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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Aamir, Nasir, Tahir, Tariq, Mansoor, Amjad: Movies, Masti, Modernity, Flashback 6

Aamir, Nasir, Tahir, Tariq, Mansoor, Amjad: Movies, Masti, Modernity, Flashback 6

To remind you, Aamir is indeed Aamir Khan, Amjad is definitely Gabbar Singh, and the triple M above is to acknowledge that it was Akshay Manwani’s biographical book on the cinema of Nasir Hussain that got me delving into the period of about 15 years, when I interacted with the Hussain Khans (first five) and the bare Khan (last, but the most imposing personality). Actually, Mansoor did not use his middle name, so he can be called a ‘Khan’ too! Tahir stands for Nasir’s (younger) brother, Tahir Hussain.

Nasir Hussain (1931-2002) was already a in my favourites list much before I met him. Now, the story of my interactions with him is picked-up from the last paragraph of Flashback No. 5.

Tariq did not have a role in Anamika, but he was to act in the two forthcoming films made by his two uncles: Zakhmee (Tahir) and Hum Kiseese Kum Naheen (Nasir). Given that both YKB and Anamika (to a lesser extent) were box office boosters, and that I had also been called to get my ‘crowd’ to appear in films like Bobby and Agent Vinod, would this ‘crowd-puller’ (I am getting egotistic) be far behind? Haven’t you heard the Zakhmee, ‘Nothing is impossible?’

Zakhmee tapped the ‘three heroes’ formula, as did HKKN. After Madhosh, with Phir Janam Lenge Hum (small budget Hindi Gujarati bi-lingual) and Zakhmee, Tahir Hussain moved on from RDB, to a barely out of his teens, Bappi Lahiri. Bappi called Kishore Kumar ‘Mama’ (maternal uncle), and his preference for the singer was well-known. The only other singer who was naturally expected on the list when Bappi Lahiri was composing music for a film was Bappi himself. I met Bappi in TahirSaahab’s office, along with his illustrious father, Aparesh. We become acquaintances, and I often visited their home, a bare two kilometres from mine. Aparesh’s composition, ‘Jai RadheyShyam’, rendered by Mukesh, from a little-known film called Netaji Subhashchandra Bose, was gem of a bhajan (Hindu devotional number).

One song in Zakhmee was to be picturised on Rakesh Roshan, Tariq Hussain Khan and Reena Roy. In an attempt to make it stand out, Tahir asked me to get him an all female orchestra team. There was one beat group that I remember that had made some headlines then, and Tahir has probably seen/heard them/of them. The song was called, “Nothing is impossible,” and it had a racy, dance beat. Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar had done the playback, and, even on first hearing, it was decidedly a chart-mover.

A city-wide search was launched, to find six girls, in their late-teens or early 20s, who could at least pretend to play Western musical instruments, swig to the mood, look good and be willing to don ‘glamorous’ (read ‘short’) costumes, not to mention attend shooting for 2-5 days, for a not-too-grand pay packet. How I found them is another story, but find them... I did! Tahir Hussain, (Marathi) director Raja Thakur and Tariq were mighty pleased. I guess we went with the attributed-to-Napoleon quote, “The word impossible is not to be found in my dictionary.” ‘Nothing is impossible’ was a rocking experience, though Bappi used Rafi’s voice only very, very, rarely.

By this time, my reputation had travelled across Mumbai’s filmdom. Calls came from RK Films (Bobby), Subodh Mukerji Productions (Mr. Romeo), Rajshri Productions (Agent Vinod), Navketan (Bullet), and more. What had begun as a friendly favour now became a paying (albeit modestly) proposition. There came a time when I had to say “No” because dates clashed, or the producers weren’t willing to pay much or because the girls and boys were not willing. Many for them were students, and this was not a profession for them. The film industry had just about begun to emerge from the label of a vice racket, and get some recognition, as a regular industry.

Junior Artistes and Dancers, members of their respective associations and labour unions, began to perceive me as a threat to their livelihood, and I had to face some awkward moments. Junior Artistes Suppliers had to take upon themselves to persuade the unions to allow these exceptions as a one off, in return for a certain number of the members getting placements too. In some instances, the Suppliers approached me directly, and even made temporary membership cards for the group called Siraj Associates, to prevent any untoward incident. Amidst this scenario, Nasir Hussain was planning the song-dance-massive crowd-disco-club medley, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, composed by Rahul Dev Burman and sung by Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle and Pancham (RDB) himself, to end all medleys. His film was titled Hum Kiseese Kum Naheen.

“I want all of Yaadon Ki Baaraat, and more,” he declared.

I guessed what was coming. “How many?”  

“As close to one thousand as you can get,” came the reply. I gulped.

“There is a dance competition. Chintoo (Rishi Kapoor) and Tariq are the main combatants. I am introducing a new girl, a college student called Sunita Kulkarni (K.C. College, a sister concern of National). We have re-named her Kaajal Kiron. Both love her, but she taunts Tariq and shows her preference for Chintoo, an impersonator.

“From a swinging dance competition, we move to a sad song, by Tariq. Amjad Khan, our main villain, in disguise is watching secretly, as is Sanjana. Get me 400-500 girls and an equal number of boys. I need a fabulous male dancer to compete with Chintoo, and lose, obviously. Oh! I need panel of three judges too. You will play the main judge. Get me two more. You will announce the rules of the competition on screen, declare the results at the end and garland the winners. I want it to be the highlight of the film, so don’t let me down.”

I was still swallowing hard.

“This medley will be shot at Filmistan Studios, Goregaon. There’s another song too, it’s a ...kind of ballad for Chintoo, a musical introduction, a solo song, with some chorus. I need an orchestra group for that too, and some 500 crowd. Don’t look so worried. You have done this many times in the last 2-3 years. And I haven’t forgotten what you did for us in YKB. You will be paid well. Now, get moving!”

Munir Khan, a friend, Nasir, Siraj, Tariq and Bhatt

Both song numbers were shot on fabulous, dazzling, even if a little garish, sets. ‘Bachna aye haseeno’ was managed somehow, and you must have seen the razzmatazz a dozen times. But the medley was a back-breaking job. I had to find 900 (another 100 were union members; that made a thousand strong crowd presence) presentable boys and girls, to sit and swing on cue, devise chorus dancing to match the movements on the stage, find two judges (model Vilas Kalgutkar, now an ace photographer, was one find) serve as the Chef Judge myself, find an ace-dancer to match the formidable Rishi Raj Kapoor (we found an incredibly rubber-boned guy named Nazeer), control the proceedings from my position in the middle of the stadium-like set, using a mega-phone, and make sure nobody slips out during breaks, attracting the wrath of the director for a jerk in continuity. Some assignment, this.

To break the monotony of the shooting, which needed several takes for each shot, I made a quip about Amjad Khan’s baby son not being able to recognise his own father, thanks to an elaborate disguise. Not be outdone, Amjad made a rather obscene comment, and yelled it out when I was explaining the rules, on the mike, just before the take. That I found unfair. My aside was just that, an aside, spoken privately. Amjad had made it public. So I went public too. Unlike him, I toned down the double entendre, but the innuendo went home, and the crowd was on my side. A truce was called.

What you saw on screen in the final version was much shorter than what had been shot. To my dismay, as I was announcing the results, and awarding the prizes, a title card saying ‘Intermission’ came up, and obliterated all my lines. The unduly long film had to be trimmed, and these few lines on a ‘nobody’ just had to go, to save some twenty seconds. But some of the opening lines were essential, though here again, when I said “15 seconds to go” the visual moved from me to a clock!

Another littler nugget that I can share with you is that Nazeer’s dancing attracted Choreographer Suresh Bhatt’s awe! “He’s just too good, Siraj. Even Chintoo feels the same. How can he lose to Chintoo? Audiences will not be convinced. We wanted a good dancer, but not so bloody good! Do you have someone else?”

Someone else? Now? In the middle of a shot? Nazeer, a regular disco-goer, was grinning. That was when a filmy solution dawned on me. “Sureshjee, make him fall. He will supposedly sprain his ankle, and Manjeet (Rishi) will get a walk-over.” “Good idea,” chorused both Bhatt and NasirSaahab. Bad idea, felt Nazeer. He just would not fall, naturally, and limp off. And remember, he was to make sure he did not really hurt himself in the bargain.

It appeared contrived because: A. Nasir was not an actor B. He was dancing as good as, if not better than, Rishi, which was something he could be proud of and C. Losing the contest by falling down appeared unpalatable to him. It took some convincing and several retakes, and all was well in the end. What you see in the film is the end product, where the contribution of another Khan must also be acknowledged--Director of Photography, Munir Khan, an amiable man who was always lovingly addressed as “Khan” by Nasir, a Khan himself.

What were the tracks included in the medley? No, I don’t need to tell you that. You know that all the songs in the film were chart-toppers, and I had sensed as much—I could have bet there and then that they would be smash hits. What I will share is with you is that RD was present for part of the picturisation, and readily mingled with us, happily posing for pictures too.

An unexpected but just dessert came my way when my Ustaad (Guru), Ameen Sayani, summoned me to voice the character of Rishi Kapoor, in the radio advertising campaign of HKKN. I had, till then, already represented the character played by Chintoo in films like Bobby and Zehreela Insaan. Bobby was his first film as actor. It was my first film as radio voice. Somehow, I was identified with Rishi, and conveyed the character through voice, with three others in the campaign, including Mr. Sayani himself.

Directly, or indirectly, I was part of some 18 minutes of screen time, and several hours of radio time, although I was seen for less than a minute. 1976-77 proved a good year for Nasir Hussain Films. Hum Kiseese Kum Naheen proved the block-buster of the year, even without any major star in its cast. Without doubt, its real stars were its song and dance numbers. ‘Bachna aye haseeno’ was remixed for Rishi’s son Ranbir Kapoor some 30 years later, in the film with the eponymous name.

One track, ‘Tere liye’, was a clear lift from ABBA’s ‘Mamma mia’ and another, ‘Tum kya jaano’, was reprised from Sholay’s ‘Mehboba’, which in turn, was a plagiarised from Egyptian-Greek singer Demis Roussos’s ‘Say you love me’. However, it was the resurgent Mohammed Rafi, who won the National Award for Best Playback Singer for the dulcet, smooth as silk and heart-rending lamentation, at the same time, ‘Chaand mera dil’. Can you imagine Hum Kiseese Kum Naheen without these numbers?

Coming-up: Flashback 7

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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