In Memory Of The Legendary Mehmood Ali
I always remember him as the guy who played a music teacher in the movie Padosan and sang “Ek Chatura Naara Karke Singar”. I wanted to watch him and his performance over and over again. It was impactful and impressive even for a young girl like me who did not understand anything about cinema and hadn’t watched many movies. He may have changed that for me and I am sure for many others.
There aren’t many like him. Mehmood Ali, known to his fans, friends and the people in the film fraternity as just ‘Mehmood’ was a multi-talented personality. He could sing, act and also wore a producer’s hat. It’s not a big surprise considering the fact that he came from an acting background. His dad, Mumtaz Ali, was a star in the 40s and 50s. However this did not mean that he had it easy because Mehmood worked as a driver and a poultry seller before he became an actor. He was P L Santoshi’s driver; Santoshi’s son Rajkumar Santoshi later cast Mehmood in the film Andaz Apna Apna.
He is credited for taking the art of comedy in Bollywood to a different level. At a time when comedians were just a means to lighten things up in a movie with a rather heavy plot, Mehmood’s style and talent made it an equally important component in the movie industry. He seemed to have done a variety of things. Mehmood taught tennis to Meena Kumari back then. It wasn’t until he got married and had a baby that he decided to do something more stable and more long term. This was the turning point when he joined the film industry.
He was predominantly known and appreciated for his comedy roles but he did portray an array of different characters. He was no newbie to the industry, even though he spent time figuring whether he wanted to be an actor. The most important quality that Mehmood possessed was his knack to feel the masses’ pulse. He knew what they wanted and cloud flawlessly deliver that.
Below are a few movies that we handpicked as an ode to this amazing actor:
This movie belonged to Mehmood’s home production. There’s a popular story about Mehmood approaching Kishore Kumar in his early days as a newbie in the industry and asking him for a role. Kishore obviously knew Mehmood was an excellent actor and it is said that Kishore responded to Mehmood’s request by saying, “How can I give a chance to someone who will compete with me?” To this, Mehmood is supposed to have good humoredly replied – “One day I will become a big filmmaker and I will cast you in my film!” Mehmood kept his word and, years later he cast Kishore Kumar in Padosan which many consider to be Bollywood’s most enduring comedy film. He emulated South Indians a number of times in his movies and received flak for it. His caricatures didn’t go down too well with the audience and he needed to re-invent himself. What many people did not know is that Mehmood had Tamilian roots from his paternal side and that made his South Indian accent impeccable.
This movie was a spoof of the film Kal, Aaj Aur Kal which starred Prithviraj and Randhir Kapoor. The story goes that when Mehmood got his first break in the film Parvarish in 1958, he was thrilled to be working in a film starring Raj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor however is said to have given him a tough time on the set. Many years later when Kal, Aaj Aur Kal released, Mehmood took a dig at the Kapoor family with a spoof on their film by making Humjoli.
By the time this movie came out, Mehmood was already touted as one of the best comic talents in the industry. He was paired opposite female comedian Shobha Khote in this film. Their chemistry and pairing became such a hit that the two ended up working together in movies such as Love In Tokyo and Ziddi.
This movie, in many ways, set a new trend. It came along when people were really loving Mehmood in comic roles but felt that his roles could be lengthier. The producers were forced to consider this because they saw the potential and the love he had from his fans. Namaste Jee was a full-length comedy movie starring Mehmood and I.S. Johar. The duo went on to work on a bunch of things together.
Directed by Mehmood, Bhoot Bungla is a horror movie made in 1965. R D Burman made his acting debut in this movie. The song ‘Bhoot Bungla’ was sung by Mehmood and R D Burman.
Bombay To Goa
Mehmood made this movie specially to launch his brother Anwar Ali and also for Amitabh Bachchan. Mehmood wanted a tall and lanky actor and was brainstorming with his colleagues when Amitabh entered the room. Mehmood had met him once before and as soon as he saw him knew that Amitabh would be perfect for the role. He also offered the role of Ravi Kumar to the future Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Mehmood garnered a lot of praise for his role as a South Indian butler in this film. He was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in Gumnaam. The film was also known for the song “Hum kale hain toh kya hua dilwale hain” which turned out to be a massive hit for its dancing style.
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