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“Main Jaan Gayi Tujhe Saiyaan Hat Chhod De Mori Baiyaan ” – Kammo

28 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Kammo. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

New Empire! A mere 300 meters away from Dehradun’s center, Clock Tower on the town’s main road named Rajpur Road was a decades-old cinema hall with which many memories of my youth are closely interlinked. Actually, my school classmate Rakesh Mohan Badola used to stay in the rooms situated behind the hall in its buildings. Rakesh’s father was the manager of the hall and these rooms were specifically made to cater to the residence of the manager. During the 70s and 80s, all of us friends used to gather at Rakesh’s house almost daily. During that period, old and especially black and white movies used to get re-released in new prints, and in every major town and city, there used to be a cinema hall dedicated to their exhibition. This mandate in Dehradun was on New Empire. 
Kammo. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Through Rakesh, I got the opportunity to watch many old movies at the New Empire. As a result of this my attraction and curiosity towards the old era’s films, songs and artists had started developing. One of the decades-old movies I viewed at New Empire was the 1958 release Howrah Bridge whose songs mesmerized me. For the one to two weeks that the movie was being exhibited at New Empire, I would go to see the movie almost daily just to see the picturization of its songs. Among the many known actors in the movie was an unfamiliar face which attracted me a lot. This actress was cast opposite actor Sunder, whose name remained a mystery to me for years thereafter. Film Howrah Bridge's superhit song Main Jaan Gayi Tujhe Saiyaan Hat Chhod De Mori Baiyaan was picturized on this duo. 
Kammo and Sunder in Howrah Bridge (1958)
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Many years passed and I, one day, became a part of Mumbai metro’s bustling crowd. This metro gave me recognition as a film historian, writer, and blogger. It also brought me in contact with famous film historians from all over India. One day I was participating in one such gathering of cinema lovers in Delhi’s businessman, cine and music lover and exemplary singer Shri Ajay Sahu’s house. I met veteran cinema lover Nand Kishore ji of Kanpur who used to often meet forgotten and retired artists of the cinema world. He inquired, “Have you interviewed Kammo?”. I enquired, “Kammo, who?” and that day I got the answer to my nearly 35-year-old question which had arisen in my mind while watching Howrah Bridge. Nand Kishore ji gave me Kammo ji’s phone number also. This incident occurred in May 2014. 
Sinbad the Sailor (1952) Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

On returning to Mumbai, I called up Kammo ji, introduced myself, and requested an interview to which she readily agreed giving me an appointment immediately. I met Kammo ji on the 3rd of June 2014 at her house situated in Bandra’s Pali Hill Road. 
Kammo with Abhi Bhattacharya in Biraj Bahu (1954). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Kammo ji’s full name is Kamarjehan but everyone used to call her Kammo at home. She was born on 28 November 1938 in her paternal hometown, Saharanpur. She told us, “My father was in the army who used to get transferred every two-three years, but he had already retired by the time I became aware of life around me. My family included my parents, four sisters, and two brothers. I was the fourth one after one brother and two sisters. I could not study much as in those days it was not considered good to educate girls. In the year 1949, my Abba brought all of us to Mumbai from Saharanpur where we started residing in Mahim.”
Kammo, Pran and K N Singh in Inspector (1956). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

According to Kammo ji in her house even talking about films was not considered good leave alone watching them. However, she did have an attraction towards films in her mind. She recalls, “A cameraman resided in our neighbourhood and we used to call his wife Bhabhi Jaan. One day I went to see shooting with her. She introduced me to the famous dance director of the era, Master Badriprasad ji. On her recommendation, Masterji included me in his group. I must have been 12-13 years old at that time.”
in Phaagun (1958) with Madhubala. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Initially, Kammo ji worked in one or two films as a group dancer. However, Master Badriprasad who was impressed with her hard work and dedication gave her the opportunity as a solo dancer in the film Sindbad the Sailor (1952). This movie made under the banner of Deepak Pictures was released in 1952. Its producer was Balwant Bhatt, Director Nanabhai Bhatt and the composer was Chitragupt. Film’s main leads were Ranjan, Naseem Bano, Nirupa Roy and Pran. The song picturized on Kammo ji was Jis Roz Se Humne Tera Deedaar Kiya
Kammo in Apraadhi Kaun (1957). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Kammo ji says, “I had never formally trained to dance. I used to dance while playing records and this is the way I learnt. After Sindbad the Sailor (1952) I started getting acting offers and I kept working. During my nearly two decade long career I worked in nearly 60 films including Raja Harishchandra (1952), Laila Majnu (1953), Biraj Bahu (1954), Devdas (1955), Rajhath (1956), Apradhi Kaun (1957), Howrah Bridge (1958), Basant (1960), Shama (1961), Dil Tera Deewana (1962), Daal Mein Kaala (1964), Pooja Ke Phool (1964), Lutera (1965), Bedaag (1965), Shankar Khan (1966), Love and Murder (1966), Heer Ranjha (1970) and Bombay To Goa (1972).” 
Kammo in Shama (1961) in the song insaaf tera dekha aye saqiye maykhana
Image courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Kammo ji made a name for herself as an actress with Bimal Roy’s movie Biraj Bahu (1954). In this 1954 release, she had played the role of Kamini Kaushal’s sister-in-law (sister of Abhi Bhattacharya). In Devdas (1955) she was seen as Suchitra Sen’s friend and in Phagun (1958) and in Rajhath (1956) as Madhubala’s friend. Rajhath’s superhit song Antar Mantar Jantar Maine Paa Liya Hai Naag was picturized on Madhubala and Kammo. In Apradhi Kaun (1957), she not only did comedy with actor Kumud Tripathi but its hit song Hum Pyaar Ke Do Matwaale was also picturized on the duo. In Basant (1960) she was seen as Johnny Walker’s partner while in Shama (1961) she was seen performing mujra to Insaaf Tera Dekha Ae Saaqi-e-Maikhana
Kammo in Dil Tera Deewana (1962) with Mehmood.
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

When I requested Kammo ji for a picture she declined saying that her husband had expired just 15 days back and as per religious rules and practices she would not get any photographs clicked till the period of Iddat had not expired. On hearing this, I exclaimed, “Has Balam sahib passed away.” She replied innocently, “Balam? Who, Balam? I don’t know any Balam.” I was taken aback and changed track immediately.I asked her, which was your last movie? She replied, Bombay to Goa (1972). 
Bombay to Goa (1972). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Our conversation continued further. On my inquiring about the reasons of her moving away from films, she said, “At the time I got married I was shooting for the movies Heer Ranjha (1970) and Bombay to Goa (1972). My husband was not linked to films in any way. He did not like my working in films as well. In view of his sentiments, I completed my remaining film work and bid adieu to the film world. Heer Ranjha (1970) released in 1970 while Bombay to Goa (1972)  released in 1972. Thus Bombay to Goa (1972) proved to be the last film of my career. I played Mukri’s wife as a south Indian couple on the bus.” On enquiring about her family, she said that she had three daughters, two of whom are married and settled in Mumbai while the third one who is an interior designer is still unmarried. Kammo ji’s third daughter was present in the house during this interview and I met her also. It was agreed with Kammo ji that I would return after completion of the Iddat period to photograph her. 
Pooja Ke Phool (1964). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

(During process of research and cross-checking of her statements, I found out that her last released movie wasn’t Bombay to Goa (1972) but 1977’s Dhoop Chhaon. In this film, as a guest-appearance, she played a Mujrewali and also danced to the song Nazren Chura Ke Baitho Daman Bacha Ke Baitho. The lead actors in the movie were Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, and Yogita Bali, and its music were composed by Shankar Jaikishan.)

Nearly 2-3 months later when I requested her for an appointment on the phone, her approach had totally changed. She requested that I do not publish the interview. When I asked her for the reasons behind the request, she kept insistently requesting not to publish the interview. I had to finally agree with the same. The reason for this request was probably Balam only. Perhaps she felt that since I was aware of her relations with Balam, I will mention it in the interview and probably she didn’t want her name to be associated with Balam. Verification of this fact also happened in due course. 

Actually, soon after getting her appointment, I had started collecting important information about her before the interview. In this context, I talked to veteran actor Chandrashekhar ji who told me that Kammo was the wife of actor Balam. However, Kammo ji’s statements had put me in dilemma. On my inquiry, she had taken the name of her late husband with the caution that due to him being a private and not a film-related person, his name should not be made public. 
in Shankar Khan (1966) with Randhawa

Some more years passed away. During these, some other sources also verified that Balam was her husband but now she was point-blank refusing to recognize him. In past March, when I saw my favorite song Main Jaan Gayi Tujhe Saiyaan from Howrah Bridge (1958) in a Facebook post I could not stop myself. I immediately called Kammo ji and again requested permission to publish her interview which was again declined. Without mentioning Balam, I tried to explain to her that I am a member of the film industry, a permanent member of CINTAA (Cine and TV Artist Association) and Film Writers Association (FWA). I write only what artists permit me on the blog. The blog has no space for gossip and if I had been a dishonest person, I would not have waited for five years to publish the interview. However, she refused to budge from her position. The previous time she had spoken with a requesting demeanor but this time she was dryly repeating the same word, No! No! Obviously, I found her attitude disrespectful. And it was at that moment that I decided that if you do not have respect towards people linked with the film industry and its associations, you do not have faith in my honesty then what courtesy is due from my side? I will publish the interview now even without your latest pictures. 
Sinbad the Sailor (1952). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

However, now I was stuck with a new problem. The name of Balam, who was behind all this struggle, I did not have much detail about him. I only knew that many filmy qawwalis like Barsaat Ki Raat's Na To Karwan Ki Talash Hai and Azaad’s Marna Bhi Mohabbat Mein Kisi Kaam Na Aaya had been picturized on Balam. However, for maintaining the interview/writeup’s credibility it was necessary to find detailed information about him. Another issue was that the senior artists like B M Vyas and Ram Mohan ji who could have shared information on him were no longer alive. Due to age and health-related issues, Chandra Shekhar ji’s memory and health are no longer like before. I had some hopes from Jagdeep ji but then I found that his condition is also like Chandrashekhar ji. I continuously kept calling Jawahar Kaul ji but there was no response. In this situation, when I went to his house to meet him, I came to know that he is admitted in the hospital and would return 3-4 days later. Then sadly within a week, I heard the news of his device. On the other hand, I also failed to find Balam’s name in the CINTAA records probably because he had not taken its membership. 

During this period, I had also heard that Balam had gone to Pakistan. When I tried to take the help of one of my respected Pakistani readers, despite his concerted efforts, no information about Balam could be found out. Then one day I talked to veteran actor Raza Murad ji who gave me two important clues. One that Balam’s son’s name was Akbar Balam who was a director and cinematographer who had passed away some time ago. Akbar Balam had directed the 1981 release, Khwaja Ki Diwani. In addition, Akbar Balam had been the cinematographer of Director Kalptaru (real name K Parvez)’s movies of 1980-90 like Paraya Ghar (1989), Ghar Ho To Aisa (1990), Naseebwala (1992), Badi Behen (1993), Ghar Ki Izzat (1994) etc. Secondly, he said that actor Prem Sagar can give maximum and most authentic information about him. I met the 95-year-old Prem Sagar ji (real name Sayyad Ashfaq Bukhari) at his home and he shared a lot of important information with me. Around the same time, a famous actress of the 1950s also shared some information about the personal life of Kammo ji. The summary of all the information I got from assorted sources is as follows:– 

Actor Balam who basically belonged to Uttar Pradesh had started his career in the 1940s as the office boy of famous producer-director M Sadiq. Alongside he used to work as the production assistant for M Sadiq’s films. He started acting in 1950. He was seen that year in an important role as dancer Cukoo’s partner in the Dev Anand-Rehana starrer Dilruba (1950). Film Dilruba’’s super hit song Chiraiyya Udi Jaaye Re was picturized on the duo of Cukoo and Balam. During the 1950s and 60s, Balam acted in nearly twenty films including Mehendi (1958), Kalpana (1960), Chaudhavin Ka Chand (1960), Dharmputra (1961), Opera House (1961), Taj Mahal (1963), Palki (1967), Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti (1967) and Bahu Begum (1967). For the M Sadiq directorial Bahu Begum (1967), he had not only done the negative character of Mama but he was also the film’s Production Controller. This film was released in 1967 and I could not find any post – 1967 information about Balam
Azad (1955) - marna bhi mohabbat me kisi kaam na aaya
(Balam-L with Master Nissar - R). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

As far as the relationship between Balam and Kammo ji is concerned, I came to know that Kammo was Balam’s second wife and both have a daughter together. Director-cinematographer Akbar was the son of Balam from his first wife. After separation from Balam, Kammo ji got married to Bandra’s furniture businessman and owner of Inamdaar Furniture, Bilal Rehman. Bilal was already married and Kammo was his second wife. It was due to Bilal Rehman’s death that Kammo ji was observing the Iddat period during the interview. Both the younger daughters of Kammo ji are with Bilal Rehman. 

Despite all this information, three important questions remain unanswered. First, what was Balam’s real or full name? Second, which place/city in Uttar Pradesh did he belong to? Third, after 1967, how was his life and till when was he alive? The answers to these questions could be given by the family of the late Akbar Balam. However, Akbar Balam’s name and address were not to be found in the records of Directors association and Cinematographers association. Perhaps he was not a member of both these associations. In such a situation, my only hope was left in late director Kalptaru’s wife. I could not find her phone number, but I was able to find her house address. I myself went to her Santacruz based house. Unfortunately, she did not know anything about the address or family of Akbar Balam. She said that her husband (Kalptaru) did not talk about films or his relations in the industry at home. He used to keep his family and working life in films separate.

Meanwhile, this interview is now in front of you. However, my efforts continue and shall continue until I am able to find the answer to these three questions related to Balam
(Special Note: The above information is based on conversations with acquaintances of Kammo and Balam whereas Beete Hue Din’s interviews/write-ups are always based on the interviews of the related artists and/or their family members. Unfortunately, the same could not happen with this article in totality. Hence some of the information could not be independently verified. We express regret that we had to make some compromises with Beete Hue Din’s policies and humbly apologize for the same.)

[part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series]


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