Lyricist, writer and filmmaker Amit Khanna’s encyclopaedic novel ‘WORDS SOUNDS IMAGES A History of Media and Entertainment In India’ was recently launched at an event which was adorned by film celebrities. Amit Khanna was the man who coined the word ‘Bollywood’ much to the chagrin of Amitabh Bachchan.
“Words Sounds Images, A History of Media And Entertainment In India” is encyclopedic in scope as it covers everything of significance that happened over the last 5,000 years in Indian entertainment.
It takes a look at how entertainment has evolved from the days of the Indus Valley Civilisation to the 21st century. The book probes the origins of ancient forms of entertainment, during the Vedic times, as well as the Harappan civilisation, and include details from Natyashastra, and dramas, and music from Kalidasa. It chronicles the roots of ragas, folk traditions, as well as classical dance forms. It traces the changes in forms of entertainment under various rulers of India — the Mughals, southern kings, the Marathas as well as the British. Post Independence, the book draws up a timeline of India’s evolving media industry — from newspapers, cinema, music to television, dance, theatre and radio over the different decades.
During the event, Amit Khanna said, “No other country in the world has such a vast spectrum of media as we have seen in India. We have the oldest form of media which exists in the world today — they are Ashoka’s edicts. They were the first form of mass media, reaching out to people across the globe. The Romans, or the Greeks — no other civilisation has left behind edicts that tell you about their life and time in this world. Indian classical music predates western classical music by a thousand years.”
Here’s what other celebrities had to say.
“I will suggest that don’t get intimidated by the size of this book. This book is written for people like us. His writing has no intellectual arrogance. It is so transparent and it gives you information about every topic in a simple manner. Don’t bother about the pages, just start and one day you will finish,” said Javed Akhtar.
“Nobody is more qualified to write about the history of media and entertainment in India than Amit Khanna,” actor Kabir Bedi.
So who is Amit Khanna?
Amit Khanna is a poet, lyricist, writer, and filmmaker and has been associated with the the entertainment industry of India for over five-decades. When he was about 21 yeas old, he became an executive producer with Dev Anand’s Navketan Films in 1970, he helped set up India’s first integrated media and entertainment company — Plus Channel — in 1989. He was also the founder chairman of Reliance entertainment. Khanna has also been instrumental in shaping the landscape of Indian M&E.
Khanna is the man who had coined the term Bollywood much to the dislike of Amitabh Bachchan. During the event, Khanna recalled, “Mr Bachchan called me up one day, and very angrily he asked, ‘Why are you calling this Bollywood? I don’t like this.” I think that it’s basically a brand name. Does dalda mean anything? Does Colgate mean anything? It is just a brand name of this world.”
Khanna said that he first used the term ‘Bollywood’ in a magazine column and it instantly got picked up and became the official name for the Mumbai film Industry. “We were the first to start entertainment news in India, and we called it Bollywood news,” he added.
Khanna, who has a strong understanding of the media trends said that although we are now a generation obsessed with the various formats of accessing media, the media itself has not and will not change. The stage was alive thousands of years ago, and it is still alive today. Cinema and its derivatives — they are called plastic arts — evolved because of the technology in the last 100 of years. But, nothing will change, and they will all continue to evolve together. It is how we consume media that is changing.