On the second day of JLF 2013, I attended two sessions: one
by Faramerz Dabhoiwala on The Origins of Sex and another by Jawed Akhtar on
Bollywood and the National Narrative.
Faramerz Daboiwala on The Origins of Sex
was in conversation with William Dalrymple. Dalrymple introduced the teacher at
most glowing terms and then took a back seat.
made the following main points, in relation to his book, The Origins of Sex.
The book was based on his PhD thesis and portrays the history of sexuality and
sexual mores in the last two hundred years.
- Sexual revolution
did not start in the 1960s. It started in 18th century England.
- Then, sex outside
marriage was not acceptable at all; vigilante groups looked for any couple who
indulged in extramarital sex and presented them to the courts. They were
punished, flogged and paraded naked on streets. Listening to him, I began to
realize how the West sees many Muslim societies today: two centuries ago, they
weren’t any different from them (from what we see and hear about sexual crimes
in the Arab or other Muslim societies).
- Aristocrats in England started demanding
that they be allowed to have a private sex life separate from their public
- Courtesans were the
first celebrities. They published memoirs and were scandal mongers. Their
memoirs sold in large numbers making them money to survive in old age. They
also blackmailed aristocrats and threatened to expose them in public.
- A famous courtesan
(who is on the cover of Faramerz Dabhoiwala’s
book) ordered her painting and published stamp sized prints for men to
carry them in their watches (like today's cellphones)
- There were people
who wrote books anonymously, published them and wrote glowing reviews of their
Javed Akhtar on Bollywood and National Narrative
and scriptwriter Javed Akhtar was in conversation with film historian Rachel
- Javed Akhtar said
that when they (he and Salim) were writing scripts, they did not know that they
were creating a phenomenon (The Angry Young Man of the 1970s). They were just
writing good stories. Only in hindsight did they know that their works were
path-breaking, and that they were defining a generation. What were their heroes
rebelling against? Very minor things, like, they wanted to marry the girl of
their choice; it was a rebellion against their parents. They did not touch any
- Being a film
lyricist, Javed Saheb dwelled heavily on the devolution of lyrics in Hindi
cinema. He said that film songs earlier had tehzeeb (courtesy, a cultivated
manner and civility) in them; now that etiquette is gone. In the past, even
B-grade films' songs had a soul, poetry in their lines.
- You have to be
kindhearted to say today's lyrics are poetry.
- We are also
responsible for degeneration of our films and songs: Choli ke peeche kya hai (the
suggestive but popular song from Subhash Ghai’s film, Khalnayak) was made by 9
people; who made it a hit? Who were the other 9 crore people? At homes, people
proudly told me, he said, see my 8-yr old can dance so well on Choli ke peeche
kya hai? What does that say about us as parents? Where are we going as a
- Our Vocabulary has
shrunk; proverbs have died; we have replaced them with poor language and some
bad American words, not even proper English.
- Today's kids have
less than half the vocabulary of their parents.
- Only the poor go to
vernacular schools, so they use cheap language, it gets reflected in our
cinema, giving it even more credibility.
- Good and bad films
were always made: but in the past, most hits were good films; today, most hits
are bad films. Show me a good film that has done a business of 200 crores?
- Some young
filmmakers are making quality films today. It is good. (Examples: Farhan
Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar)
- We had abandoned
language and arts in the last 30-40 years. We wanted cars and fridges. Now
today's generation takes them for granted. They want something else. They want
arts, and literature, so (that’s why we see) this revival of arts and
literature in India.
- I am not
pessimistic. In the next ten years, we will make even better films which will
have better aesthetic quality.