indian cinema heritage foundation

Repartee and Apology

23 Jul, 2020 | Book Excerpts by Mehmood
Image Courtesy: Filmfare, 1969.

Today I shall speak the truth and nothing but the truth. If somebody is hurt by what I say, I apologise for the pain, but the fact is that nobody can stop me from speaking the truth today. Sach kahane mein main kisi ke baap se nahin darta (In speaking the truth I am not ever scared of the most powerful of men). The bitterest truth is that this world is self-seeking. People are betraying their own blood for their selfish ends today. I too have been selfish. It is not as if I am pure as fresh white milk. But neither am I the villain that I am made out to be.

In the sixty years of my film career, no producer can say that I have harassed him, or a film had to be abandoned because of me. I never asked for a petrol allowance from my producers. I never made the producer pay if I took my family with me on an outdoor shoot. Nor did I do any shopping for myself with their money. A lot of actors do this with producers. Today things are much worse. The actors want the producers to pay a conveyance allowance to their drivers and make-up artists too. Even when they are paid lakhs, crores of rupees, the stars stand before their producers like beggars.

It is true that women have been my weakness. But can any man cross his heart and say that women are not his weakness? But I never coerced any woman nor did I force any woman to get into bed with me. Every woman with whom I enjoyed my life came willingly. Whatever I did, I did openly and without a care for the world, whether it was women or racing, whether it was drugs or anything else. I did everything before the world. Perhaps it was because of this that people looked at me as a bad person.

I never took advantage of the fact that I was a producer myself, I did not sign any contracts with newcomers of the kind that producer Subhash Ghai signed with actress Mahima Chaudhary. It is exploitation of the newcomers.

No actor or technician can say that Mehmood cheated them for money or exploited them. If I sang a song for a film I never took money for it while today’s actors actually ask for money to come for their own dubbing. The truth is that today’s actors have fallen to the level where they take money to cut ribbons at inaugurations and even to participate in a funeral of a rich man.

Na Aapa (Meena Kumari) was my sister-in-law. Yet we paid her the price for the film “Chandan Ka Palna”. People say I cheated Na Aapa and misappropriated lakhs of rupees. How could I do that? All her financial dealing and accounts were taken care of by barrister Rajni Patel and his assistant Kishore Sharma even after Na Aapa had fought with her husband Kamaal Amrohi and came to stay with me. As part of his payment, Kishore Sharma held exclusive distribution rights of Na Aapa’s films in some territories. He would release Na Aapa’s films in these territories on his own. I had also heard that Na Aapa, on Rajni Patel’s suggestion, had spent a lot of money on the campaigning of V.K. Menon in an election.

If we had taken Na Aapa’s money, where is all money that she earned after she had left our home? Why did it happen that in her last days, the bills of Saint Elizabeth Nursing Home had to be paid by producer Premji? Of course, Premji only gave the money that was due to Meena Aapa for the film “Dushman”.

If I were the kind of person to cheat Na Aapa , I could have cheated a lot of others too. I shouldn’t be saying this, but I am forced to say that I have helped people set up their homes with my money.

When I came to know that Noor Mohammed Itawi, the production manager of N.C. Sippy, did not have a place to stay and his family lived in the village, I converted the garage in the ‘Iqbal Bungalow’ into  a house and let Noor stay there for free. You can check this out from Noor Mohammed Itawi himself who still lives in the same house. If I did things like this way should I embezzle money from Na Aapa? If had cheated Na Aapa, I too could have had a studio of my own.

I never kept a public relation manager for myself like the other stars of my time nor did I fill coupons of Filmfare under false names for the sake of awards. In fact, in my entire career, I must have gone barely twice or thrice to collect the awards I have received. My brothers received of my awards on my behalf.

I built mosques as well as a small temple. I gave alms to schools and hospitals too. But I never tom-tomed about them. I am not the type to take pictures while handing over a cheque and then get them published all over the place. I am not publicity crazy.

Along with these deeds I have also committed sins. I am the man who broke promises I made to my mother. I promised her i would arrange for the marriage of my sisters, I would respect my father, I would never lie, I would not borrow, I would support the poor relatives with my own money and that I would never take drugs or give in to any other addiction.

Of these, I arranged for the wedding of my sister including that of Salma, the daughter of my aunt. I respected my father. But I did not fulfil the other promises. To take a film, I had to borrow. One has to lie in business and in love. I had stopped talking to my father because I was afraid I would misbehave with him. I used to get irritated by his excessive drinking.

I have respected all religions, not just what my own religion Islam teaches. I go to mosques, temples, churches, gurudwaras because God is everywhere. I ahd promised myself that if my film “Kunwara Baap” was a hit, I would go to Vaishno Devi and I did. If we can speak to people of all religions, have business relations with them, participate in their weddings and deaths, then why can’t we have a relationship with all religions? After all, we belong to the same God. No religion in this world teaches a human being to hate another, kill another or torture another. People who fight in the name of religion do not belong to any sect religion. We Indians must learn from Sunil Dutt and Nargis who married and lived a successful married life. If these two could make a family, why can’t India become one whole family?

Right from my childhood, I have felt that Lord Shiva has blessed me. Shiva is also known as Mahesh. Years ago, Shubha Khote had once remarked that any of my films where my character was named Mahesh always became a hit. “Chhoti Behan”, “Love in Tokyo”, “Ziddi”, “Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai”, “Do Kaliyan” “Naya Zamana” and “Kunwara Baap” and several such movies are examples of this. Shubha once said that Lord Shiva has blessed me and suddenly I remembered a dream I had seen as a child. In the dream, I am leaning against a street lamp-post at the side of a road. A tall man wearing garlands exactly like Shiva comes towards me. Whoever comes in his way is blown to pieces. He comes to me and picks me up. I remember waking up screaming. My aunt Bi Ma also remembered the night and the scream. She had also told me that soon after that I had fallen violently ill. Years later one day, Dada Muni (Ashok Kumar) saw my receding hairline and said, “Mehmood, you are going bald”. Then he came close and with his ballpoint pen marked a shape following the hairline. Its form looked like Lord Shiva’s weapon, the trident. He showed it to me too, I remembered what Shubha had said, as well as the dream, and have believed since then that I am blessed by Lord Shiva. It is such a sad thing today that people are talking of demolishing temples and mosques just to be able to grab a chair. But in my farmhouse I have built a mosque as well as a small temple of Lord Shiva. I am Mehmood Ali, not Mehmood Gaznavi who had looted the Somnath temple. My religion Islam does not permit looting or demolishing any temple.

Chakkida gave me the statue of Shiva that I have installed in my small temple. I believe that being human is the biggest religion. My daughter Ginny has married a Hindu, Asit.

My country, Hindustan, is my most beloved nation, My elder sister Husseini and my younger sister Zubeida after their marriages went to Pakistan but I never went there. Although I have travelled across the world, I did not go to Pakistan even when Zubeida was widowed just 14 months after her marriage. She later married Mohammed Afzal, who knew my sister Meenu Mumtaz well and settled in Kuwait and then in Pakistan.

I don’t think Pakistan is worth going to. Those Muslims who sympathize with Pakistan have no right to live in India.

Just as I love my country, I have also loved everybody from my drivers, gardener, servants, spot boys, cooks and even my pet dogs, cats, horses, rabbits. I showed all of them in my films. Whenever any of my pets died, I buried them in my farmhouse. Whoever I worked with, I loved from the bottom of my heart. When I found out that my driver Yusuf had fallen in love with Noor, who was Meenu Mumtaz’s maid, I arranged for their marriage. Noor’s sister Tajon was married to my cook Mushtaq by me.

I was faithful to all my servants and pets, but not to my beloved Makdi (Madhu). She had left all comforts of life for me. I think I am equally responsible for whatever happened between her and me. If she were to be accused of having an affair with after another, my character too was not without blemish. The truth is I was unfaithful to my Makdi. If I had been faithful to her, would things have gone the way they did? If she was unfaithful it was because.......I......drove her away. If a woman takes the support of another man when she has a husband, she is accused of bad character. But when the man does the same thing what is that called? How can I do as I please merely because I am a male. Of course, several men have been doing what I have done.

I had divorced Makdi on Na Aapa’s suggestion. If I had decided to file a case, then along with Makdi her lover Kishore too would have been caught. While agreeing to a divorce I put the condition that the children would stay with me. In any case, Makdi by then was no longer capable of taking care of the children. After my divorce I never stopped my sons from visiting their mother. Even Tracy’s children would go to meet Makdi along with their stepbrothers.

Even otherwise, everything was over between Makdi and me, much before we actually settled for a divorce. My own kith and kin demolished my family life. After our divorce, I spoke to Makdi twice on the telephone and met her only once. It was about our son Pakki. He had begun to drink day and night and news of his wayward behaviour reached her. After all, he was her son. So she called me on the phone and told me to bring Pakki back on the right track. She had begun to cry over the phone and I couldn’t hold back my own tears. It was Makdi’s greatness that she did not hold me responsible for Pakki’s waywardness.

Once, we even met in person. She suddenly came to “Love Bird,” my bungalow at Juhu, to see me. I was in bed from an injury caused by an accident during the shooting of “Ek Baap Chhe Bete”. She had not told her husband Kishore Sharma about her visit. I was shocked to find Makdi near my bed. She was not willing to return to her husband’s house this time and requested me to let her stay with me. I realised she was once again in the grip of her madness. I somehow managed to convince her to return home.

Makdi died on January 23, 1993 in Mumbai. The saddest part was that the news of her four sons. Stalwarts from the industry were at the funeral, but even they did not brother calling her children. The children were only told about it after the funeral was over. Even Tracy’s children took the death badly. There was never any difference between the children. The children have always been caring and helping each other. Tracy always treated all the children as her own. The children too, even Makdi’s children, respected Tracy.

Yes, it is true that a few years ago my sons were upset with me and had even left home. They were angry with Tracy too and had even stopped talking to her. But my sons and I were all responsible for this conflict. I had given Rs 6 lakhs each to Pakki Ali, Lucky Ali and Maqdoom Ali so that they could invest the money and make a living out of the investment. But they chose to take a trip abroad and blew it all up. At the time they were not taking life seriously, Later when they actually needed money, I refused to give them any and the three of them left home. I too did not care.

My mistake was that I should have invested the money on their behalf rather than just giving it to them. I thank God that now my sons have found their own vocations and are on the right track.

In July 2002 I returned to India from the US alone. I was at Bangalore when suddenly I fell seriously ill and was admitted to hospital, Tracy came to see me from the US. Chances of my survival were slim. I was worried because my sons had stopped talking to Tracy then.

Years ago, my eldest son, Pakki Ali, had even filed a complaint with the police against Tracy. It was just a small family dispute but it had become serious enough for the family to split up. Before dying I wanted them to reconcile. I told Tracy, “If you feel I belong to you, then my sons also belong to you. I don’t think I will survive. Before I die, please forgive my sons.” That’s when Pakki and Macky began to speak to Tracy again. Within two weeks of that Macky suddenly died. Perhaps it was just to bring the sons and their mother together that Allah had put me in the hospital.

I pray Macky will go to heaven. He was handicapped, but managed to live on his own by doing stage shows and private albums. My eldest son Pakki is now taking care of his sons Maseeha Ali and Mahir Ali who are now married. In fact Pakki Ali has becomes a grandfather. Lucky Ali on the other hand, has made a name for himself as a singer. He no longer needs an introduction from his father. Masoom Ali was the producer of my film “Dushman Duniya Ka”. Even Manzoor and Mansoor are doing well.

Apart from my sons, I ran into conflict with my brothers too. If they were selfish, I was no angel. I too had left them to live in a world of my own making, I even parted ways with my sister. When Shano’s husband, director Ismail Memon passed away in the seventies, I did not take the responsibility of completing his film “Nauker". Instead I dumped the project on director Jyoti Swaroop. I had never helped Shano in my entire life. It was during the shooting of this film that Shano and Jyoti Swaroop came close and finally got married. Jyoti Swaroop even converted to Islam and changed his name to Ismail, But sadly, a few years after the marriage, Jyoti Swaroop passed away. He died of a heart attack on March 17, 1991. He was attending a wedding in Mysore then. Shano’s son Naushed Memon has now married the famous Guru Dutt’s daughter Neena.

It is a strange coincidence that except Husseini and Meenu Mumtaz, all the rest of us brothers and sisters married twice. Usman married Munni and then Khursheed Ali. Shaukat first married Agha’s daughter Shahi and then got married to Veena. Anwar divorce his first wife Esko and then married Mona Ali Mathur. Both Shano and Zubeida were widowed and remarried. Nevertheless, I no longer have complaints against my brothers and sisters or my children. They are all living lives of their own.

The Income Tax Department raided my house several times. Whenever they raided Na Aapa’s house or the houses of any of my producers, they automatically raided my house too. But till date, no income tax officer has found a single illegal farthing in my house. I had even bashed up an income tax officer in my house once because during the raid, he tore up the teddy bear I had brought from America for my daughter Masooma. Masooma had died and I was attached to the teddy bear. I would sleep with the lifeless toy and remember my little child. I was so angry with the officer for having torn the toy that I pulled down his trouser saying I wanted to frisk him too. I charged him with sneaking in illegal weapons into the house and getting me trapped in a fake case. Of course the whole episode turned out to be expensive. It was my mistake to treat a government officer in such a manner. But I have always paid my taxes. I had to even sell a large portion of my farmhouse to meet my tax dues once. It is the duty of every Indian to pay taxes on time. The fact is that often the names of film stars figure in lists of tax defaulters read out in Parliament. But you would never have heard the name of Mehmood in those lists.

Before I was married to Makdi, I was engaged to the gentle Rashida. She was the daughter of my mother’s best friend. We never married. When the engagement broke, she was hurt. It was no fault of hers. But because of me she was traumatised since in those days it was considered bad for a girl’s engagement to be broken. I had unknowingly hurt her. I have always regretted it.
Years after our engagement broke, the families of my sister Shano and Rashida’s brother Iqbal Kagzi come close. One day I found that the copy of the Holy Quran in my house needed urgent binding. I gave it to Iqbal and asked him to get the binding done. When he returned with the Holy Quran he brought along his sister Rashida. She waited in the car while he came up to give me the Holy Quran. When I found out that Rashida was waiting in the car outside I immediately asked him to go and get her. Rashida and I met each other after 45 long years. Now we were both grandparents. The meeting after so long was an opportunity that Allah had given me to ask for forgiveness. After all we had met because of the Holy Quran. We talked for a long time and she did forgive me for the pain I had caused her. It was another of those coincidences that only a few days after we met Rashida passed away. I pray to Allah that he give Makdi and Rashida their due place in heaven.

If the world of cinema was known as the world of selfishness it would have been more apt. People here are with you till you are in the limelight, a star. But the moment you fade into darkness, nobody has time for you anymore. If there was any human feeling in this industry, then the one-time giants of the industry like cameraman Rajendra Maloni and Shakeela Banu Bhopali would not have died pitiful and sad deaths.

I met good and bad people there. There were people who said one thing to my face and another behind my back .So many tried to ruin my career. Manoj Kumar and Rajendra Kumar were foremost among them, though I never wished them ill ever. In my entire career, I never refused to work anybody. All my dealings have been fair like those of Jackie and Govinda who respects even spot boys. Stars are used to having their way. I have never done that.

Yes, there was one song that I refused to accept. It was written by Shailendra. The music was by Shanker-Jaikishan and Mohammed Rafi recorded a song in his voice to give the playback. It was for the film “Gumnaam”. Its first line was, “Yeh teri aankhen, yeh tera joban, yeh teri tange…” The second line was a verse from the Holy Quran. When I heard the song told N. N. Sippy that I would not act in the song. The song would have hurt the sentiments of Muslims. Sippy understood my predicament and removed the song from the film. Instead he chose another song “Hum kale hain to kya hua…”.

Rajendra kumar tried several tricks with me. But now that he is no more, it would not be fair to speak of him. May God him peace.
Manoj Kumar, on the other hand, tried everything, used all pressure he could muster, to throw me out of “Gumnaam”. It never affected me if anybody tried to get me out of a film. Even when several stars refused to work with me it did not matter. I never spoke a word against them nor did I try to please them. I only concentrated on my work, worked on my character and developed the character wherever I thought it was possible. Be it the Englishman in “Aulaad”, or Bhola in “Lakhon Mein Ek”. The three generations I showed in the film “Humjoli” were a mimickry of the three generations of the Kapoor clan. It had been my own idea. When Jeetendra found out that I was going to mimic Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor on screen, he was anxious. He tried to stop me. But I explained that I was only mimicking their mannerisms. There was no comment on their personal lives.
I worked very hard to make my own place in the industry. If you see the characters I have played, you will see the effort that I have put in. In the film “Sanjh Aur Savera”, music director Jaikishan had composed a song, “Ajahu na aye balama, sawan beeta jaye…” on a classical note. It was a challenge for me to do comedy on such a music score. I worked hard on the expressions for that song.
For the film “Vardaan” I had used a special voice and when it was time for recording the song, the music directors Kalyanji-Anandji asked me to use the same voice to sing “Fodi nakh tabla ne todi nakh peti..”. My character in “Dil Tera Diwana” inspired my role in “Gumnaam” and the Marwari that I played in “Mere Apne” Inspired the character in “Sabse Bada Rupaiya”. When I realised that my own flesh and blood was after my money and that to them money was more important than me, I made the film “Sabse Bada Rupaiya”. This is the film which is close to my heart. For the dance sequences, I worked on the most difficult steps. I have recorded the most difficult songs like “Ek chatur naar badi hoshiyar…” in “Padosan”. I am neither saying that I am extraordinary nor is it my claim that only Mehmood could have done these things. All I am saying is that I worked hard on the roles I played and Mehmood did not become “Comedy King” just like that. The difficulty is that actors today charge good money, but do not work on the characters they do. So all characters look and behave alike. If a comedian works hard, then I can bet he can easily become more successful than I have been.
In the film “Humjoli”, where I mimicked Papaji, Raj Bhai and Randhir, I worked hard to master their mannerisms. I would keep practising everywhere, even when I was in the toilet. For Papaji’s role, I wore red-coloured lenses, for Raj bhai’s role I used blue lenses and for Randhir‘s role, I used green lenses. My eyes would get swollen after the shoot.

The fact is that I had given the “Humjoli” project to the producer of my film “Road No 303”. But Jeetendra took over the project and gave it to his brother Prasan Kapoor. The day “Humjoli” was released, Raj Bhai called me up to congratulate me for the roles.

Film stars don’t only drive their audience mad, often they are crazy about each other too. Hema Malini was one such actress. All the male stars of her time were crazy about her. Jeetendra and Sanjeev Kumar were in the lead in the race for Hema. Of course Sanjeev Kumar would fall in love with all his female co-stars. He would give his heroine a red saree, saying that if had been selected by his mother to give to her daughter-in-law. Hema of course was wise enough not to get involved with any of them. During the shooting of the film “Waris”, Hema invited Jeetendra and me to her dance show. When Jeetendra got the invite he thought it was a real “invitation“ and convinced himself that Hema liked him, was even in love with him. On that high note, in that hot summer, Jeetendra came to the show wearing the warm suit he wore in wore in “Waris”. Hema would wave as part of the dance sequence and Jeetendra would feel she was waving at him. After a little hesitation he too began to wave back. After the show we got together and I asked Hema whether she had seen us from the stage. A surprised Hema said it was not possible to recognize anyone from that distance. Jeetendra turned pale at that. Of course Jeetu is a nice man and forgave me for that. Many of our films together were hits. Jeetu’s biggest asset is that he does not get involved in any controversies nor does he criticize anybody.

Actually, in the beginning, Hema didn’t pay attention to Dharmendra either. But Dharmendra was stubborn. When I was shooting in Madras with Hema, Dharmendra would come there, ostensibly to see me, but actually to somehow get to talk to Hema. Finally it happened and Hema fell for his charms. I played a key role in getting the two lovers together. I would stand guard outside Hema’s make up room when the two were alone inside. Whenever I saw Hema’s mother Jaya Chakravorty coming from afar, I would whistle. That was the signal for Dharmendra to get out of the room. Dharam is a good friend of mine. We did have fights over his affair with Na Aapa but we never let them come in the way of our professional relationship. Dharam also helped me a lot.

Just like I had helped Dharam and Hema, I also supported Rajshree, the daughter of V. Shantaram when she fell in love with Greg. It was perhaps because I had myself fallen in love with a foreigner. During the shooting of the film “Around the World,” I would be desperate to meet Tracy, and Rajshree would be eager to meet Greg. One day, Rajshree asked me if her father did not accept her marriage with Greg, what should she do? I told her to simply leave for America and get married to Greg. Rajshree did just that. She quietly got a visa and told me when she would be leaving. The very next day, we were to work together in Ratan Bhattacharya’s film “Suhaag Raat”, the set was ready and everybody was waiting for her. I reached the set at leisure because I knew there would be no shooting that day. Because of her sudden disappearance, some of the scenes of the film had to be shot with her duplicate. Producer B. P. Joshi and director Ranjan Bose had started another film “Nain Mile Chain Kahan”. They had to shut the film down completely because of what Rajshree had done. In that film, Dharmendra and Rajshree played the lead roles while Helen and I played the supporting roles. Later, Rajshree returned with Greg and they got married in all pomp and splendor. Greg even changed his name to Gautam.

I always helped my co-stars to get roles. Mumtaz got her role in “Pyaar Kiye Jaa” on my recommendation. The film was a remake of the Tamil film “Kathalikka Neramillai”. Nagesh, the top star in the Tamil film industry then, played my character in the original. I had actually advised Shashi Kapoor to let Mumtaz be the heroine of the film, but he replied that the actress who had played opposite Dara Singh and Mehmood couldn’t be his heroine. Even Mumtaz was hurt by this. Which is why I took Mumtaz as my heroine in “Pyaar Kiye Jaa”. Later, Mumtaz became a top star and every male star wanted to be in the lead with her. Shashi Kapoor now wanted her in his film and went to director Ashok Roy asking him to sign her in the lead role with him. He even went to Mumtaz’s house. While he was there, she called me to ask what she should do. She actually wanted to drive him away but I discouraged her and Mumtaz and Shashi Kapoor came together in the film “Chor Machaye Shor”. Shashi is undoubtedly a very nice man.

When it comes to Rajesh Khanna there is nobody who can match the man’s arrogance. It is probably because of this that he lost his star status overnight. I would call him “kathor” (the stone-hearted) in jest.

Once I had gone to sign him in a guest role in the film “Ginny Aur Johnny”. He was at his bungalow “Aashirwad” along with Shakti SamantaJ. Om. Prakash and Roopesh Kumar. When I reached the bungalow, he was sitting in their midst smoking. When he saw me, he simply left the others and took me along with him to a room upstairs. He asked me about my proposal and accepted immediately. He wanted to know the dates for the shoot and I told him the shoot was on the next day. He came the next day and the shoot was completed. I had recognized the arrogant streak in him and this helped me. When I signed him for the film “Janta Hawaldar” it was this intimate knowledge of the man’s character that helped. Half way through the shoot, he suddenly began to act like a superstar on the sets. This was the first time that an actor was harassing me for no reason. I had worked with stars much bigger than Rajesh Khanna. I began to feel it had been a mistake signing Rajesh Khanna for the film. It was with great difficulty that I completed the film. During the shoot, one day, I even beat him up, making it clear that I was no Shakti samanta or Roopesh Kumar to keep pleasing him. I think the company he kept spoilt Rajesh Khanna and it is these people who destroyed his career.

I would not like to say much on Dada Kondke. He is no longer with us, I worked with him too in some films, but he was selling obscenity in the name or comedy. It is not as if I did not use dialogues that had a double entendre. But his dialogues were more deliberate and direct. I think he only had obscenity in his head.

People accused Kishore Kumar of being a miser and hungry for money. But the fact is that in the film industry there never was a better person than Kishore Kumar. He was the best friend any one could have. When he married Yogeeta Bali, I had acted as her father in the ceremony and in the process had become his father-in-law. People say Kishore Kumar returned to the industry with the song “Mere Sapno Ki Rani…” in the film “Aradhana”. The song was picturised on Rajesh Khanna and even he takes the credit for Kishore’s comeback. But this is not true. Kishore Kumar came back with the song “Mere samne wali khidki mein…” in my film ”Padosan”. Kishore worked in several films with me. He and I always argued with each other. He always said that I am a greater comedian of Hindi cinema and I used to say that he was the better one. For me Kishore Kumar was the greatest comedian of Hindi Cinema.

The hit song “Muttu kodi kawwadi hada…” in my film “Do Phool” was to be sung by him. But on the day of the recording, he got stuck in another recording and couldn’t make it. Asha Bhosle persuaded me to sing the song myself and I agreed, thinking that I would dub the song later with Kishore. But after listening to the song, Kishore and all the others insisted that I let the song remain as it was.

The film industry is self-centred and selfish. It is even callous, at times, I experienced this callousness during the shooting of the song “Dushman hai zamana thenge se..” for the film “Patthar ke Sanam”. While I was shooting the dances for the song, my nephew Nazir was fighting a battle with death in the KEM hospital. My relatives kept calling me on the sets repeatedly because Nazir wanted to see me, but nobody told me about the calls. They feared that the shooting would get held up. It was only late in the evening when the shooting was over and it was time to pack up that I was told about it. But by then, it was too late. He had died long before I could reach the hospital. I used the incident later with a few changes in the film “Main Sunder Hoon”. I did not, however, let the incident affect my personal life. “Patthar Ke Sanam” was completed on schedule. Before Nazir passed away once I sent him to America for his treatment. The day he left for America the entire Ali family went to the airport to see him off.
Amitabh Bachchan is now a superstar, but to me he is like a son. People call him Bachchan, I call him Bachcha. I am told there are rumours that our relations are strained. It may be possible that we have parted ways but Amit has never said a word against me. He is not the kind of person to forget a favour. He knows what I have done for him. Yes, there is one incident that hurt me. I was undergoing a bypass at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai in 1993. At the same time, Amit’s father Harivanshrai Bachchan had been admitted to the same hospital. He would come to the hospital everyday but he never spent five minutes with me. Of course it was a personal decision for him.
Like Bachchan, I have met a lot of nice people in the industry. Lata Mangeshkar, Leena Chandavarkar, Yogeeta Bali, Rajesh Roshan, Moushmi Chatterjee, Ritesh, Jackie Shroff, Asha Bhosle, Anandji, Anjana Mumtaz, Prem Chopra, Mumtaz, Sharmila Tagore, Rajendranath, Amin Sayani, Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Babita, Pyarelal, Sunil Dutt, Naushad, Pran, Shubha Khote, Nirupa Roy, Helen, Shashikala, Waheeda Rehman, Amita, K. Parvez, Mala Sinha, Ramanand Sagar, Nanda, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Saira Banu, Yusuf Sahab (Dilip Kumar), Jr. Mehmood. Pramod Chakravorty, Shatrughan Sinha, Shashi Kapoor and so many others. It is possible that I may have missed out some of them. At one time, Pran and I were enemies, but during the shooting of the film “Love In Tokyo” we became great friends and then worked together in several films. Several of my friends are no longer alive. Mohammed Rafi, Keshto Mukherjee, Mukri, Lalita Pawar, Kishore Kumar, I. S. Johar, Jayant, Amzad Khan, Sanjeev Kumar, Dhumal, Yakub Uncle, Dada Muni (Ashok Kumar), Agha Chacha, Om Uncle, Vinod Mehra, Johnny Walker, Jaikishan, Raj Kapoor, Mukesh, Pancham (R. D. Burman), Jyoti Swaroop. Laxmikant, Kalyanjibhai, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra, Radhakrishan, Rajendra Krishan, Pradeep Kumar, Madan Mohan, Madhubala, Hemant Kumar, Mahesh Kaul, Gyan Mukherjee, David, Gopal Singh Nepali, S. D. Burman, P. L. Santoshi, Bharat Vyas, Bimal Roy, Nazir Hussein, A. R. Kardar, Nargis Baji, Naaz, Raja Mehendi Ali Khan, Phani Mazumdar, Meena Kumari, Leela Chitnis, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Geeta Bali, Guru DuttNutan, Ismail Memon, Sunder, L. V. Prasad, Aspi Irani, N. C. Sippy, Asit Sen, Mahipatrai Shah and so many others.

Lying on this bed, I often remember these friends and pray that their souls find peace. I keep remembering Pancham. We struggled together. I had made him an actor in my film “Bhoot Bangla,” and in the film “Padosan,” I had signed him for the role of the hero with Saira Banu initially. That film was the remake of the Bengali film “Paserbadi”.  However when I went to the financiers with my project, they did not seem interested. Finally I had to sign Dulhe Bhai (Sunil Dutt) for the film.

I produced several films but always chose the actors depending on the role. I never insisted that since I was the producer I should be in the lead role or dominate the film. I was no Dev Anand or Manoj Kumar to make a film for myself and then display myself all over the film. I have made films where other actors had played title roles. Padosan and Sadhu Aur Shaitan are the biggest examples. I have also given chance to other directors.
However, now most people in the film industry have forgotten me. I am now away from the blinding brilliance of the industry. Dada muni was the only person who asked about my health regularly. Till his death, we would call each other often on the phone. I am now at the final stage of my life. I had a new lease of life nine years ago. I was discussing a film with Sawan Kumar in his office. I was supposed to direct this film. It was June 15, 1993. Suddenly I began to sweat and felt very scared and breathless. It was a heart attack. My wife Tracy immediately took me to Hospital. Dr. Manjre did a bypass operation at the Breach Candy Hospital.
Now I have no complaints or laments. Bringing so much of my life back from memory after so many years has given me a strange peace of mind. Of course there is so much buried in the corner of my heart, but it will always remain there. I have only good wishes for my people and my countrymen.” 

This is a reproduction of the original published in Hanif Zaveri's Mehmood: a man of many moods published by Popular Prakashan in 2005. 

The banner image did not appear with the original publication.

Hanif Zaveri began his career as an assistant scriptwriter. He has been an active member of the IPTA where he worked with prominent personalities like M S Sathyu, Shabana Azmi, Ramesh Talwar, Javed Siddiqui and Basu Bhattacharya. He is a well-known freelancer for several leading newspapers and magazines. 


  • Share

About the Author