New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) Arts, culture and literature in India have charted a progressive course for the last seven decades. An exhibition documenting the journey of the Progressive Writers' Association, set up in 1936 and the new wave in arts the progressive school triggered as it aligned with the democratic revolutions, is the highlight of a three-day commemoration here.
'The Legacy and Relevance of the Progressive Cultural Movement' is being held at the Teen Murti Bhavan Oct 13-15.
The progressive showcase seems eminently relevant in its 75th year with socialist scholars predicting a resurgence in liberal thinking.
The commemoration - a panorama of visual history and seminars - is an initiative of Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT).
'The progressive cultural movement that emerged in India in the period from the beginning of the first world war was one of acute crisis in world capitalism,' socialist scholar and economist Prabhat Patnaik said.
'In India, for instance while the Great Depression caused absolute impoverishment of the peasantry, the long-term control in food grain production under the colonial regime ... caused a massive rise in food prices which precipitated in the Bengal famine of 1943,' Patnaik said.
Famine chroniclers - artist Chittoprasad Bhattacharya and photographer Sunil Janah - were children of the progressive school. Their work on display reflects the socialist tilt towards documentation of human condition of the progressive school in the 1940s-50s.
Rare archival originals of Bhattacharya's articles on the Bengal famine and his illustrations depicting the human condition in communist publications, 'People's War' and 'People's Age', first edition famine sketch books and letters to friends, will be exhibited.
An article, 'A Visit to Cox's Bazar' with art works, paints a vivid picture of the magnitude of the calamity that unfolded on present-day Bangladesh when the British imperial forces diverted grain to feed the soldiers during the World War.
The pages are sepia but the typeset, writing and the prints are still fresh after 70 years.
Photographer Janah took his camera to the masses to capture the sweat and sorrow of the man on the streets during the famine.
A selection of photographs from the archives of Indian People's Theatre Association - the cultural cell of the progressive school - narrates early efforts to unify the plural performance culture of the country into a pan-Indian tradition of dance, drama, theatre and music - revolutionary in nature.
'The progressive cultural movement ... could not sustain its momentum in the 1950s and beyond ... I believe that after a gap of 50 years we are now witnessing the beginning of a new revolutionary wave,' Patnaik said.
'The progressive movement in India was influenced by Bolshevism, anti-Fascist fronts and the anti-colonial movements in the third world like India, Africa and Latin America - and later the freedom,' said veteran Marxist theoretician Aijaz Ahmad while presenting a paper 'Progressive Movement in its International Setting' at the commemoration function Thursday.
A series of discussions introspected on the history of the country's progressive movement and discussed its future.