Mumbai: From Bollywood veterans, media experts, to senior corporates of media and entertainment companies — many turned up at Mehboob Studio, on Friday evening to celebrate the launch of lyricist, writer and filmmaker Amit Khanna's encyclopaedic novel — 'WORDS SOUNDS IMAGES A History of Media and Entertainment In India'.
Bollywood had rarely shown such enthusiasm for any other book before but during the launch event Vidhu Vinod Chopra queued up to get a signed copy of the novel, Rishi Kapoor tried to get a better glimpse of the stage from his seat in the audience and Alka Yagnik stood in the back of the room, where not an empty seat was to be found. Also present at the event were Sonali Bendre, Mukesh Bhatt, Anupama Chopra, Renu Chopra, Ila Arun and Govind Nihalani among others.
The event was hosted by Karan Johar, as a panel of Bollywood's well-known faces — Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Bhatt, Kabir Bedi, Sudhir Mishra, and Ronnie Screwvala shared the stage with author Amit Khanna, and recounted many nostalgic tales.
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. In my book, it is mentioned in detail how the Indian classical music predates western classical music by a thousand years...our raga system, for example, is so finely nuanced, that once you read about it, you understand the vast reservoir of what we have inherited."
"Similarly, 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." he added.
Khanna's book is encyclopedic in scope, recording everything of significance that happened over the course of 5,000 years in Indian entertainment. Words Sounds Images, A History of Media And Entertainment In India is a book about 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.
Talking about Khanna's book, actor Kabir Bedi said, "Nobody is more qualified to write about the history of media and entertainment in India than Amit Khanna."
Javed Akhtar also chimed in, and jokingly added, "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. It is a good read. So, don't bother about the pages, and just start, and one day you will finish."
Praising Khanna's passion for the industry, Karan Johar said, "Amitji's passion is so infectious. It has not only transcended into this fabulous book, but also into his entire being, and his career that spans over so many decades."
Amit Khanna has worn many hats during his five-decade-long association with the entertainment industry of India. He had been a poet, lyricist, writer, and filmmaker. When he was about 21 yeas old, he became an executive producer with Dev Anand's Navketan Films in 1970 and was responsible for setting up India's first integrated media and entertainment company — Plus Channel — in 1989. He was also the founder chairman of Reliance entertainment. Khanna has, during the course of his career also served as an important connection between the government and the media industry, and has been instrumental in shaping the landscape of Indian M&E as we know it today.
But, his most significant contribution is how this industry is known across the world. Khanna is the man who had coined the term Bollywood much to the chagrin 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 had mentioned the term 'Bollywood' in a magazine column he used to write, 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 media doesn't change. It never does. 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." said the author.