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Ali Peter John
Whenever someone is  kind enough to thank me for the contribution I have made (what contribution?)to journalism or cinema and whenever some people are over kind to me and call me a legend, a phenomenon or an institution, a strange smile comes to my face and I look back at  the  life and massive contribution made to life itself by my guru Abbas sahab and I feel very small and infinitesimally tiny before him. K.A.Abbas was not  just an extraordinary human being, a legend, a phenomenon or an institution,he was way  beyond all those tags and brands.
There are times when I find it extremely difficult to believe that I spent some of my most glorious moments with a very simple man who was greater than hundreds of great and so called great men or women. I sometimes wonder if there would or could be another Khwaja Ahmad Abbas in this life or even in the many more lives to come .I don’t normally challenge anyone, but  in this one  case  I  would like to challenge anyone to be even an iota of what this man who for me is the  greatest man I came across and knew and learned from-and will always be till the last breath I take….
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Why  am I going  mad when praising this great man who came into my small life  and  changed it upside  down ? What  do I do if I don’t sing his praises ? How can I ever thank a man who was my first and last university of life, the university where I learnt in two years what I didn’t learn in all my days in school and college and the University of Bombay where I still feel I wasted six of the best years of my life ? How can I dare to not be grateful to a man who for me was the ultimate meaning and celebration of life  and learning ? I keep repeating and will  keep on repeating that he is the only miracle to  happen in my life, the kind of miracle I know and I am sure will never happen again ?
I used to find it difficult to believe how this one man could  be so amazingly unbelievable and  I  still  (at seventy )find it difficult to believe that I walked behind him  and worked with him, a man who was a shining landmark of the times he lived in and will always be a landmark as long as time lasts….
A young man brimming with ideas came to Bombay from pre-partition Panipat in Punjab with  a degree in English Literature and with a degree in law. He was a die-hard fan of Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru who was a leading freedom fighter before Independence.
He started writing a column in “The Bombay Chronicle ” with the name “Last Page”which he transferred to the “Blitz “weekly and wrote the column in English, Hindi and Urdu for the next forty years without a break. The column was to  be a landmark in the history of India and journalism.
He had written the review of a film called “Padosi”made by V.Shantaram, who  didn’t like the review and challenged the critic to make his own film. The young man accepted the challenge and started his own banner, “Naya Sansar”and kept making one  film after another  and he was a leading name among filmmakers with  films like
” Dharti Ke Lal”, “Munna”, “Rahi”(one of the first few films of Dev Anand as a hero), “Chaar Dil Chaar Rahein”with leading stars of the time like Raj Kapoor, Meena Kumari, Shammi Kapoor, Kumkum and some of the best actors from theatre, “Shahar Aur Sapna “,which got him the National Award, “Do Boond Paani “in which he introduced new actor like  Kiran Kumar, Simi Garewal and Jalal Agha among many others,
“Faasla”in which he introduced Shabana Azmi,”The Naxalities ” which he shot on actual locations in Naxalbari in Calcutta when he eighty years old, with stars like Mithun Chakraborty and Smita Patil who agreed to work on his terms and conditions which included no  secretary, no make- up man, no conveyance and sharing the same food with the unit .”Saat Hindustani “which will go down in history as the film which introduced Amitabh Bachchan to films and  his last film, “Ek Aadmi “made with  Anupam Kher and Rohini Hattangadi, a film  which was semi-
autobiographical ,
during the making of which he suffered three  heart attacks in  one day and accepted the reality of the attacks and went to hospital only after he had finished his work for the day.
Should I say  anything more about the man who made even the most difficult task look so easy ?
He had written  thousands of articles, hundreds of short stories, any number of books,the best and most powerful among them being “Inqilaab”in several languages and “I Am Not  An Island “,his autobiography.
Can any one  man  do so much of  extraordinary work in one life ?
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And ,the man  who was a tough competitor for the best  of men and machines made some of the most daring documentaries and short films which have or should have found a  place in the history of this genre of films. His documentary, “A Tale Of Four Cities ” created the kind of controversy no other documentary must have. He  had to  fight  right upto the  supreme court to  get  it passed,a step taken by one  brave man which will always  be a help to present  day  and future short filmmakers and  documentary makers.
He was the  leader of several Indian  delegations to  festivals and other  meetings in different parts of the world.
He had personal equations with  some of the leading celebrities and legends of different fields. He was the only Indian who had met President Nikita Khruschev of Russia twice. He was the only Indian  journalist who was given an interview by Charlie Chaplin. He was  also the first Indian to interview the first astronaut Yuri Gagarin. He was  a cult figure  in Russia and even made an Indo-Soviet film called”Pardesi “
and the  number of causes he fought for and championed are countless.
image source -Pinterest
How much more proof should I provide to let people of all generations  know how  great  my guru  ,K.A.Abbas was ?
And how did the story of this great man end ? He was honoured with the Padmashri when today even a  fraud actor is honoured with the Padmabhusan and a fourth-rate  singer is also  honoured with the Padambhushan. And when he was  lying in hospital,there was  a debate about who paid for his treatment, Raj Kapoor or Amitabh Bachchan. He was  buried in the most common grave in the Santacruz Kabristaan  according to his last wish.
The day  he died, I had to drink two bottles of strong beer early in the morning on the sands of Juhu Beach to  have the  courage to face a dead man who was so  full of life and a gift to life.I tried touching his feet for  the last time, but I stopped because I knew he would not like it and would have scream at me (like he used  to  scream  at Raj  Kapoor and other well-known figures whenever he found  them  doing or saying  something wrong)If I  touched his feet.

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