Remembering Mehmood Ali On His 6th Death Anniversary (September 29, 1932 - July 23, 2004)

July 22nd, 2010 - 9:08 pm ICT by Sampurn Wire  

July 22, 2010 (Sampurn Wire): Just imagine this scenario occurring two and half decade down the memory lane. Two colossal giants had met in a tinsel town bash. Yes, for a change unlike other Bollywood stars who rush in and out of a film industry muhurat ceremony, these two greatest actors of their time had stuck together for hours together, choosing their own corner for their jolly banter. In due course, they not only started exchanging notes on the downtrodden trends of the comic and the villiany even of those times, but they had also ended up chiding each other by saying, “Look who’s talking?’and then went on creating a mocking and a mirthful havoc of their own over tall glasses of pure milk tea served by a Man Friday Noor Ali straight out of a tall aluminum tumbler placed on a small burning stove. And these two cine celebrities were none other than the late comedian Mehmood Ali and the late villain Amjad Khan. No, that day they did not play the conversion games between the Hindus and the Muslims present therewith. But then even the die hard and the chronic alcoholics, on that day had vowed on their own to turn over a new leaf. Yes, that day they had all became teetotalers. Unbelievably strange but true!

No doubt funster Mehmood Ali over the years had compelled the cine goers and the critics alike to laugh their guts out and blow away their blues with his onscreen antics, but what about the pathos and the painful layers of his own personal and familial sorrows that lay hidden beneath his jovially exterior facade. No one had bothered to think about it even when he was alive and kicking.

Nevertheless, here’s one more incident which describes how Mehmood Ali used to try his best to veil up his occasional outburst of temper too, unless …. And then God, the almighty, save the poor man’s soul who had dared to scorn Mehmood Ali one fine day. It had happened on the muhurat day of his simultaneously launched last home production movies Dushman Duniya Ka and Nargis (This one got shelved even before it could take off), both being a double launch pad bonanza for one of his son Manzoor Ali. The production controller of the unit Maqsood Khan had appointed a new spot boy named Imraan Ali to serve tea to the entire unit and look after the guests. But unfortunately for him the guy happened to be a staunch Mehmood Ali fan. So the moment he saw his idol, at first he was tongue tied and then later on blurted out his request to the star to redo his Gumnaam act of “Humme Kaale Hain to Kya Hua Dilwale Hain’ albeit with the getup and the lisping of the word “Tandana’ in tandem. Bhaijaan, as he was fondly known, instantly obliged him by adlibbing the full song, even with his respiratory mask on, but how could he re-enact the above-the-knees “Lungi’ and the Chaplinsque moustache act. So he tried his level best to make the guy see reason who, in turn, had just refused to budge. Then after making the humble requests galore he just lost his cool and then the temper that was unleashed later on was really seen to be believed. The entire gathering was stunned and even frightened out of their wits including yours truly. As Mehmood Bhai, by then, had pulled off his mask and was using the most stinging and choicest abusive expletives. Mr. Imraan Ali, needless to add, had just fled from the scene. And then there was an anti-climax too. As two days later, Mehmood Ali had received the appalling news of the boy’s death, purely out of shock. So he had then made it a point to visit the bereaved family. Once there, he had just fallen down on the ground and touched the boy’s feet to beg for his forgiveness and even broke down inconsolably like a kid. Well! That was Mehmood Ali, for one and all.

So this time when I met Mehmood Ali’s kith and kin in Bangalore, his native town, on the eve of his 6th death anniversary not only the above mentioned two, but countless other incidents too had raced through my mind like a kaleidoscope. Yet, I concentrated mainly on the task of compiling their memoirs trying to restructure the fragmented pieces of an enigma called Mehmood Ali. At the end of the day I was left with a feeling of mixed emotions, it’s your turn now.

Right at the outset, when I went to meet all the family members at the Ali Estate farmhouse in Doddaballapur at Yelahanka about fifty kms away from Bangalore, I first accosted his American wife Tracy a.k.a Nancy a.k.a Tahira, who blushingly relapsed into a flashback recollecting her life’s journey with Mehmood Ali from the beginning. “Of course I remember. It was the July 28, 1963, exactly forty seven years ago, when I had come to India for the first time and visited Mahableshwar near Pune to pursue my academic research and he was shooting there for a film called Bhoot Bangla. Frankly speaking, I had not even noticed him but he was just staring or rather gawking at me. That night it seems he had a dream about me. The next morning he went to the sets and declared with a big fanfare that he is going to marry me, that too without even proposing to me. He had even dragged them to the research institute to meet me. Then started the rollercoaster ride of his “Pataoing’ (One Hindi word I had picked up from him) me sessions. He would arrive every morning with flowers and chocolates and say just one sentence “Waves Ishq Sand. You waves, me sand, our ishq okay”. And then after a great effort I came to know the meaning of the word ishq (Love). Besides, it was his co-star Tanuja who had played the cupid act for us. And then finally began our romantic rendezvous which used to take place in the backwaters of the Marine Drive in Bombay now Mumbai. After a long courtship we finally and secretly got married on the August 4, 1964. I was Tracy then he christened me Nancy. Then he came to America to meet my parents and we had a church wedding too on the May 1, 1965. And perhaps you won’t believe this but we had even got married a third time too, but I can’t recollect that date. This time it was according to the Islamic rites when I had converted myself into a Muslim and he had rechristened me as Tahira. What kind of a person or a husband he was? Well! Everyone knows what kind of a person he was. But as a husband, he was the best, I could not have asked for a better one. But he used to take me for a ride too. I did not like his betting and racing habits so sometimes he would listen to me and then sometimes he would make a complete fool of me. Like in Mumbai race course he asked permission to go to the toilet and made me stand right outside the Men’s room. Once inside he exchanged his clothes with the toilet attendant, who was too flabbergasted to react, sneaked out through the bathroom window placed his bets and returned back the same way. Of course, he later confessed to me.”

“That was how honest he was. And in his last days his daily routine in LA was to have de cafe coffee in Borter’s or Mcdonald’s, then a humburger with American pickle for lunch. Then we would go for a long drive or to a shopping Mall. Then back home over a simple dinner he would catch up on Indian movies on home theatre. While Thursday nights were always reserved for Indian programmes which had only weekly relays out there. What more do I say, he was quite normal even a day before he breathed his last and died peacefully in his sleep while I was right next to him.”

While Minu Mumtaz his sister, who had carved a niche for herself much before him as a vamp, dancer and “heroine ki saheli’ kind of roles, had this to say, in a telephonic conversation about him, “Can you imagine that for five long years, since he had left for America, he had never called me up at all. Then just a day before he left us for his heavenly abode he had called me up from there and enquired about my entire family and finally added “Lick (My original name being Mallika he always used to call me Lick) Tu jaldise America aaja, apni shaadi ki CD bhi saath mein lana mujhe dekhna hai aur phir mujhe teri aur teri biryani ki bhi bahut yaad aa rahi hai bus ek aakhri baar kha loonga phir to main chala jaoonga’ and indeed he left us all without having his share of biryani cooked by me. I had even rushed to America from Canada but by then they had already embalmed his body and so I could not even have his aakhri deedar”.

On the other hand, his second son Lucky Ali narrated a brief but a well-cherished and, of course, the last unfulfilled dream of his father, “Dad had always tried to do his best for all of us boys and, of course, for our two sisters Jeanie and Tizzi too. He had even taken pains to establish us in the career of our choices. But you won’t believe this as he always wanted us to be either actors or singers. As he had this belief that acting and singing was just there in us. So he had made Ginny Aur Johnny’ for my sister Jeanie. Then he had made Kunwara Baap for Magdoom Ali (Macky), who is also now no more with us. Allah use jannatnasheen kare (May Allah rest his soul in heaven). And for Manzoor Ali he had launched two films at a time Dushman Duniya Ka and Nargis. The latter got stuck from day one. And finally to launch all of us at one time he had made a film called Ek Baap Chhe Bete. And when all that failed, he had just given it all up by saying “Tum log actor to nahin bane, magar tum sabko singer jaroor banaoonga’. Yes he was very happy with my success as a singer. But he was also planning to launch an original album titled “Ali and His Sons’, featuring all the five brothers including him. But alas! His dream remained unfulfilled”.

While Mehmood Ali’s third son Maasoom Ali, on a hotline from Mumbai, revealed a secret that his father had suffered from a disease called emphysema and it was all due to the negligence of the British Airways staff. Over to him, “Dad was traveling from London to New York by a British Airway’s flight. And suddenly he complained of a chest pain and a suffocation feeling. Yes, that was the first time he was facing difficulty in breathing. So the staff had provided him with an oxygen mask which worsened his condition. On landing in New York they did take him to a hospital, but then he could never ever recover from that respiratory problem. In fact, the entire management and staff had literally requested him to sue the company and get due compensation. But he always turned them down by saying, “My Allah has given me enough and I am happy. And perhaps it was Allah’s wish so why blame anyone’. That’s how Dad was, a person with a very forbearing and a forgiving nature”.

Another son Mansoor Ali disclosed the cunning and the manipulative side, topped with a philanthropist attitude, of Mehmood Ali. “Not that he was short of money ever, but still he used to borrow one dollar from Mom and buy the American roulette lottery worth three million dollars. Then he would come home, hide the lottery and say, “The day I win three million dollars I will keep one million dollar for myself, the second million dollar will be distributed equally amongst all of you and, of course, my entire Ali khandaan. And the last million dollars will take care of the Jr Artistes of my beloved filmy duniya.”

While Mehmood Ali’s youngest daughter Tizzi, who is doing her nursing course in America, had told once to yours truly, with an accented diction, “In short I would say that he was a great father, a terrific human being. Yes, like his fans he made us laugh too, a lot. But I will never share my beautiful memories of him with anyone on this universe, not for anything in this world”.

Next, Mehmood Ali’s favorite daughter Jeanie nee Latifunisa too had echoed her sentiments then, “Yes, these moments are our treasured moments. But I would definitely like to add that as a father what he could not do for us when he was a busy star, he had more than compensated for it in his retirement and last days. Hasna hasana duniya ke liye, gharwalon ke liye bhi tha. But basically he was a very private person. And always very scared to live alone even for a moment! So much so that he would not even dare to go to the loo without tagging along one of my brothers or one of his favorite grandsons Maahir Ali and Maseeha Ali”.

Recalling his grandfather’s last visit to Bangalore Maseeha Ali continued in a lighter vein, “You won’t believe this but Dada never preferred to be left alone even for a single moment and insisted with standing instructions that one member should always be there by his side, round the clock. I and my brother Maahir Ali really considered ourselves lucky that we could look after him when he had come for the last time to Bangalore in August 2002 and was admitted in Wokhardt Hospital’s ICU for at least a fortnight for his prolonged respiratory problem. But within the next two days he had started bringing the entire house down with his regaling wisecracks. Then at any given time a bunch of nurses, surprisingly not the doctors, would always be by his bedside for more entertainment. But after coming back to the farmhouse when he had left for US in September 2002 he had given a last look at his cottage out here and had even stripped it off, of all his personal belongings (Even his awards and trophies were bequeathed to aunt Bilkis Ali, the late Magdoom Ali’s wife) barring the furnishings, and left with a parting shot, “I don’t think I will ever come back alive over here’. At that moment we had taken it lightly as one of his jokes. But never knew that his words would prove to be so prophetic”.

And now lastly be prepared for a shocker from one of his son Manzoor Ali on a hotline from Mumbai, “Okay! Okay! So he was a great man so what? Please don’t take my interview at all and don’t ask me anything about him as I am just not in the mood to say anything at all”. That apart, one of Mehmood Ali’s brothers, Anwar Ali, too was equally rude and refused to say anything about the departed soul.

Yet as they say that every dark cloud has a silver lining even in this case I found not just one but two more. So as a parting shot Mehmood’s eldest son Masood Ali, who looks after the entire estate when everyone is away had this to say about his father, “True to his pranky nature, he was indeed the “Indian Denise the menace’ of the entire Ali family”. And one of his other brother Usman Ali had this prophetic rejoinder for eveyone’s beloved Bhaijaan, “Aameen Summa Aameen” (May Allah allow his soul to go heavenwards and rest in peace). Amen.

–Shaheen Raaj/Sampurn Wire

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