Memories Nocturnal melodies Rahul Dev Burman

The man who made us smile …. And guffaw, chortle and cry, too…

Yesterday was the 90th birthday of a man who overcame great difficulties in his personal life, was never quite utilized properly by Bollywood, being typecast to one kind of role, that of a bumbling comic and went on to accept that with élan and pulled off hundreds of these with a fair bit of panache. He went on to make movies where, like Kishore Kumar, he used comedy as a vehicle to drive home a more serious message.

This quote from Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr fits him perfectly like a glove.

A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.

In a prolific career lasting more than half a century , he acted in more than 300 movies and received more than 25 Filmfare nominations. In the early days these were as Best Supporting Actor, till they created a separate category for Best Supporting Actor in a comic role , I suspect due, in a big part, to his efforts.

Mehmood Ali’s father was the famous dancer of stage and films, Mumtaz Ali, who had a troupe of his own. Mehmood actually debuted in the first movie to break the ₹1 Crore barrier in ticket sales in the history of Bollywood, Kismet in the WWII era (which made Ashok Kumar a real superstar who was mobbed everywhere he went), where he acts the role of a young Dadamoni.

He went on to make movies of his own, his very first movie as producer and director was Chhote Nawab, which was also the first movie for R D Burman. Bhoot Bangla, a movie that was also produced and directed by Mehmood naturally had Pancham as composer. This song was actually composed by a collaborative effort between Kishore Kumar and Pancham. I love the song for its upbeat, very positive message and also the pantomime that is an integral part. The legacy of a famous dancer father shows very clearly.

The open chested shirt antedated Salmon Bhai’s antics, the latter only acted as a billboard for a hair remover cream or body shaving razor in his roles.

Mehmood after the debut in Kismet while still a preteen boy, went on to do an assortment of odd jobs, sometimes even selling poultry products and for a time working as a driver for director P. L. Santoshi.

It was an amazing twist of fate that PL Santoshi’s son, Rajkumar Santoshi, actually would later cast him in the cult classic film Andaz Apna Apna, Mehmood’s last known film as an actor.

Mehmood actually taught Meena Kumari how to play table tennis. He married her younger sister Madhu in the early 1950s and became a father of his oldest son Masood, and decided to act to earn a better living starting with a small break (as an adult) as a killer in the classic film C.I.D. in the mid 50s.

He did small, unnoticed roles in films like the peanut seller in Bimal Roy‘s classic Do Bigha Zameen and the villainous brother of the protagonist in Guru Dutt‘s classic Pyaasa. Later he used a unique type of Urdu/Hyderabadi Hindi. Mehmood knew exactly how to tickle the audience’s funny bone. He was really good at the side hero’s role, and would help him out of sticky situations with his street-smart ways. Many of Mehmood’s film songs were sung by Manna Dey. He enjoyed very fruitful partnerships with Shubha Khote and later, Aruna Irani, who was actually the female lead in Bombay to Goa, a film he produced and co-directed with S Ramanathan. It is one of the earliest roles as male lead (if you can call it that with Mehmood hogging the meatiest role by far) for a struggling Amitabh Bachchan.

A man who made hundreds of millions laugh, had a sad side to him, too and sadly died at a relatively young age in faraway Dunmore, Pennsylvania.

Here’s to you, Mehmood, you lit up many an afternoon and evening for me with your zany, utterly predictable funniness.

Stay happy and healthy, folks as I look forward to a rendezvous over the weekend.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

10 replies on “The man who made us smile …. And guffaw, chortle and cry, too…”

Indeed….Mehmood was a great actor…..He should have got more variety of roles to show his acting skills…..Who can forget a famous scene from movie Pyaar Kiya ja where Mehmood narrates a horror story to Omprakash….😀😀
He has spread great amount of smiles on huge amount of faces….
Very nice song with interesting commentary as usual by you Aniruddha sir….Thanks for the wonderful share as usual with introduction to new words for me….

Liked by 1 person

You made me too Nostalgic!
This song in *Bhoot Bungalow* was shot in our colony,*Gandhi Nagar,Bandra (E), Mumbai* in the year 1964 when we were residing there.I was studying in *F.Y.Sc., in Ruia College* & my younger brother was studying in 7th class in *King George High School*.
*Mehmood* & his entire unit used to arrive at about 8.00 pm every night & the sound track used to play for hours together.The buildings that you see at the background are the buildings in our colony & out of them one is *C-21* in which we used to stay on the top floor.All of us had learnt the song (along with the interlude) by heart.

*Thanks a lot for taking me down the memory lane.*🙏🙏

Liked by 1 person

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