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Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

BBC Radio 4

46
Followers
223
Plays
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

BBC Radio 4

46
Followers
223
Plays
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The history of India told through the lives of 50 phenomenal people.

Latest Episodes

Dhirubhai Ambani: Fins

Professor Sunil Khilnani from the King's India Institute in London, on the life and legacy of the Indian business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of Reliance Industries. The son of a penurious schoolteacher, Ambani credited himself with an almost animal instinct for trading, coupled with a steel trap memory and an appetite for audacious risk. Today fifteen per cent of all India's exports go out in his company's name. It's the ultimate rag to riches story, mixed with street cunning and dazzling deals. In one case, which began with a tip from an underworld don, Ambani executives were accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by possessing sensitive Cabinet documents, including a draft national budget. A joke quickly did the Delhi rounds: the budget wasn't leaked to Reliance; Reliance had leaked the budget to the ministry. Producer: Mark Savage Editor: Hugh Levinson.

14 min2016 MAR 25
Comments
Dhirubhai Ambani: Fins

MF Husain: Hindustan Is Free

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at controversy over the Indian artist MF Husain, who spent the last days of his life in exile. Husain is considered by some to be the face of modern art in India but not necessarily by people in India itself. Husain died in his nineties having completed around ten thousand works. His paintings often attracted high prices but he became a target for mob anger over his portraits of Hindu goddesses and Indian feminine icons. Female deities had often shown nude in traditional art, but what enraged right-wing Hindus was that these images were created by a Muslim artist. "Had Husain been less popular beforehand, he probably would have been less hated." says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 24
Comments
MF Husain: Hindustan Is Free

Charan Singh: A Common Cause

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, explores the life and legacy of Charan Singh, the lawyer turned politician who championed the cause of India's farmers. Singh is remembered today as the politician who took on Indira Gandhi in the Congress Party's heartland state. Uttar Pradesh. He redistributed power and altered the social structure of Northwest India, non violently. And he helped the world see the potential of the Indian farmer a bit more clearly. He succeeded in becoming India's first peasant prime minister but went from the highest office in a flash, replaced by his nemesis Indira Gandhi. Although today he is most often remembered for being a leader of his own caste, Professor Khilnani argues that Charan Singh has a unique status in Indian history. Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 23
Comments
Charan Singh: A Common Cause

Satyajit Ray: India without Elephants

Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of filmmaker Satyajit Ray. In the history of Indian cinema, there is a Before Ray, and an After. As Sunil Khilnani says, "he's the first truly modern filmmaker we have." But Satyajit Ray's career in India might not have continued past its first few films had he not been celebrated in the West. In his native Bengal, several of his films were popular. More were loathed. In today's thriving Bengali film culture, he's often held at arm's length: the guy who served it up for the West, and served it up a little sweet. But Ray's films made ideas hanging in the air feel fresh, for he brought to them an unusually large range of small gifts: psychological and sensory acuity, humour, humanism, a deep appreciation of family relationships, an ability to withhold judgement, an ear equally adept at dialogue and sound, and the visual imagination of a third-generation illustrator and photographer. These were sufficient to allow him, time and again, to achiev...

13 min2016 MAR 22
Comments
Satyajit Ray: India without Elephants

Indira Gandhi: The Centre of Everything

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life of Indira Gandhi, India's first woman prime minister, whose darkest moment was a two year period known as "the emergency". Jails filled up with her critics while journalists and editors were detained alongside the political opposition. Those arrested could be held without trial and and she attempted to reduce the birth rate by offering men incentives to be sterilized. "Indira Gandhi in many ways issued the greatest threat to democracy in independent India's history," says Professor Khilnani, "weakening constitutional regularities established by her father. Yet the enduring effect of her rule was to open the state to a deeper and more accessible democracy". Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.

14 min2016 MAR 21
Comments
Indira Gandhi: The Centre of Everything

Subbulakshmi: Opening Rosebuds

Sunil Khilnani explores the life of south Indian singer MS Subbulakshmi. Subbulakshmi's singing voice, striking from the start, would ultimately range three octaves. A perfectionist, she had the capacity to range across genres but narrowed over the years to what another connoisseur of her music has called a 'provokingly small' repertoire. In time, the ambitions of those who loved and profited from her combined with her gift to take her from the concert stage to film to the All-India Radio to near-official status as an icon of independent India. But, as Professor Khilnani says, "what was required of Subbulakshmi, in moving from South Indian musical celebrity to national cultural symbol, is deeply uncomfortable when considered through the prism of contemporary feminism." Producer: Martin Williams.

14 min2016 MAR 18
Comments
Subbulakshmi: Opening Rosebuds

Krishna Menon: Sombre Porcupine

Professor Sunil Khinani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life of Krishna Menon, the abrasive Indian diplomat and statesman who invented the concept of non-alignment. He was one of the most reviled figures of the Cold War era. The Americans regarded Menon as a "mischief maker"; the British thought he was in bed with the Soviets while the Soviets thought he was a lackey of the British; and the Chinese resented his attempts to school them in international affairs. The diplomat, who was the voice of India's foreign policy for almost two decades, pursued an agenda which deeply unsettled the superpowers. But, says Professor Khilnani, "Menon's approach helped give India an influential voice at the global diplomatic table, dominated by the big four powers." Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.

14 min2016 MAR 18
Comments
Krishna Menon: Sombre Porcupine

Sheikh Abdullah: Chains of Gold

Sunil Khilnani explores the life of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir. Born in Srinagar as a burden, Abdullah's father died before he was born. Dispossessed of their share of family property, Abdullah and his two elder brothers were expected to make the cheap cotton shawls on which their extended, devout family depended. But the young boy discovered he had a gift, for reciting the Koran, which allowed him to get out of darning. Eventually, it would help him see more of the world than his shabby corner of Srinagar. But his legacy today is an ambivalent one. For many he stands as the primary, powerful advocate of Kashmiri self-rule, who sacrificed his own freedom time after time in his attempts to secure representation and rights for his people. For others, especially younger Kashmiris today, he's the man who sold Kashmir out to India, first in the late-1940s and then again in the 1970s, in exchange for personal power. Producer: Martin Williams.

14 min2016 MAR 17
Comments
Sheikh Abdullah: Chains of Gold

Raj Kapoor: The Politics of Love

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute, looks at the life of the celebrated actor and movie director Raj Kapoor who attracted a huge following well before the term 'Bollywood' became known. Kapoor started making films, just as India became independent in 1947. Back then, the medium was more than mere entertainment. In a country where the literacy rate was 12 per cent, film was also a crucial medium of education and exposure. "Kapoor brought romance, sexuality, song and soul to Indian socialism," says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 15
Comments
Raj Kapoor: The Politics of Love

Bhimrao Ambedkar: Building Palaces on Dung Heaps

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute, looks at the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar, champion of the community previously known as 'untouchables' whom he renamed as Dalits. Ambedkar, who was a Dalit himself and fought against caste discrimination. His face can be found on posters, paintings and coloured tiles in tens of millions of Dalit homes. To Indian schoolchildren, he is the man who wrote the country's constitution; and to India's politicians he is a public emblem of how far India has come in addressing the blight of caste. "Both readings simultaneously exaggerate and ghettoize Ambedkar's contribution," says Professor Khilnani. "He was a sophisticated, long-sighted Constitutional collaborator whose interests extended past caste to the very structure and psychology of Indian democracy." Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 14
Comments
Bhimrao Ambedkar: Building Palaces on Dung Heaps

Latest Episodes

Dhirubhai Ambani: Fins

Professor Sunil Khilnani from the King's India Institute in London, on the life and legacy of the Indian business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of Reliance Industries. The son of a penurious schoolteacher, Ambani credited himself with an almost animal instinct for trading, coupled with a steel trap memory and an appetite for audacious risk. Today fifteen per cent of all India's exports go out in his company's name. It's the ultimate rag to riches story, mixed with street cunning and dazzling deals. In one case, which began with a tip from an underworld don, Ambani executives were accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by possessing sensitive Cabinet documents, including a draft national budget. A joke quickly did the Delhi rounds: the budget wasn't leaked to Reliance; Reliance had leaked the budget to the ministry. Producer: Mark Savage Editor: Hugh Levinson.

14 min2016 MAR 25
Comments
Dhirubhai Ambani: Fins

MF Husain: Hindustan Is Free

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at controversy over the Indian artist MF Husain, who spent the last days of his life in exile. Husain is considered by some to be the face of modern art in India but not necessarily by people in India itself. Husain died in his nineties having completed around ten thousand works. His paintings often attracted high prices but he became a target for mob anger over his portraits of Hindu goddesses and Indian feminine icons. Female deities had often shown nude in traditional art, but what enraged right-wing Hindus was that these images were created by a Muslim artist. "Had Husain been less popular beforehand, he probably would have been less hated." says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 24
Comments
MF Husain: Hindustan Is Free

Charan Singh: A Common Cause

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, explores the life and legacy of Charan Singh, the lawyer turned politician who championed the cause of India's farmers. Singh is remembered today as the politician who took on Indira Gandhi in the Congress Party's heartland state. Uttar Pradesh. He redistributed power and altered the social structure of Northwest India, non violently. And he helped the world see the potential of the Indian farmer a bit more clearly. He succeeded in becoming India's first peasant prime minister but went from the highest office in a flash, replaced by his nemesis Indira Gandhi. Although today he is most often remembered for being a leader of his own caste, Professor Khilnani argues that Charan Singh has a unique status in Indian history. Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 23
Comments
Charan Singh: A Common Cause

Satyajit Ray: India without Elephants

Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of filmmaker Satyajit Ray. In the history of Indian cinema, there is a Before Ray, and an After. As Sunil Khilnani says, "he's the first truly modern filmmaker we have." But Satyajit Ray's career in India might not have continued past its first few films had he not been celebrated in the West. In his native Bengal, several of his films were popular. More were loathed. In today's thriving Bengali film culture, he's often held at arm's length: the guy who served it up for the West, and served it up a little sweet. But Ray's films made ideas hanging in the air feel fresh, for he brought to them an unusually large range of small gifts: psychological and sensory acuity, humour, humanism, a deep appreciation of family relationships, an ability to withhold judgement, an ear equally adept at dialogue and sound, and the visual imagination of a third-generation illustrator and photographer. These were sufficient to allow him, time and again, to achiev...

13 min2016 MAR 22
Comments
Satyajit Ray: India without Elephants

Indira Gandhi: The Centre of Everything

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life of Indira Gandhi, India's first woman prime minister, whose darkest moment was a two year period known as "the emergency". Jails filled up with her critics while journalists and editors were detained alongside the political opposition. Those arrested could be held without trial and and she attempted to reduce the birth rate by offering men incentives to be sterilized. "Indira Gandhi in many ways issued the greatest threat to democracy in independent India's history," says Professor Khilnani, "weakening constitutional regularities established by her father. Yet the enduring effect of her rule was to open the state to a deeper and more accessible democracy". Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.

14 min2016 MAR 21
Comments
Indira Gandhi: The Centre of Everything

Subbulakshmi: Opening Rosebuds

Sunil Khilnani explores the life of south Indian singer MS Subbulakshmi. Subbulakshmi's singing voice, striking from the start, would ultimately range three octaves. A perfectionist, she had the capacity to range across genres but narrowed over the years to what another connoisseur of her music has called a 'provokingly small' repertoire. In time, the ambitions of those who loved and profited from her combined with her gift to take her from the concert stage to film to the All-India Radio to near-official status as an icon of independent India. But, as Professor Khilnani says, "what was required of Subbulakshmi, in moving from South Indian musical celebrity to national cultural symbol, is deeply uncomfortable when considered through the prism of contemporary feminism." Producer: Martin Williams.

14 min2016 MAR 18
Comments
Subbulakshmi: Opening Rosebuds

Krishna Menon: Sombre Porcupine

Professor Sunil Khinani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life of Krishna Menon, the abrasive Indian diplomat and statesman who invented the concept of non-alignment. He was one of the most reviled figures of the Cold War era. The Americans regarded Menon as a "mischief maker"; the British thought he was in bed with the Soviets while the Soviets thought he was a lackey of the British; and the Chinese resented his attempts to school them in international affairs. The diplomat, who was the voice of India's foreign policy for almost two decades, pursued an agenda which deeply unsettled the superpowers. But, says Professor Khilnani, "Menon's approach helped give India an influential voice at the global diplomatic table, dominated by the big four powers." Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.

14 min2016 MAR 18
Comments
Krishna Menon: Sombre Porcupine

Sheikh Abdullah: Chains of Gold

Sunil Khilnani explores the life of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir. Born in Srinagar as a burden, Abdullah's father died before he was born. Dispossessed of their share of family property, Abdullah and his two elder brothers were expected to make the cheap cotton shawls on which their extended, devout family depended. But the young boy discovered he had a gift, for reciting the Koran, which allowed him to get out of darning. Eventually, it would help him see more of the world than his shabby corner of Srinagar. But his legacy today is an ambivalent one. For many he stands as the primary, powerful advocate of Kashmiri self-rule, who sacrificed his own freedom time after time in his attempts to secure representation and rights for his people. For others, especially younger Kashmiris today, he's the man who sold Kashmir out to India, first in the late-1940s and then again in the 1970s, in exchange for personal power. Producer: Martin Williams.

14 min2016 MAR 17
Comments
Sheikh Abdullah: Chains of Gold

Raj Kapoor: The Politics of Love

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute, looks at the life of the celebrated actor and movie director Raj Kapoor who attracted a huge following well before the term 'Bollywood' became known. Kapoor started making films, just as India became independent in 1947. Back then, the medium was more than mere entertainment. In a country where the literacy rate was 12 per cent, film was also a crucial medium of education and exposure. "Kapoor brought romance, sexuality, song and soul to Indian socialism," says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 15
Comments
Raj Kapoor: The Politics of Love

Bhimrao Ambedkar: Building Palaces on Dung Heaps

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute, looks at the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar, champion of the community previously known as 'untouchables' whom he renamed as Dalits. Ambedkar, who was a Dalit himself and fought against caste discrimination. His face can be found on posters, paintings and coloured tiles in tens of millions of Dalit homes. To Indian schoolchildren, he is the man who wrote the country's constitution; and to India's politicians he is a public emblem of how far India has come in addressing the blight of caste. "Both readings simultaneously exaggerate and ghettoize Ambedkar's contribution," says Professor Khilnani. "He was a sophisticated, long-sighted Constitutional collaborator whose interests extended past caste to the very structure and psychology of Indian democracy." Producer: Mark Savage.

14 min2016 MAR 14
Comments
Bhimrao Ambedkar: Building Palaces on Dung Heaps
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