Friday, February 8, 2013

Vyjayntimala stopped by to say Hello.

Vyjayantimala was in Mumbai few days ago and it was a pleasure when she kept her promise to Saira and dropped in on a Sunday. Between her and Saira, who now addresses her as ‘Akka’ (elder sister in Tamil) there is an understanding that she will not skip visiting us when she is in the city and if she does she will have to pay a fine of one lakh rupees! They have their own mutual  bonding and Saira has great respect for Vyjayanti as a dancer and actress.

 It was a wonderful afternoon at our home when Vyjayanti met Saira’s grandniece Sayesha who is learning Kathak and Oddissi from renowned gurus and is blossoming into a beauty like her aunt and of course her grandmother Naseem Banu. 

As always we reminisced the days when we worked together in such memorable films as Devdas, Ganga Jamuna, Madhumati and Naya Daur. Actually we have a tally of seven films (if I am not mistaken) together and each had its significance for film lovers. Among my heroines she was the one who worked as hard and as diligently as I did on the scenes and dialogue. Especially Ganga Jamuna in which she had to speak a mixed dialect of Bihar with ease and familiarity. Being a South Indian she had wrinkled her brow at first when she heard me speak the language but her characteristic determination came to the fore and she delivered her lines with admirable confidence .It does not surprise me at all that she still gives Bharata Natyam recitals of two hours duration in Chennai. That’s her spirit and grit!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

On Passing Away of Dear Friends

It is appalling how few in the print media take the liberty nowadays to print quotes that spring from the imagination of the scribe. It shocked me and Saira to read newspaper reports with imaginary quotes from Saira about plans to celebrate my birthday!  We have yet to recover from the shock of the passing away of my dear friend Yash Chopra who was by my side when I blew away the candles on my birthday cake last year and stayed on till the wee hours, sharing the family’s happiness. 

We are deeply grieving the passing of Balasaheb Thackeray who I always thought was not a Tiger but a Lion. He had the virtues of a lion. We will cherish in our memories the lively evenings at his home when we smoothened out our differences over cups of strong masala tea. I found him extremely sensitive on occasions, especially during the days Sunil Dutt was going from pillar to post to get justice for his son Sanjay. Balasaheb’s response was that of a father who understood a father’s desperation to save his son. We pray for Balasaheb’s family, especially for his son Uddhav, to derive strength from the Almighty to bear the irreparable loss. 

Rajesh Khanna who was with us at our party last year is no more with us. And Dara Singh who wished me so warmly on my birthday last year is not with us anymore.  A friend I am missing is NKP Salve, a stalwart of the Indian National Congress, who shared my love for the game of cricket and initiated me into the legalities of taxation with his command over Law and Accountancy.   

With so many dear friends gone this year, how can we even think of a celebration?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kamal Hasan brings me a trophy and takes me back in time

Kamal Hassan pleasantly surprised me and Saira by calling us one morning to ask if he could come over from Chennai to present an award, given by FICCI to me on occasion of the centenary celebrations of Indian Cinema in Chennai. Naturally, we told him he was most welcome and he was here on the dot on October 15 evening to present the award and spend a wonderful evening with us.

We travelled back in time to the day when I was in Chennai ( then Madras ) as an invitee at the silver jubilee celebrations of his starrer Ek Duje Ke Liye and later again as an invitee at the silver jubilee of Thevar Magan. He was ever so warm and humble when we complimented him on the film's success and his sterling performance which contributed to the success of the films.

We, Saira and I , had fallen in love with Chennai  when we stayed for long spells in a bungalow I had acquired during the making of Ram aur Shyam. We were newly married and the film's producer Shri Nagi Reddy made sure that we lacked nothing in the bungalow for our comfort. The unpretentious Southern hospitality and tradition of treating every one with respect overwhelmed us so much that we almost decided to shift base to Chennai.

I noticed, all through the evening we were together, that Kamal has retained his humility and gentlemanly bearing despite the abundant success he has enjoyed and the strides he has taken as a versatile actor and an inspiration to upcoming actors. I guess that sense of balance and native wisdom are some things that we who make it to stardom the hard way through self evolution assimilate from the hard knocks we get from experiences along the way.

It was a lovely evening and I must thank FICCI for the thoughtful gesture and Kamal for taking the trouble of coming all the way to present the trophy at my residence.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Memories of a Magical Voice

It has taken me and Saira some time to come to terms with the fact that Mehdi Hassan Miyan is no more with us in this world. The voice which we loved to hear when he connected with us on the telephone sometimes in recent years when he had to give up traveling due to his critical lung condition has been stilled, but the echoes remain in our subconscious and will continue to do so.

The magic of his voice cannot be described in words. I know millions of his admirers will agree with me when I say that Mehdi Hassan was very special to the Creator. Which was why he gifted him with the ability to sing his way into the hearts of even those who had little understanding of the pure ghazals he chose for rendering. He drew everybody - the common man, the well read, the rich, equally to him when he rendered the ghazals of such  profoundly intellectual and philosophical poets as Faiz Ahmed Faiz or Ghalib for instance. It’s only an uncommonly gifted singer who can draw his audience equally with the charm of his voice and his deep understanding of the exquisite poetry he is rendering. And Mehdi Hassan Miyan was one such richly gifted singer.

He visited us whenever he came to Mumbai and it was always a great occasion for the family. Saira’s grand mother Shamshad Begum Sahiba (Ammaji) especially used to be so happy to see him. As a classical vocalist of repute, Ammaji had a discerning taste and she always held Mehdi Hassan Miyan in high esteem for the splendid quality of his singing when he captivated his audiences at concerts. The CDs which he presented to her of the recordings of his concert tours delighted her. In fact, Ammaji and I shared a great love for Urdu and Persian poetry. For me, it is a taste I acquired from  my childhood in Peshawar when I listened attentively to my grand parents, uncles and aunts discuss Persian poets such as Khayyam, Hafiz Shirazi and Maulana Rumi, among many others.

The last time Mehdi Hasan Miyan visited us he was having high fever and he wanted to lie down. He held my hand and we recited together his favourites and mine. I can still recall his soft voice as if it was just yesterday that he was here. I have witnessed his success and the incredible adulation his admirers accorded him in other countries and in Pakistan. He remained ever so humble and unaffected by it all as all great men are. May God bless his soul and grant him the best of Jannat.


Monday, March 19, 2012

On Mukherji Sahab and his son Joy Mukherjee

I have been thinking a lot about S. Mukherji , the founder of Filmalaya and one of the major influences in my career. I was witness to the care and love he lavished on his son Joy Mukherjee. He wanted to see Joy scale great heights as a star. It was not just a loving father’s desire to see his son shine as a star on the screen; it was the conviction of the man who had spotted, groomed and launched some of the more adored stars of Hindi cinema besides writers, directors, technicians, singers and composers.

Mukherji Sahab was very particular about physical fitness and he was keen that his son follow a strict physical regime to achieve attractive features like a good physique, chiseled facial features, flexibility in body movements etc. He would tell me: “Yousuf, tell him( Joy ) how you keep yourself fit with your game of badminton and soccer whenever you find time. You must also tell him how you don’t put yourself to great strain in acting. You just become the character you play”.

For Joy’s physical fitness and part of his ‘gyming’ Mukherji Sahab had hired a wrestler, a tough pleasant guy who knew his job well with oiled curly hair falling over his forehead. A wrestling ring was created a regular sand ‘Akharda’ and it was the wrestler’s duty to see that Joy and his brothers took regular lessons from him and went through the requisite regime like body massage etc. Joy had no option but to obey his father and I guess he knew what his father expected from him. Joy became one of the heart throbs of the nation after his debut and I could see the pride in Mukherji Sahab’s eyes.

It saddened me to see Joy when I last met him at our dinner here at home last December. He was unable to walk without help as his weight had increased. The neglect and indifference towards the physical fitness his father had insisted on began after Mukherji Sahab’s passing away. The void was hard for the sons to accept, especially for Joy, I am sure.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Lifecasting, Cinema and Memories

Had an interesting experience a few days ago. I had read of lifecasting used by sculptors to achieve accuracy in creating statues and busts in museums and by special effects conjurers in cinema for creating dummies in scenes requiring perilous stunts by the actors. 

Last week, Riteish Deshmukh, my dear friend Vilasrao Deshmukh’s talented son, visited us with his lifecasting expert to get impressions of my hands and Saira’s hands which will be in a museum he proposes to have for cinema lovers. The alginate mixture poured into trays reminded me of the mixture I used to see in a bakery in Poona years ago where I used to drop in to buy my favourite biscuits during my first ever stay away from my family in the early 1940s.

It took only a quarter of an hour for the team to get the mixture ready and get our hands imprinted on the mould which I am told will be imaged on metal for display in the museum. It is Riteish’s brain child and it is his way of telling those of us who spent the best years of our lives entertaining and, hopefully, impacting people’s minds through our films, that our hard work and contributions to the growth of the medium have not been in vain.

I have heard from my family about Riteish’s gift for excelling in comedy. I have known him for some years now as a well bred young man doing his parents proud. I hope to be at his wedding on February 3 and share the Deshmukh family’s  happiness on the occasion.

Video is attached with this.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

On Memories of January 1

I am wishing all of you a wonderful start to 2012 and pray that the year gives us pleasant times and many, many reasons to smile and feel on top of the world each day of the year.

Personally, it is not just the beginning of a new year for me. It is replete with beautiful memories. It is Saira’s mother Naseem Banuji’s (Appaji) birthday and my thoughts turn to her and the way she made a difference to our lives. My thoughts turn right now to Appaji and the quiet, unobtrusive way she made sure I was living the life that even a king would have envied. She was the epitome of beauty, grace and refinement and it reflected in her speech and manners.

Appaji always made January 1 special not for herself but for all of us by giving us a lovely day with some gorgeous surprises.

Appaji, brought me and Saira together in marriage in 1966. She taught Saira to be the caring, unselfish and understanding wife she is and I would credit it to Appaji that Saira evolved over the years into a strong, gracious woman with the will to bring my own family closer to me.

Saira and I have accepted the will of God and learned to live without her but not a day passes without our thoughts recapturing her contribution to the strength of our marriage and love for each other.
Appaji, we love you.