up with the competition (and I know the other school of thought says competition is bad), that should go without saying.

The bad news is, for all of India's progress at an accelerated rate over the last decade and a half especially (to where it now is among the 15 largest economies in the world, purchasing power parity-wise), the living standards of the poor on a national scale have worsened (which many are okay with -- the definition of 'poor' has changed much since, too). There's a lot of statistical data to back this. And Gandhi's spinning of cotton might have been a disaster for a poor country, but that masterstroke of the freedom movement was most certainly a higher priority. One can only maintain/sustain a home one has. (This relevant only before independence, of course.)

Now, and I'll end with this, I realize I've probably gotten away all the while with not explicitly picking one side when it comes to industrialization/capitalism, but my previous comments on the subject lead to a very, very clear preference.

The point of including that Gandhi quote was to ponder. And we've done some of that here, which is great. There are few if any absolutes in political/economic infrastructural setups, and agreeing to disagree is a good approach ;)

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Nawab-ji,
I love this post and also the tune Aana Hai To Aa Rah Mein, which I did a little post on a while back which you may enjoy seeing:
http://bollywoodfoodclub.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/throw-all-those-machines-away-video-of-the-day-aana-hai-to-aa-from-naya-daur1957/
It’s so wonderful that you could see it also on the big screen.
Very well said: “Technology is beautiful, but like everything in life, its effects are inevitably and directly proportional to the intentions of those using it.” I remember having a police scanner in the home years back and accidently being able to pick up nearby cordless phone conversations. I never liked hearing them once I figured out who was talking, if I didn’t know, then it didn’t bother me too much, in fact it was interesting, but if I knew them I would switch channels.
Again, great post yaar!
All the best,
Sita-ji
....and hello comrade Richard-ji. :)

Anu said...

This was indeed a classic film. The music was extraordinary!

I appreciate movies of the earlier era, as they tried to portray a more realistic picture of the society. Towards, the 70s Bollywood movies become somewhat more larger than life and (at times) over the top! And the music... frankly the music of that era could never be re-created.

And today's movies rarely try to portray lives of villagers or farmers. That's a section of the society which has been completely neglected in today's movies.

I am against the 'paintbrush' versions of old classics! The people in the colored version look artificial.

Anyway, this film brilliantly portrayed the Technology vs. Man power conflict. BR Chopra belongs to a league of his own...

theBollywoodFan said...

always: Thank you :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Adab Sita-ji: Thank you for your comment, and I remember you encouraging me to check this film out on the big screen, so thank you for that!

When listening in using your scanning device, did you ever go, "haaye Allah, that's such a lie!"? You have a great post on the film as well, and I've added a link to it in the post here. I hope the machines are still being used wisely =)


Anu: I agree with you completely on the 1970s and the extreme prominence of the larger-than-life film, at the expense of the more realistic films, at least in popular cinema. There's one actor who bears the flag for that masala genre, and we all know who he is. Then there's another who almost kept it there. And that's okay. The point is, as you say, that the demise of films that showcased villages is rather sad.

In the 2000s, the two films I can think of right away are Lagaan (2001) and Swades (2004), both fantastic. But then, Ashu Gowariker is in a league of his own.

Agreed on people and their looks in newly colorized films. But I think they do a much better job of portraying the sets and environments, which I find worth the while. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to this, though. Maybe I just haven't seen enough of them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Pankaj said...

Naya Daur is a nice movie. I think one of the best ones in Bollywood about the growing industrialization of those times. I think the other one was the one about the Rikshaw puller in Calcutta - by Balraj Sahni, I forget the name of the movie.

Dilip Kumar, Ajit and Vyajanti Mala, great songs - aana hain tou aa raah main kuch deyr nahin hain, bhagwaan ke ghar deyr hain andheyr nahin hain.

This is a nice blog.

- Pankaj
pankajonebc.blogspot.com

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you, Pankaj. Certainly a significant piece of filmmaking in that era, no two ways about it. Thanks also for your kind words, I'll definitely check out your blog soon. Cheers!

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Yaar, I have finally read all the political discussions inspired by the film here and I think the makers would love that. I think it does all get back to theBollywoodFan's statement, "Technology is beautiful, but like everything in life, its effects are inevitably and directly proportional to the intentions of those using it." I think that the framework that can allow for the most human dignity is best, but what that is may vary. So let me throw in another issue that this debate brought to mind...one point that wasn't touched on was that in the US we have a welfare system and also a system that is set up to help war/political refugees. Since I work in an inner city public school in the US, I have daily exposure to students from poverty and various backgrounds of hardship. In some cases I see that even though they (I'm speaking both war refugee immigrants and repeat generational welfare students) are given an opportunity to educate themselves, many do not take this opportunity. Yes, I understand the whole Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but I do believe that part of satisfying the students' needs of safety and basic needs has fallen to the schools and despite this, too many of the families/students spit on this opportunity. Only in the US, right? When I was in India on my recent trip, I was saddened to see kids not attending school (poverty) and to think that in the US it would be required that they be in school and that these kids would at least have an opportunity to be educated. Conversely many kids in the US aren’t able to fully comprehend the opportunity they have, since they’re so young and since many come from generational welfare families and are often not expected or encouraged and supported to break out of this by their own cultures of poverty, which is possible here more so in other places it seems. We have truancy rules (15 consecutive days out of school, and there's a flag) and welfare system savvy families/kids know full well to show back up on day 15 in order to keep their checks coming. So this is a case of poor intentions of the recipients overriding what's been offered. There is perhaps no incentive to raise above what been has been given, so it's easier for some of the people to be complacent. As far as Kerala, I am not ever trusting of statistics given from Marxist/communist governments. Hasn't history revealed that Mao and his regime told many lies, trying to portray the great leap forward and their revolution in a positive light? Not that Kerala is in anyway similar, but it seems when communism sweeps in, educated and land owners and religion are all vilified which is also not the answer and gets back to intentions to those in power. Have you read The God of Small Things (1997)? In this book "prominent facets of Kerala life that the novel captures are Communism, the caste system, and the Keralite Syrian Christian way of life."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_of_Small_Things

And to bring this full circle, the book's author Roy also wrote "In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones" and Shah Rukh Khan was in that! BOOM! That's Bollywood.

All the best! Sita-ji

maxqnz said...

I think Lagaan (2001) drew inspiration in quite beautifully paying tribute to the film, with the period of time the villagers were given to prepare for the contest!

More than just this, I think. As soon as Saathi Haath Badhana started, I said out loud, "it's Chale Chalo". The whole tone and basic theme and spirit of the movie clearly left a deep impression on Gowariker and he did an excellent job of conveying that in Lagaan Even Krishna's jealousy and subsequent heroic redemption were mirrored in Lagaan's Lakha.

After watching and thoroughly enjoying this film, and being impressed by the skill with which Gowariker captured its essence in a modern way in Lagaan, I am left wondering why he left the masala out of Swades almost entirely.
Naya Daur works because a lot of the movie is great fun, which makes the somewhat simplistic and almost naive moralising easy to cope with. There were elements of fun in Lagaan too to lighten the mood. Not so in Swades, though, with the exception of Yeh Tara Woh Tara.

Now that I've seen Naya Daur and know how skillfully Gowariker can blend message and masti similarly, I am even less impressed and more disappointed with the joyless sermonising that fills Swades. He had very obviously absorbed Naya Daur deeply, and reflected that in Lagaan so he has no excuses for trying to bore people into dharma with Swades.

None of that takes away from Naya Daur, though. The songs are great - infectious, catchy, innocent and sweet, like the film itself. Maang ke Saath Tumhara is simply impossible not to sing along to, as is Saathi Haath Badhana.And Johnny Walker's performance in the picturisation of Main Bambai ka Babu confirmed him sa the king of comedy in my opinion - a pefrect match for that fun song.

This film's politics and philosophy may or may not be relevant to our दौलत के भूखे रिवाज़ों की दुनिया but its optimism and good-natured spirit are a great tonic. My copy is monochrome, but the remastered and colourised version looks tempting. Unlike Mughal-e-azam which I have NO desire to own the colourised version of (garish and ugly) what I've seen of the colourised Naya Daur does not look too bad at all.

theBollywoodFan said...

So very glad you enjoyed Naya Daur, Maxqnz. It's interesting you bring up the lack of masala elements in Swades, which is probably why the film didn't do too well at the box office. I liked the documentary drama feel to it, although Naya Daur and Lagaan are clearly more fun.

Agreed on Johnny Walker. Everything I see him in only confirms his being the best of all time to me too.

I've seen Mughal-e-Azam in color, but it was a while ago, and a re-watch is due. I remember really enjoying it. :) As others have noted above, the joy in watching a black-and-white film in its original form is unsurpassed, and it's great you saw Naya Daur in that form. The colorized version is rather good too, but since I've only seen it and not the original, I'm probably biased.

Thanks for stopping by!

maxqnz said...

I don't suppose you happen to know who played the little brother (chiku?) in naya daur? his very cute face seemed familiar somehow.

theBollywoodFan said...

The IMDB page for Naya Daur has Daisy Irani listed for the character. Here's her Wikipedia page. Might just be the little 'master'!

maxqnz said...

Thanks! It's quite neat how everybody's family iu BW, with that little "boy" turning out to be Farhan Akhtar's aunty.