Arnold Schulman – Screenwriter, Author and Playwright

Arnold Schulman – Screenwriter, Author and Playwright

Arnold Schulman

Arnold Schulman


Arnold Schulman (born August 11, 1925) is an American playwright, screenwriter, producer, a songwriter and novelist. He was a stage actor long associated with the American Theatre Wing and the Actors Studio.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Schulman attended the University of North Carolina where he took writing courses. He served with the Navy, and in 1946 came to New York City, where he began to write in earnest. He studied playwriting with Robert Anderson (Tea and Sympathy) in classes at New York’s American Theatre Wing, scripted for television during the early 1950s, making a transition to Hollywood films in 1957.

Schulman received Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay for Love with the Proper Stranger in 1963 and for Best Adapted Screenplay for Goodbye, Columbus in 1969. He also received three Writers Guild nominations for Best Screenplay for Wild Is the Wind, A Hole in the Head and Love with the Proper Stranger, and a Writers Guild award for Goodbye, Columbus. Arnold Schulman authored a book entitled “Baba”, Viking Press, New York, 1971, which was a biography of Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba.

Arnold Schulman And The Sathya Sai Baba Debate
Sathya Sai Baba critics Sanjay Dadlani, Brian Steel and Robert Priddy have made reference to one page in Arnold Schulman’s book “Baba” to formulate the argument that there are discrepancies between Sathya Sai Baba’s “official” biography and biographical information obtained by Arnold Schluman from Sathya Sai Baba’s sister.

For example, Sanjay Dadlani made the following argument (which was similarly parroted by Brian Steel and Robert Priddy):

Just one example of this relates to the tale of a cobra, which allegedly appeared miraculously after Sathyanarayana Raju (Sai Baba’s birth name) was born. As Schulman noted: “One of Baba’s two sisters, however, who claims to have been present at his birth, says that the cobra was not found under the blanket, but several hours after Baba was born a cobra was seen outside the house, a sight not uncommon in the village.” It is curious to see how this significantly differs from several “official” accounts of the cobra event.

The funny thing about this is how N. Kasturi claimed to have collected his material by interviewing various family members and villagers. Kasturi dated this incidence as happening in July 1948, and later reveals that the book was finally published in 1960. Assuming that he included Baba’s own sister in his research project, that left a comfortable twelve years for compiling and publishing an authorised biography with the input of Sai Baba and several contemporaries. How fascinating it is to observe a close member of the Baba’s family disagreeing with a staple of the Sai mythos, leading one to wonder why Kasturi’s little anecdote was allowed to be left in at all? For me, the reason was clear; the propaganda machine thought nothing of overblowing this out of all proportion in order to promote the idea that Sai Baba is an incarnation of Vishnu.

In conclusion, we can carefully consider that there is a huge gulf between facts and interpretations of those facts. If anything tangible is to be gleaned from Schulman’s quote, it is that Sai Baba aggressively halted discussion about his past for a clear reason; the stories of all or most of his early escapades are probably untrue.

Needless to say, critics did not tell the whole story and apparently forgot to turn the page to read what Arnold Schulman had to say about Sathya Sai Baba’s sister and how he obtained information from her. Arnold Schulman said:

In some cases interpreters were needed to interpret the interpreters, as in the case of the interviews with one of Baba’s sisters who spoke only Telugu. At that particular time the available interpreters were a young man who spoke only Hindi and English, but no Telugu, and another young man who spoke Telugu and Hindi but no English. Everything the sister said had to be translated by one of the young men from Telugu into Hindi and then by the other young man from Hindi into English. Not only was this procedure frustratingly time-consuming but after being filtered through two separate and distinct personalities, what the writer was told the sister said might very well have been something quite different from what she actually said.

Are we to believe Kasturi’s biographical material on Sathya Sai Baba (when he actually spoke Telugu and had close, repeated, long-term and direct access to Sathya Sai Baba’s sister) or are we to believe information that Arnold Schulman obtained through two young translators whose accuracy even he strongly doubted?

It is also significant to point out that the biographical information that Arnold Schulman independently obtained and published in his book about Sathya Sai Baba is 99% the same as the biographical information obtained by Kasturi (a fact often overlooked by Sai Baba critics).

Even though critics continually attempt to use Arnold Schulman’s book against Sathya Sai Baba, it is an indisputable fact that Arnold Schulman had an entirely positive view about Sathya Sai Baba and his book received stunning reviews, even from Faubion Bowers who said of it:

“Arnold Schulman has written a miracle, photographed the invisible, incarnated ectoplasm in tangible words. More brilliant than any of his screenplays, but with their narrative suspense and superb character depiction, Baba is a poem of reality on multitudes of planes. Spiritually, for those who have the antennae, the book is an ultrasonic, transcendental experience. I was stunned by his book. It is a really fantastic venture into truth-telling.” – Faubion Bowers

It is also peculiar that critics of Sathya Sai Baba love to highlight the fact that Arnold Schulman entertained doubts about Sathya Sai Baba’s alleged God-hood. What is so amusing about critic’s highlighting Schulman’s doubts is that they (i.e., Sanjay Dadlani, Brian Steel and Robert Priddy) all formerly accepted and praised Sathya Sai Baba as God Incarnate and the Avatar of the Age.

It is very strange how critics condemn the very beliefs they once held about Sathya Sai Baba for many years (even decades) as belonging to the brainwashed, gullible, naive and mentally challenged. Since critic’s current criticisms speak volumes about their past brainwashing, gulliblity, naivete and mental challenges, what’s make them any more believable and credible now?

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