Director: Pankaj Rishi Kumar; Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 01:10:38; Volume: 0.101; Words per Minute: 96.066
Pankaj: Let’s start with the history of Kalpi, You had mentioned earlier that Kalpi as a city was destroyed and reconstructed many times over in history. Can you please throw some light over this?
While researching for the film, I realised that it was important to talk about Kalpi's history. I looked for films made on Jhansi ki Rani. I remember going to NFAI (National Film Archive of India) at Pune. I manged to get a 35mm print of Jhansi ki Rani directed by Sohrab Modi. I played it on Steenbeck. And soon came the pleasant surprise. Jhansi Ki Rani being told by her Guru (played by Sohrab Modi himself) to move to Kalpi and fight the British. The scene had to be there in the film. After that it was a long exercise. I had to first trace the right owner of the film. Surabhi found that the rights were with Mehilli Modi living in London. After a long exchange of faxes, she manged to get us the permission to use the footage for free. Next, it was coordinating with NFAI and Adlabs to make the film dupes. The process took months … in retrospect, it was worth it.i
History of Kalpi
Kalpi: a cursed city
Mr. Purwar: Kalpi is a cursed city. Many conquerors have come and gone, be it Mohammad Ghori, Qutub-din-Aibak, Lodhi dynasty, they all looted Kalpi because of its rich reserves.
And this continued till 1857, when Rani of Jhansi and Tatya Tope fought the first battle of Independence against the Britishers. Even the soldiers who worked for the British, some of them were Indians who later joined the independence struggle, they also looted the city during the war due to shortage of food etc.
And since then the talent of Kalpi strated leaving the town. So much so that the inhabitants of Orai, Kanpur and areas around have their ancestry here in Kalpi.
Not just ordinary people but even the talented folk started leaving Kalpi, and it continues to be so even today.
Pankaj: You said Kalpi is a cursed city. What is this curse and why?
Mr. Purwar: Kalpi is a doomed city because its civilization has never flourished. There is a local saying, ‘Base Na Ujhad Hoi’,
I recollect mom saying the same, she quoted story of Shravan Kumar. Legend says that when Shravan Kumar`s parents became old they asked their son to take them for pilgrimage. He started carrying his parents on his shoulder to various places of pilgrimage. He reached Kalpi. When his parents got to know, they asked him to turn back as Kalpi was a cursed place!!!
which means that every time the city has begun to gather itself, either a calamity, an incident, or a conqueror has destroyed it. The inhabitants are thus forced to desert the city.
This is the fate of Kalpi that continues to be so even today. Hence it is called a cursed city
On the southern end of the city was a political border gate which gave access or entry to the south of India. Hence any conqueror who wanted to move or conquer south India had to pass through Kalpi, which implies that every conqueror was constantly seeking to annex the city by means of conflict and war. This tension made the city unfit to live in and people began to move out.
During the First War of Independence in 1857, the situation got even worse. The Indian troops fighting under Rani of Jhansi plundered the city for lack of food, and following their defeat the East India Company also continued its exploitation. This forced the established and rich families residing in Kalpi to leave.
Similarly, the officers, labourers, peasants and most of its citizens also moved out. Everything was available in Kalpi, it shouldn't have forced its people out, but the circumstances and constant conflict in the area did. That’s why Kalpi is called a cursed city.
Pankaj: You had mentioned that around 1857, the population count of Kalpi was one lakh and currently it’s only fifty thousand, what do you think of this?
Mr. Purwar: Around 1857, Kalpi was an accomplished city. It was placed on the banks of a river, there was ongoing trade, and families residing here were rich, merchants travelled to the city, the socio economic status of the people was good and the small rulers then had established order.
Pankaj: I am referring to the comparison in the population of the city then and now…
Mr. Purwar: The gazette of 1857 shows that the population of Kalpi was around a lakh and that of Kanpur was quite small. Similarly the population of Orai was as small as a village of about thousand to two thousand. When people moved out of Kalpi they either settled in Orai or Kanpur.
If you ask the established and old families living in Kanpur, like the Khatri’s, the Malwi’s, the Tandons, all of them have their ancestry in Kalpi and the same goes for Orai.
The ill fate or migration of people of Kalpi, costed the city its culture, its people and the history that could have been. Its economic and social condition also deteriorated.
Pankaj: What is the difference in the census of 1857 and the present year of Kalpi and its surrounding cities? Why the disparity?
Mr. Purwar: In 1857, the census of Kalpi as per the gazette is about one lakh and today the count is fifty thousand.
The surrounding city of Kanpur and Orai had far less population then with respect to Kalpi. However today the census of Orai is about two lakh and Kanpur has become one of the major cities of the state.
And this change was brought by the deteriorating economical, unemployment, education and social conditions which forced a majority of the then occupants of Kalpi to leave the city.
Another reason for the difference is that during the First War of Independence both the Indian and the British troops exploited Kalpi. Such episodes have repeatedly been occurring in Kalpi and have become the primary cause of migration of its citizens.
This is why Kalpi could never flourish and was considered to be a cursed city.
Pankaj: So this is what led to the rapid fall of Kalpi post 1857, but if you look at the time around 1920, Kalpi still was a big market for trade in food grains. However eventually, this market collapsed too. Why?
Mr. Purwar: Around that time Kalpi and surrounding areas were famous as regions conducive for the growth of food grains.
Hence the amount of grains produced in this region was large and therefore the market and trade flourished. The market at Kalpi was considered important amongst the other markets in the neighboring cities and it became the primary trade center for export of food grains around the country.
But post 1920, this scenario completely changed and the reason for this were natural calamities and lack of local participation in trade and commerce. The merchants who traded in Kalpi were majorly Gujarati’s and Marwari’s who made huge investments and profits here. The merchants took the profits away from Kalpi.
Slowly all these factors resulted in the development of neighboring markets like Kadhaura and Orai, while the amount of grains brought to Kalpi’s market for trade reduced.
Today, Orai is one of the biggest and important markets in the region. All this affected Kalpi’s market and eventually the trade reduced and the market collapsed.
Pankaj: Were you born around 1940’s?
Mr. Purwar: Yes, 1944.
Pankaj: So you were born in Kalpi like your forefathers?
Mr. Purwar: Yes.
Pankaj: How long did you stay in Kalpi and why did you move?
Mr. Purwar: I completed my intermediate level studies in Kalpi in 1960
and then there were no institutions or universities there that offered a degree. And therefore to pursue higher studies, I moved to Orai and Kanpur. After completing my education, I realized that Kalpi did not offer the job opportunities that I was seeking.
Also I was specifically interested in working at the Master level programme in colleges and took up a job at the Orai degree college.
Thereafter many colleges slowly opened up in Kalpi and we considered moving back. However Kalpi still did not offer anything with respect to post graduate courses which I was interested in. All this led me to completely distance myself from Kalpi.
All of these were the reasons behind me moving out of Kalpi even though I did not wish it. I still would love to come back to Kalpi but there are no professional opportunities available there. My extended family still lives there and I am in touch with all of them. Now I just try to do my bit for Kalpi whenever possible.
Pankaj: I have spoken to many people in Kalpi, even the youth and kids studying in their 8 and 9 grade. All of them want to move out of Kalpi either on the pretext of higher education or job opportunities but none of them want to come back and settle in Kalpi. What is the reason for this?
Mr. Purwar: The reason for this is that Kalpi does not offer better higher education and work related opportunities.
Kalpi: a cursed city
One can’t see a future here so why not look elsewhere. Also the life in Kalpi is mundane and simple, which may fit only some people. This view of Kalpi has been there for a long time and that’s we call it cursed.
I think this question stemmed from what I had heard from my mom and my own experience in Kalpi
You told us earlier that many conquerors tried to control Kalpi, be it Mohammad Ghori or the Britishers. Can we then say that the people here have a either a psychological tendency or bitterness for outsiders?
Mr. Purwar: I won’t say that the people hold grudge or bitterness towards the outsiders. In fact if you look at our history, we have always welcomed and co-operated with them.
If you look at the political leaders in Kalpi over the last fifty years, you will find that they do not belong to Kalpi.
Be it Shiv Sampathi Sharma who is originally from Gorakhpur, Chandrabhan Vidyarthi from Kanpur, or Jaitely Sahab or anybody else, they are not originally from Kalpi.
Even the well known local leader Manilalji Agarwal is not from Kalpi, so you can’t say that we are bitter towards them because they are outsiders. But I will agree that the present condition of this great city has been a result of the doings of these outsiders.
I remember asking this, to try and understand the people of Kalpi’s attitude to the venture of opening of a cinema hall by my father
Pankaj: I agree about welcoming an outsider but the people who come to Kalpi from other cities, may carry with them a new perspective which could have changed the commerce, economics and social life of Kalpi. Also he may have brought capital or investment to start a business and thrive. My question is why did the business or commerce not thrive in Kalpi despite constant attempts from outsiders? Also can you explain this with an example?
Mr. Purwar: is true that people from outside like the Gujarati’s, Marwari’s, for example Musaadi Lal from Delhi who set up a Dal Mill here did try to do something in Kalpi. But none of them succeeded, the reason being firstly the people of Kalpi did not co-operate.
Kalpi: no industry
and secondly they knew that all the profits made in Kalpi would be taken back to their cities. People of Kalpi were averse to this. Hence no businessman could stay here more than ten years, he had to wrap and leave. Also the locals began to feel a little bit of animosity towards them as the intention of the various investments and businesses were purely to increase their own riches and not to set up a lasting infrastructure for growth of commerce.
Pankaj: But there have been attempts to grow the economic structure of Kalpi. There already existed a paper making industry in Kalpi which was supported by the government through an investment of about 15 crores to develop it further. Even JK group invested here. Hence there have been many industries that could have invested or wanted to invest in Kalpi, but couldn’t. Why did this happen?
Mr. Purwar: any industry came here, they did so half heartedly. Also there were issues with Kalpi with respect to power, skilled labor, unskilled labor and this was not the case with Orai which is close by.
Everything could be found there easily as opposed to Kalpi where there is a huge lack of labor.
Even some of the Paper factories there are not doing well for the same reason. A common laborer has no aspirations for betterment, he rather chooses to gamble away and laze around. Hence all of this led to the fall of any industry that came to Kalpi even the condition of the Paper industry has become pitiful.
The industrialist who wished to set up factories in Kalpi could not because there was a lack of skilled labor and the unskilled labor did not support them. They did not work consistently; they would come for a few weeks and would not return till they had exhausted their pay either by gambling it away or spending it on alcohol and other addictions instead of their families, health and home. Hence the quantity and quality of work decreased as the labourers would only work enough to suffice their bent.
Hence it was believed that the unskilled labourers were the major reason for the industrialist to turn away from Kalpi The same goes for the paper industry, there are various small scale paper making units in people’s houses itself, however the people here do not want to progress.
They are happy with the little that they make and do not wish to earn or work harder. It is said, that if they were to earn more they would spend it all on every possible bad habit that a man can invest in. Also one of the worst habits of the people is gambling and it runs deep in their veins.
To the extent that they gamble on petty issues: as petty as a simple conversation to a political shift. Gambling and the lazy nature of the people is what made the businessmen think of Kalpi as unfavorable for any venture.
Pankaj: You spoke of gambling and that the people gambled on everything… Please explain further?
I experienced this while shooting in Kalpi. I saw lottery having a major presence. There is a scene in the film: people playing ludo. It looked simple and candid, but on closer look I realised that there was a bet at stake:‘a cup of tea’
Mr. Purwar: are simple kinds of gambling like play cards rolling a dice etc.
But the people here have a tendency to gamble or bet on issues like the market prices, sport matches, politics etc.
If a group of men are playing cards in a corner, the people gathered around to watch the game will bet on the game as well. Kalpi has turned itself into a walking casino. This has led to the ill fate of Kalpi and its backwardness.
Pankaj: I have watched kids also play ludo and similar games with stones etc. Is it for entertainment?
Mr. Purwar: 'Chanda Paua’ is a very common game played in Kalpi; even kids make a board out of pencils and play with stones. But this is not just entertainment, its gambling too as every point you earn, translates into money. Hence even kids are trained from an early age to gamble. The little money that they win, they take it ahead to purchase lottery or another form of betting. Gambling has indeed played a huge role in the hampering economic development of Kalpi.
Pankaj: While talking of unemployment and such problems, let’s rewind 25 years. Kalpi belongs to the Bundelkhand region which consists of sloping uplands and hilly terrains, this region has been frequented by many Dacoits who also controlled the area. What was the reason for an increase in dacoits in the area? Was it geographical or something else?
Mr. Purwar: Many reasons, but yes the geography of the area has also contributed immensely. And there have been many dacoits like Man Singh, the gang of Lakhan Singh, Mustakim, and Phoolan Devi etc. However the saddest part is that people don’t remember Kalpi as the birth place of sage Vyas or Akbar and Birbal, but find it synonymous with names of dacoits like Phoolan Devi.
It’s also true that there has been unemployment, stagnation, lack of development, and one can find a very strong assertive behavior amongst the locals which is directly contributed by the Lodhi clan. They are known to be a little aggressive by nature and may have been the reason behind the increasing feeling of unjust in the villages.
Also the upper caste and well to do people in the villages always ill treated the dalits, lower caste and downtrodden.
When the law failed to protect the lower caste people, they had only one option left and that was to break the law and revolt. Hence the dacoits were not referred to as dacoits but ‘Bagi’s’ meaning revolters, as they fought for justice.
They tried to fight the injustice and make a place for themselves in the society. Also the economic structure was falling, unemployment was prevalent and there was no sign of any development. Hence the conditions, psychology, local terrain were such that they encouraged the dacoits and they continue to live on even today.
The Uttar Pradesh government is making an attempt to eliminate dacoits from the society as they now also pose as a means to terrorism. Off late the dacoits and smaller gangs that have been around have begun robbing the rich, looting small businesses and stores.
And they do this as a regular means of income and not to revolt or fight against injustice. Also to supplement the whole issue, the economical conditions continue to remain poor and the financial gap between the rich and poor is ever expanding.
All this looting and dacoity hence has become a means to bridge the gap. However they don’t stop here they still continue to interfere and disrupt the social and political machinery of the state.
Pankaj: Do you remember any incident around 70’s that elaborates the height of dacoity and terrorism by Man Singh, Phoolan Devi or Mustakim?
Mr. Purwar: There is a big divide in the era of Phoolan Devi and Mustakim who belonged to the 80’s, whereas Man Singh and Lakhan Singh were from the 40’s and 50’s.
The latter two were called Bagi’s as they fought social injustice, caste discrimination, issues with land and family discord etc. They only came into existence as the law did not help them.
Phoolan Devi and Mustakim became dacoits because they were troubled and suffered at the hands of the society and their family as well. There was big difference in the way they operated as opposed to Man Singh and Lakhan Singh.
Both Man Singh and Lakhan Singh were not just Bagi’s but heroes for the locals as they robbed the rich and helped the poor during their need and gave monetary help during weddings and family occasions.
Phoolan Devi and Mustakim on the other hand were inclined towards vengeance and caste retribution. The Behmai incident is an example of extreme steps that the older dacoits never took.
Phoolan Devi belonged to the Kalpi region and how the issue of dacoity and other crimes committed will be dealt with is a matter of concern given the political implication.
Pankaj: You spoke of Phoolan Devi, recently there was a film made on her life called ‘Bandit Queen’ and it portrayed Kalpi as well. What did you think of the film?
Its quiet ironic, that I landed up working on ‘Bandit Queen’. I had just finished film school, and I met Renu Saluja at the film festival in Delhi. She offered me a job. The editing process started in May’93 and went on till mid November. We had a month long break in between. By mid august, Renu was ready with a rough cut of 2.5 hrs. After the cut, a further week long shoot was done. If I’m not mistaken the Behmai massacre was shot in this week.
I realized during recce for Kumar Talkies that people in Kalpi were upset with the fact that Sekhar Kapur had recreated the scenes elsewhere and had not shot in Kalpi. The sentiment is echoed in a few street interviews in Kalpi. As a young graduate from the film school, I found it fascinating that the people of Kalpi could not fathom the idea of ‘what made a fiction film’
Mr. Purwar: The film and the message that the director wanted to give through the film is praise worthy.
However if you talk of the location, the film was not shot in or around Kalpi and you see the difference in the feel and atmosphere of Kalpi and the surrounding villages portrayed.
Seema Biswas has acted and portrayed the character of a bandit very well, however if you speak in terms of facts the film is far from it.
The film only focuses on how did Phoolan Devi become Phoolan Devi. If the director intended it to be so, then it’s done well.
Pankaj: But why is it so important to depict Kalpi in a film about Phoolan Devi?
Mr. Purwar: Phoolan Devi is a real person, and one can completely understand her nature, personality and why she did what she did, only after looking at the conditions of her village. Similarly, the seriousness of the Behmai incident can only be depicted after one has actually visited Behmai.
I personally think that, if the film maker had depicted the social and economical conditions of Phoolan’s village, it would have helped the film in making it a far better film than what it is now.
Pankaj: Will you please throw light on the present condition of Kalpi? What does a common man think and react? What is his psychological make up?
Mr. Purwar: The common man in Kalpi lives a life of confusion and frustration.
I felt the same and found it impossible to depict this stilness, this sense of ‘nothing happens here’. While editing the film, it became a major challenge. Finally, 60 min down the film a scene has been constructed in the film with just visuals. Mundane visuals. For me the scene became very important. For the viewers, it became a point where the film starts dragging ….
And because I belong to Kalpi I feel that live is stagnant there except for the times when a major event or incident occurs here. Life has come to a standstill there.
The people here have no aspiration, no hope, no zest for life; they are simply dragging along with their lives. There is a strange lull in Kalpi and in the people. Despite the resources, talent and man power they are not able to make any progress, they continue to live in this awkward stillness that encompasses them.
It was important for me in the film to understand the status, the history of entertainment. This was integral to the project. One cannot be discssing the status of a cinema hall in a society without understanding the other modes of entertainment which people have or have had access to in Kalpi. For this reason the scenes with the local cable operator and scene at Lanka Minar ( conceived as an open air stage for performing Ramlila) became important.
Pankaj: Can you please tell us in a chronological order the history of media and entertainment in Kalpi? When did Radio, television, cable etc come here?
Mr. Purwar: The people of Kalpi love entertainment. They used to entertain themselves with (Nautanki) folk theater such as Ramlila, Kanslila, various drama performances and cultural events. However amongst the neoteric means of entertainment like radio, people only started using it post 1925 and it remained the only one till 1950.
Around 1940-50’s when radio was the only means of entertainment, touring talkies started coming in Kalpi. And the people started going for them more often with their families and friends.
However, before talkies people entertained themselves with cultural events and folk theater like Ram Leela and Kans Leela.
However around the 80’s when television came in, people’s engagement with other forms of entertainment reduced. And the most affected by this was theater and cinema which ruled from 1940’s to 1970’s all over India.
Advent of Television
For example when films like Sriman 420 and Aawara came to theaters, the songs from the films, their attire and mannerisms emulated the real lives of the people in that area.
However when television came, it changed everything, people who used to enjoy cinema as a group now converted their homes into mini theaters. People assembled in homes of the ones who had television and they took in and followed whatever was shown on TV. Hence the kind of development that should have happened did not, and all of this led to a slightly adverse effect on the minds of the people. Also people who used to frequent cinema, now went there only once a month or so…
Mukul (cameraman): please repeat this line again please… that instead of development there was perversion…
16mm documentary film production
In 97 we were shooting on film. The stock was expensive. A 400ft roll which translated to 11min of footage costed Rs.10,000 (printing and processing charges). Hence the sound would roll constantly (as it was cheap) and Mukul (the camera person, would use his discretion when to roll/shoot/expose. At times we landed in such situations, where in hindsight he wanted the lines to be on camera. We would stop and ask our subject to repeat what they had said! Blashemy, unethical … people may call this … However with the advent of video, I have completely abandoned this practice. I doubt in the last 16 years, If I’ve ever asked anyone to do anything for the camera…
We were shooting on a 16BL camera. Not the right piece of equipment to shoot documentaries. But I had major budget constraints. The camera was coverd with a small blanket, to kill the noise it was making. However, the microphones were sensitive enough to pick up these sounds as well. At times when the level became problematic, we had to stop the shoot.
Pankaj: it’s the magazine right? … just check, ok… sorry we had to interrupt, when the film runs … it makes a noise..that noise was creating problems…
Mr. Purwar: oh my god!
Mr. Purwar: After television and cable came in, it had an adverse effect on the mental development of the people. The reason being the programmes that people were shown. They were shown what they did not want to see and forced to watch what was shown, such as cheap films and songs which could not be enjoyed as a family. This eventually resulted in less participation of the people in films or programmes.
Advent of Television
The sad and happy moments that families enjoyed as a unit or group were no more. People became trapped within their homes and completely lost the sense of collective viewing and sharing of moments.
Hence Kalpi, that was once known as a cultural center now thrives within the four walls of the houses. This is also true of various other cities and towns in India. People are increasingly getting disconnected from society and all this is already affecting our present.
The same goes for Kalpi, the collective participation amongst the locals, initiated by theaters and cinemas completely vanished. Around 1970’s Kumar Talkies opened in Kalpi…
Pankaj: Around 1965, the first cinema hall was constructed in Kalpi. What difference did it make?
Diwan talkies, still exists, but as a backyard to a house. There is an extensive scene in the film on this location
Mr. Purwar: Even before 1965, Kalpi had one more talkies called Diwan Talkies; however it did not elicit any enthusiasm from the citizens or locals.
However between 1965 and 1970, Kumar Talkies opened in Kalpi. The owners tried to engage with the locals and wanted Kumar Talkies to be a cultural center apart from being a cinema hall. They organized a Cultural Art festival before the inauguration of the talkies and also tried to unite the people together.
Affect of Kumar Talkies
In the following years the participation of the people increased and the well to do families began visiting the hall often. This was a unique phenomenon as people had begun to gather and collectively watch the films again.
Initially it went well, however due to the fear of dacoits; people began to avoid the night shows to prevent any unwanted robbery. The local goons in connivance with dacoits created a regime of fear, and people stopped going to cinema.
This continued till 1980’s and when the television came, that further decreased the number of people coming to the theater. Today the talkies entertains a small number of people who do not have any other source of entertainment. The upper and middle classes have television and have stopped going to the cinema hall. This has caused the people to alienate themselves from the society and give up on the healthy practice of collective viewership.
Advent of Television
Pankaj: Dewan Talkies was there when you still lived in Kalpi. Did you ever visit the theatre?
Mr. Purwar: I haven’t been there many times, only 2-3 times. On the other hand when Kumar Talkies opened, its owner, Rishi Kumar was a friend. He also had many friends and acquaintances in Kalpi and I have witnessed the whole process of how Kumar Talkies came to be, both before and after, hence I can tell you more about the intention with which the talkies was started.
I personally feel that in the beginning, Kumar Talkies tried hard to provide good entertainment as well as create a common space for cultural events.
Affect of Kumar Talkies
However, even after the many attempts made by the Talkies, it did not do well financially. One can blame this on the ill fate of Kalpi and the business of the Talkies.
Since then there haven’t been many talkies in the city and only a few spaces operate where people get together for entertainment. But even they are slowly vanishing.
this interview was done in June’97. The film was finished in Dec’98. The theatre subsequently closed down around 2004.
Pankaj: Do you remember the names of any films that you watched in Diwan Talkies or Kumar Talkies? Also can you elaborate on the culture of films then and the atmosphere in the theaters when people came to watch films.
Mr. Purwar: When Dewan Talkies was around I was studying in High School hence I don’t remember much, but I do recall if a historical film was shown like Jhansi ki Rani, people would flock the theaters as the film relates to the history of Kalpi.
Also the crowd that went there largely consisted of lower middle class families, the upper middle class never went there. Hence one never enjoyed the feeling of watching a film collectively as one group.
On the other hand, Kumar Talkies did well as they had many good films being shown, they organized the shows well and the management was good too. Also they advertised in a manner that would draw people of all the classes and walks of life. Both the upper and lower middle class went to watch films here.
Affect of Kumar Talkies
The lower class people always went but the Talkies had such a status symbol that people from the upper class also did not mind going to the Talkies.
However slowly all of this declined with the foray of television in the lives and homes of the citizens.
Pankaj: You knew my father well and I know you helped him promote the talkies and cinema? Can you tell us more about it? Also what was your connection with the talkies and my father?
Mr. Purwar: I actually met you father, Rishi Kumarji in person in Kalpi itself, but the mill owned by his father, Mussaddi Lal had been in Kalpi for a long time. Also it was rented out by our family from him, hence we knew him and his family well.
History of Kumar Talkies
Later when your father came and saw that the mill is lying empty, he came to meet us and said that he wanted to start a business and open talkies there.
He started with the construction and looked after the talkies as if it was his own child. It’s true that creating something with your own labor always brings paternal joy.
I was also a witness and participant in that joy, even though my appointment in the degree college at Orai was confirmed. Most of my time went in doing the work at Orai, but I strongly wished to help and used to come every Sunday to Kalpi.
I would come to look at the progress in the work, discuss with your father and used to offer suggestions which he took seriously and often tried to incorporate.
Similarly in the earlier days of the talkies, I also used to help with designing the pamphlets for advertising the films that will be played at the theater. I would help in deciding the language and the content to be printed.
Pankaj: we’ll take a break,,, change of magazine…
Manoj Lobo: bloop no 241 to 244…magazine no. 24
Pankaj: As you mentioned that you met and befriended my father in Kalpi, you even used to visit our home in Delhi. Can you please tell us more about your friendship with my father and also how did you help him with the talkies in its initial days?
Mr. Purwar: Your father, Rishi Kumarji and I became friends and he started with the work of the talkies. His other two friends, Rameshji and Wajid bhai were helping him and supported him.
I used to work with a college in Orai then but your father asked me to join him too. Hence, I used to come to Kalpi every Sunday and he would discuss with me what they had decided and ask for my suggestions which he considered and often incorporated.
We discussed about the seating arrangement in the theater, the advertisements, how to encourage people to come in big numbers etc.
(In the actual film, there is 8mm footage ofa film being advertised on a Tonga. The practice had continued till 97, when I shot the film. There is extensive footage of Aslam going around Kalpi on a rickshaw and advertising the new film over a megaphone. Refer to the sound archives)
Usually people used to attach huge speakers on a rickshaw and roam in the lanes of Kalpi for advertisements then; however it served merely as an announcement which did not help gather crowds.
Therefore during the earlier days of the talkies, your father insisted, I help with designing the pamphlets that would help draw people to the talkies. We would write a little bit about the film and give details about the film. This felt more like an invitation to locals. Be it a religious, historical or social film, we made pamphlets considering the interest and likes of the locals and invited families to the cinema hall. I used to feel that even I am a participant in this drive that your father was trying to initiate.
Also around the same time, I arranged a cultural programme in the talkies to engage with the people who supported and participated in cultural events alone. This way we tried to get the whole of Kalpi to form an association with the talkies. Also when the films were screened, we went there as family and it is our effort and friendship that helped us run the theater well, at least in its initial days. Even the locals were very happy with the opening of the talkies.
Pankaj: What did the pamphlets contain? Were you writing the whole content for the pamphlet or just rectifying or amending it?
Mr. Purwar: Every film reel came with a small description of the film which was written in English. Your father used to give it to me and I translated it into Hindi, this was used in the pamphlets which were circulated amongst the locals and helped increase the number of audience.
Apart from this, I also helped with the selection of the films, we discussed if a particular film would work in Kalpi or not. Also this gave us an opportunity to mingle with the other well known people of Kalpi.
Over time our friendship grew stronger and when we had to go to Delhi where he was originally based, he helped me immensely with my research, my accommodation and anything I needed. Hence Kumar Talkies was the main reason that bound us together and to Kalpi.
Pankaj: When Kumar Talkies was inaugurated were you in Kalpi? And do you remember anything about that day?
Kumar Talkies: inaugration
Mr. Purwar: Yes, I was there. For the first film to be screened at the talkies we had invited the Collector, Superintendent of Police and other well known and accomplished people of Kalpi.
My mom repeats the same on film. Also there is 8mm footage of the inaugration of Kumar Talkies, shot by my bua.
The talkies was beautifully decorated and we had the ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a free screening of the film. Later we had made provision for snacks and sweets for all those invited. We celebrated that day like a festival as it was not just a theater but a cultural reminder for the people of Kalpi.
Pankaj: Which was the first film to be screened in the theater?
Mr. Purwar: I do not remember the name well, but if I am not mistaken it was Maharani Padmini. I am not sure though, but this film was definitely one of the earliest films screened.
Pankaj: please repeat the name of the film…..
Mr. Purwar: I am unable to remember. I think it was Maharani Padmini that was screened in the theater but I am not very sure.
Pankaj: Do you remember any other films that were screened?
Mr. Purwar: I may have hardly watched a whole film in the theater, but for the sake of my friend I used to come here every Sunday. There was a box where we sat and discussed, we could watch films from there but would do so for some time and quickly return to what we were discussing. The reason for this was that in the little time we got we wanted to share and talk about each other’s joys and troubles. Therefore I don’t think I have ever watched a whole film there except for the premier film.
Pankaj: Are you not fond of watching films?
Mr. Purwar: I won’t say I am not fond of films but yes I will agree that I don’t like them as much. I feel the impact and sense of harmony one feels in a folk theater or theater performance is far greater than what one feels with films. However one can’t deny its presence and impact on people as a major mode of entertainment.
If we look at Kalpi, there are many places worth visiting such as that Lanka Tower and Chaurasi Gumbad. Why hasn’t Kalpi been declared as a tourist spot? And what are the other places worth visiting in Kalpi?
Kalpi is primarily a tourist place itself. Earlier people would come here for pilgrimage and to visit the local deities. However later people began visiting Kalpi to see its historical monuments.
Also Kalpi was considered a gateway to the South of India which resulted in Kalpi being the interest of many kings and armies.
Hence people have always come here, be it to know more about Ved Vyas and the place where Mahabharata was written, or to worship at the sun temple erected by the son of Lord Krishna, Shyam to cure him of leprosy or the enactment of the plays composed by Bhabhuti.
Apart from these Kalpi also has many historical palaces and forts, such as the Chaurasi Gumbad where the tomb of Lodhi is placed and actually a site of Buddhist University and temple which was broken down by Lodhi. Many historians believe Kalpi was an important city during the Buddhist era.
There are many such forts, temples, and mosques, monuments of historical importance that are scattered all over Kalpi which were and continue to remain a tourist spot. However sadly nothing has been done to protect and restore these monuments, there have only been announcements and proposals suggested by the state government.
Hence, it is not just important to declare Kalpi as a tourist destination but to also convert it into an ideal tourist location. And there are a couple of ways to do this,
firstly to protect the monuments and write down its true historical importance and connections.
Secondly, restoring and protection of the religious sites along the banks of Yamuna. Also a center of Sanskrit culture, language and religion must be established here through which one can make this a seat of Ved Vyas and study of Mahabharata which will further draw Indian scholars and Sanskrit enthusiasts for research and information.
Similarly, there are structures like Lanka whose ‘minar has become a visual identification mark for Kalpi.
It does not just serve as a tourist place but was once an open air theater built by Mathura Prasad Nigam. Way before Brecht thought of it in Germany. He intended it to be used for the performances of Ramlila, Krishnalila, Naaglila, Dhanush baan Lila etc under open sky. If one restores it and sets up light and sound system, then Lanka can indeed become a tourist place where people can come to watch performances and know more about the history of Kalpi.
Kalpi is a city on the banks of a river and has its own natural and wildlife beauty.
Also in a radius of 100 kms. from Kalpi there is no city that can be declared as a calm and delightful city for a tourist spot.
Even Kanpur and Jhansi have developed and become populated and polluted. Hence in such a scenario, Kalpi can be developed and become a place far from noise and pollution where one can enjoy.
My contact with Kalpi is limited. I get to meet/hear about the town rarely. But nothing has changed in Kalpi. The closure of the cinema hasn’t had an impact on the town. No industry has come up, neither it has been declared as a tourist destination by UP government. What has changed is the amount of information which is now available on internet about Kalpi. In 1995/96, I had to run from pillar to post, just gathering pieces of information about the town. Now it’s all there. Some links are listed below. ‘Na base no ujar hoi’… the curse haunts Kalpi till today …
Similarly this will help in developing local industries and promoting Kalpi’s history, culture, religion and specialties like the Bhujjia, Misri, Cloth, Quilt and Leather shoes made by Gandhi Mudra Lal Khatri.
Also the handmade paper from Kalpi is famous. Though paper was invented in China, Kalpi was the place where hand made paper was first produced in India.
I was always told by my mother about the paper from Kalpi. My trips to Kalpi confirmed this. A chance encounter with Bajrang Bishnoi, opened a few more windows. Mr. Bishnoi is an artist at heart. He has experimented in developing new styles and designs. He was an artist himself and could connect with me, my passion for making of the documentary. Bishnoi himself was a cineaste. He had even tried his hand at filmmaking in Mumbai. The documentary has a major section on him. I remember we organizing film sessions for Bishnoi at the house, where we were staying. I clearly remember seeing Jules Jim with him…
It is said that the paper made here is so strong that even if an elephant stands on it, the paper won’t tear. Hence I believe that if the right measures are taken and the local goods are exhibited and marketed well then Kalpi can indeed flourish and the locals won’t need to migrate out for work.
Both, the government and the locals should strive and make a conscious effort towards such a change. It’s said that Kalpi reflects the festive and cheerful attitude of Birbal, however if economic development and progress follows nothing can stop Kalpi from prospering.
Kalpi is also referred to as a shrine, because Man experiences closeness to God and revels in the bliss in a shrine and if Kalpi prospers the people who come here or live here will experience the same bliss.
Pankaj: As per the latest developments and surveys by the local government, Kalpi is being declared as a tourist destination. But, is it truly turning into one?
Mr. Purwar: The present government has declared Kalpi as a tourist spot, however the necessary blue print is still being prepared. However the locals have little faith in the government and its work. This is because all of it, is usually on paper and nothing really gets done. Every once in a while the issue is raised to suit political play and situation. It is not that the people have no faith in the government however, our experiences till date have never been positive.
Another important point is that if Kalpi was to become a tourist destination, then it must not become one to suit the foreigners who visit India. Quite like what Goa and other popular destinations have become by embracing a culture alien to the land.
Also most of the religious and cultural sites in the country are increasingly becoming commercial. Hence people don’t go there for their historical or religious importance but solely for fun and enjoyment.
Having said this, there is a probability that such tendencies may affect Kalpi and begin to harness the gaming and gambling nature of the locals. Hence while turning Kalpi into a tourist destination, the government and the people have to make a conscious effort to maintain the historical, religious and cultural sanctity of the place. Only then will Kalpi truly prosper and progress.
Pankaj: Can I ask you a personal question? You have lived in Orai for a long time and you have no intention of returning back to Kalpi or elsewhere. What do you think will become of Kumar Talkies in another 20 years?
Kumar Talkies: future
Mr. Purwar: Kumar Talkies is the only standing memory of my friend and we as his friends of course want the theatre to keep going on and continue our family association. In Kalpi there has been an increase in television viewership and its constant internalization, similarly the upper and middle class people have stopped going to the theater. Given such conditions Kumar Talkies may have difficulty surviving in the next twenty years time. However if Kumar Talkies continues its association as a promoter of cultural events and entertainment hub, likewise if the locals also continue to engage with the talkies … there’s a possibility that it may thrive even after 20 years. However chances do seem meek.
Pankaj: I have been in touch with you for over a year and as you know I am trying to make a film on Kalpi and Kumar Talkies. Do you think such a film should be made? Is it important to make a film like this?
I agree that such films should be made, especially because till date all the documentary films made on Kalpi were driving the perspective of the government and not that of the locals or the original inhabitants of the city. And since you have been associated with Kalpi, I am happy that you will at least make an attempt to show the city as it truly is with all its problems and evils.
Also I believe that such films should be made more often and on other cities as well. Cities which have had glorious pasts but a doomed present like Kalpi. In order to revive them and bring back their prosperity such films are essential. They help the people see, realize and awaken for the betterment of their cities or villages. Therefore I find your attempts in making this film important.