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Banned during the Emergency, controversial Kissaa Kursee Kaa movie to make a return

After all prints of Amrit Nahta's original 1975 movie, he released a new version in 1978, which his son now wants to update.

It was one of the most notorious examples of censorship during the Emergency, one of several blots in Sanjay Gandhi’s copybook of tyranny, and an oft-quoted case study of how government apparatus can collude to crush criticism.

Amrit Nahta’s Kissaa Kursee Kaa, a political satire about the Indira Gandhi government, was made in April 1975 but never released. All existing prints were destroyed on the orders of Vidya Charan Shukla, the Information and Broadcasting Minister at the time and Sanjay Gandhi crony. Nahta, a Congressman who joined the Janata Party after the Emergency, remade the movie and released it in 1978, retaining the same script and most of the cast. Nahta’s son, Rakesh, is now planning Kissaa Kursee Kaa 3, which will focus on the excesses of Indira Gandhi’s rule in the seventies and detail the manner in which the original movie was removed from public gaze.

“I have the movie rights and a script, 50% of which will focus on the excesses of Sanjay Gandhi and Vidya Charan Shukla and fifty per cent on how my father’s film was destroyed,” Nahta said.

The second version of the movie can be viewed on YouTube.



Kissaa Kursee Kaa depicts the ruling political class as an amoral, corrupt, power-hungry and debased lot. The movie has barely disguised references to the Maruti Udyog car manufacturing company set up by Sanjay Gandhi, his good friend Rukhsana Sultan, Indira Gandhi’s all-powerful secretary RK Dhawan, and controversial godman Dhirendra Brahmachari. Manohar Singh plays Gangaram, a political amateur who starts spouting revolutionary slogans after swigging a “netagiri” tonic and is installed as the nation’s ruler by the scheming Meera Devi, played by Surekha Sikri. Gangaram initially blunders though his job – he identifies the nation’s biggest problem as an infestation of rats and insists on importing cats at a massive cost – but soon cultivates a taste for power and politics. Utpal Dutt plays the degenerate godman, while Shabana Azmi is the mute “Janata” who represents the suffering and exploited people of India.

Sikri was with the National School of Drama’s repertory company when she was invited to be a part of the cast. “I was pretty green regarding film work,” Sikri said. “I recall when I saw the film eventually that they hadn’t kept track of continuity – scenes would start in one place and end in another.” Most of the movie was shot in Delhi, with large portions set inside the Ashoka Hotel, she added.

Cut to the chase

Indira Gandhi’s resounding defeat in the general elections in March 1977 following the lifting of the Emergency cleared the path for a new Janata Party-led coalition government and for Amrit Nahta to release a second version. After the Emergency, the Supreme Court sentenced Sanjay Gandhi to a month in prison for destroying the prints.

However, even the remade Kissaa Kursee Kaa wasn’t safe from the scissors of the Central Board of Film Certification. The original film invited 51 cuts, but even a friendly government could not prevent the triangle that indicates when a movie has been snipped from appearing on the censor certificate. “Twenty-five cuts were ordered – once people come to power, they change their position, and the truth is never allowed to come out,” Rakesh Nahta said. The movie ran for a week because of its topicality, but it didn’t do too well because it didn’t have commercial value, he added. “The original movie would have had a much greater impact,” Nahta said. “The truth about Indira Gandhi would have come to light.”

Rakesh Nahta was in his mid-teens when the scandal was playing out. He assisted his father on the production of the second version of the movie. Nahta has spent the last few years digging up the facts behind the destruction of his late father’s pet project. He has filed Right to Information petitions and says he accessed a Central Bureau of Investigation report that confirms that all prints were burnt.

“The film prints were destroyed despite a Supreme Court ruling,” Nahta said. “The prints were taken to Delhi on the Frontier Mail train from a processing laboratory in Prabhadevi in Bombay by a group of Delhi Police and Crime Branch officials,” he claimed. “They were burnt in a 50-foot box at a Maruti factory.” The new Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has given him hope that he will finally get monetary compensation for his family’s loss. Nahta has apparently extracted a promise from Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Rathore, that the government will consider his petition.

Why is a movie that speaks of the political dispensation of the mid-seventies and is about characters who have since died (Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay, VC Shukla) and a party that is on the downslide still relevant? “There’s a show on politics by Deepak Chaurasia on India News that is called Kissa Kursi Ka – the title simply refuses to leave us,” Rakesh Nahta said. “The seat of power transforms everybody who sits on it.”

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German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.