I understand that the title of this article is a little bit confusing. Many will question that when it is an autobiography, how the question of being truthfulness comes, as the writer is telling his own story.Yes it is possible. It is my experience that the writer of autobiographies does not always tell the whole truth of their life, his ego stands in the way. It is really difficult to tell the whole story truthfully about One’s own life. The writer says more about creditable happenings in life , and less about the negative aspects amongl his doings, or totally hides his negatives. This I would call an act of dishonesty on the part of an autobiographer. For public figures who done great blunders in their life, autobiographical accounts were only to justify those. In this respect, biographies written by others, on named and famed, are nearer the truth.
When I say this I have the support of at least one important writer in Bengali , she is Ashapurna academy award winner. She admitted that it is difficult to speak the truth about one’s own life, therefore, she told her life story creating a character in her book. I can speak about her because I read her, there must be many more which I do not know of, written that all the autobiographies are not honestly truthful, those are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Recently I confronted one autobiography that is totally in contrast with my pre-set ideas as I have explained above. I say all this because I just read a memoir by Naseeruddin Shah, “ AND THEN ONE DAY”. He is a famous film star who has won not less than seven National and International Awards. I just finished it, therefore, my experience is fresh. His autobiography is brutally honest, and impressed me. We humans are most of the time a mix of base and good qualities and that is natural only. Only a filmi character is an epitome of virtues, never capable of doing any un-impressive work.
But Nasiruddin shah, is a mix of virtues like a believable common real man. He is brutally honest about himself, he was hopelessly bad at studies, he was not found suitable for anything woryhy, parents were frustrated, flunked school, was a druggist, and did many other sinful unworthy acts in his childhood. Fully eccentric man, inaccomative to friends, relatives, brought a bad name for his family. Even if he is now famous, and has won seven national and international awards, no parent will like his kids to make him their role model. So, I say he was brutally honest.
Mostly, he would pass only in one subject in his school exam, and that is english. He would score highest in English among his mates In his school, every exam. In school life itself, he mastered many English literature, dramas, and fiercely thought of acting in them . A few really acted with his novice peers in makeshift stages. Loved Shakespearan thinking deeply. The famous drama company , SHAKESPEARE WALLAH owned by Oliver kendall ( father of Jenifer kendel married to Sashi Kapoor), a drama group of England, was making world tour, playing drama in small towns and cities, to popularise Shakespeare among common men.
As he tells in his autobiography, the group acted plays with minimum articles, yet with lingering effect on the audience. They picked Nasiruddin for one of their play, to his joy, and satisfied them by his acting. Later included in the team. I remember, Utpal Dutta, another acting genius, was also similarly accepted by the group in their team.
In Spite of his ” worthlessness ” he made it to the National school of drama, Delhi, and National film institute, Poona. Being unconventional, he was disliked by many, he was unadjustable. Only, a few of his teachers understood the gem he was. Teachers stuck to him, despite of his eccentricities, he was called in to perform in some art films, he did wonderfully well, public accepted him. One film was SPARSH.
He was mad to go after originality, he would try to play his part as it happens to characters in real life, but Hindi film directors wanted dramatic effect for commercial purpose, on the audience irrespective of reality. He wanted to act charactetd as it happens in life, and he would not believe in hypocrisy. He would not have money, had to borrow food, did not have shelter, yet would discard hefty offers from commercial directors, just because the story for acting was cut off from reality/ originality. Initially, Only Shekhar kapoor, did understand his inner strength, unseen in other Indian actors, gave him opening.
I should have referred to many from his countless films, but, I do not myself watch films as a matter of habit, seldom I watch film and TV serials, so I do not recall all his brilliant performances, to mention here. My article dwells on truthfulness of his autobiography. I must speak of his english, it’s really unconventional type of language, in places I could not grasp his language.
Lastly, I want to add a very personal comment. In my view most artists are revolutionary, always challenging conventionality. Their parents become frustrated in rearing them up. Actually, our system of education is tailored for average students, most genius or most stupids, have no room in it. That’s why they do not shine to our mediocrity. Just to quote another example, Einstein may be named. He was a great scientist, adored world over, was judged by his teacher in early life, that he was abnormal, a slow learner, advised his parents to take him back. Similar was the story of Edison, and many others.