“Comedy” in India is more or less synonymous with Mehmood. The actor, singer and filmmaker was most recognisable in his humorous roles, especially with his accurate grasp of the Hyderabadi dialect which he used to great comic effect. But the versatile artist who debuted as a child artist in Kismet (1943) was also lauded for his touching portrayal of a rickshaw-puller entrusted with a polio-afflicted child in Kunwara Baap (1974).
Mehmood Ali was born on this day in 1932. The responsibility of taking care of his large family fell upon Mehmood at an early age, who supported them by doing odd jobs, before taking up acting as a career.
In an interview given to Filmfare in 2015, Mehmood’s younger brother, Anwar Ali spoke of the impishness that came to him naturally, his caring nature and the sway he held over the industry, in spite of rarely having played the male lead.
“The earliest memory of Bhaijaan that comes to mind is the time when my father (actor/dancer Mumtaz Ali) would give me `10 as pocket money and Bhaijaan would talk me into giving them to him. “Throw it! It’s just paper,” he’d urge. He’d lure me with one paisa and two paisa coins saying, “This is real money!” I’d happily give him the notes and run out to buy Parry sweets, the coins jingling in my pocket!”
About Mehmood the star, Anwar Ali said,
“If the end credits of the film read, ‘And Mehmood’, distributors would pounce to buy it. He was paid more than heroes, around seven and a half lakhs for 14 days of shooting. Once Gregory Peck was in Mumbai and met Bhaijaan at Mehboob Studio. He couldn’t help remark, “You’re too handsome for a comedian!””
Mehmood was as renowned for his extravagant life as he was for his impeccable comic timing:
“He gifted me a Jaguar. My girlfriends loved me because I drove that. So did Amitabh’s (Bachchan) girlfriends because he drove it too” (reportedly Bachchan received support from Mehmood during the early years of his struggle)!
But this was tempered with a magnanimity scarcely seen even in the best placed of people:
“But it was never about ‘I, me, myself’. Once on returning from a trip abroad, he got so many gifts for everyone that they had to be brought home in a tempo. These included Seiko watches for the liftman, the watchman and even the postman!”
On his 84th birth anniversary, we bring to you a few of Mehmood’s many hilarious moments. Sit back and laugh your mid-week fatigue away!
1. Pyaar Kiye Jaa (1966)
2. Padosan (1968)
3. Bombay To Goa (1972)
4. Gumnaam (1965)
5. Andaaz Apna Apna (1994)
Our respects to the inimitable artiste!
Title image: pandolin
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