Char Shaher Ek Kahani (1968)

 ●  Hindi ● Running Time: TBA

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Abbas’s best-known political documentary and a notorious censorship case. Fast-paced editing intercuts touristic images of India’s ‘achievements’ in industry and agriculture with verite long shots of Bombay’s red-light area. Rhetorical devices include a shot of the first indigenously launched rocket, from the Thumba base, which freezes a missile in mid- air and turns the image into its negative to a distorted soundtrack. Shot in Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras, the film also has a dramatised sequence enacted by a real-life prostitute. Abbas was a member of the G.D. Khosla Committee on Film Censorship (New Delhi: 1969) and writes that he made the film during the committee’s investigations especially to put its proclaimed political liberalism to the test. The Censor Board objected mainly to the prostitution scenes, alleging them to be pornographic. Abbas fought the case up to the Supreme Court, rejecting even the compromise of an Adult certificate, and when he won his case he shifted his legal argument to claim all forms of censorship as ultra vires, leading to Chief Justice Hidaytullah’s landmark judgment on safeguards in the censorship process, including the setting up of an appellate tribunal. When Abbas later released the short, along with his Saat Hindustani (1969), he shot the mandatory censor certificate at the beginning of the copy with a zoom lens and used suspense music.

Crew: Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (Director)

Genres: Drama

Release Dates: 01 Jan 1968 (India)

Hindi Name: चार शहर एक कहानी

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Screenplay Writer
Story Writer
Film Type:
Documentary Short
Colour Info:
Black & White
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1