Kamal Amrohi’s younger son Tajdar Amrohi fondly remembers his Father the Legendary Kamal Amrohi
The proud son Tajdar Amrohi feels injustice has been done to his father Kamal Amrohi’s memory. “It pains me to say this.Both the film industry and the government of India never gave him his due recognition.My father learnt to write from his mother’s womb.Iss aadmine likhna apni maa ki doodh peekar sikha. He never assisted anyone. At age 17 he wrote Pukar and became a big-name writer in Hindi cinema. It was his elder brother who was 18 years his senior who was instrumental in instilling discipline in my father who was very mischievous as a child.My father was a pioneer and a trendsetter. In Mahal he brought the suspense genre to Indian cinema.And if in Mahal my father had not given Lata Mangeshkar the song Aayega aanewala(in which her name was in the credits of the film) would the legend called Lata Mangeshkar have happened? Main unhein bahot izzat deta hoon . I call her LataBaaji .She is is like my mother.The venus of Indian cinema Madhubala was given her legendary aura in my father’s Mahal. Do you know the studio Bombay Talkies which was on verge of bankruptcy who produced Mahal didn’t want to sign Madhubala. They wanted Suraiya who was a big heroine at that time.But my father insisted on Madhubala.And my father’s Daera was the first arthouse film of India even before Satyajit Ray made Pather Panchali. But Bengal knows how to honour their artistes to the extent that they make gods out of them, as though no other artiste stands up to the Bengali stalwarts.And his last film as director Razia Sultan is the most talked-about flop in the history of Indian cinema. Even the most renowned poets who worked in my father’s film allowed him to change words and lines. They knew there were poets and writers, and then there was Kamal Amrohi.’”
Speaking about Kamal Amrohi’s most celebrated film Pakeezah Tajdar Amrohi , the younger son of the great Kamal Amrohi feels the credit for the completion of the monumental classic must go to him.
Says Tajdar “Agar main na hota toh Pakeezah shayad ban nahi paati. A lot of people have taken credit for the film finally being completed. The truth is Choti Ammi loved me unconditionally and illimitably. She ironed out her differences with my father and completed the film because of her love for me.People may say I am indulging in self-glorification. But the truth is, Pakeezah would not have been completed were it notf for me. There is a false belief that my father Kamal Amrohi had divorced my Choti Ammi , Meena Kumari. Please get this straight: THEY WERE NEVER DIVORCED. Did anyone see them getting divorced? This was just a rumour spread by his ill-wishers. They only lived apart when they had differences. These same ill-wishers have spread the rumour that Baba(dad) used to beat up Choti Ammi. Arrey, he was so kind-hearted he couldn’t hurt a fly. The only time he slapped me in my my entire life was when I was rude to a cook in our family.”
Tajdar who witnessed the film’s making says, “Kya main nahin hota toh film poori ho paati?Unlike the other heroine-oriented classic Mother India, Pakeezah cannot be made again. And let me tell you something truly surprising. The third acknowledged classic of Indian cinema Mughal-e-Azam couldn’t have been possible without my father . He wrote 90 percent of the dialogues. Agar likhi nahin jaati toh Mughal-e-Azam banti kaise?…Pakeezah took 17 years to complete and not only because my father and Choti Amma had differences. This is the same film whose music today is considered perhaps the best ever in a Hindi film.And yet, during that time distributors insisted that the music of Pakeezah be changed. Baba refused arguing it would be injustice to the music composer Ghulam Mohamed who was dead.”
About the separation between Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari ,Tajdar reveals, “Choti Ammi’s ears had been poisoned against my father.I was in boarding school at Dehra Doonwhen they separated. I know the people responsible for their rift. But I don’t want to name them.Maybe some say after I die.She regretted the separation.The question was, how to patch up without losing face? Image was a big thing for the stars of yester-years. Choti Ammi was no exception.But I was very hurt by her departure. I left Mumbai to study in Pune. Once I was home in Mumbai for a vacation I was sitting in Baba’s office when there was a call from ChotiAmmi’s stepsister Shama saying Choti Amma was very ill and that she wanted to meet me. I refused to talk to Shama. I was very upset with Choti Ammi.. How dare she leave home without telling me?! She was angry with Baba, not me. What happened to our bonding? Later I got to know that all the reports of Baba beating her up, divorcing her were wrong. Anyway Baba urged me to go and see her.”
The shooting of Pakeezah which has been stalled due to the differences between KamalAmrohi and Meena Kumari was resumed, thanks to Tajdar’s intervention.
Says Tajdar, “With due respects music composer Khayyam and Sunil Dutt Saab had tried to persuade her to resume the shooting.The shooting resumed with the song Mausam haiaashiqana at Filmalaya studio with Choti Ammi in a lungi.She was seriously ill.At the premiere of Pakeezah at Maratha Mandir I remember holding her hugging her kissing her…Onlookers wondered who this 5 feet 11 inch tall admirer of the mythical Meena Kumari was. ‘Yeh kaunaashiq hai jo unke shauhar ke saamne mohabbat jataa raha hai?’ Throughout the 3 and a half hour film Choti Ammi sat clutching Baba’s hand so hard that her nails sank into his skin. But not once did my father complain of the pain. Shayaad unhe pataa ttha woh haath jald hi hamesha ke liye chootne wali hai.”
Meena Kumari died soon after the release of Pakeezah.
Sighing and introspecting in a swirl of emotions Tajdar says, “People believe Pakeezahbecame a hit because Meena Kumari passed away. That’s false. Pakeezah was released on 4 February 1972. Choti Ammi died on 31 March 1972. The film was going full from Day 1.If the death of a leading man or leading lady can make a film successful then every producer would pray for such a thing to happen.”
Says the proud son, “Baba passed away 21 years ago and Choti Ammi went 41 years ago. But they continue to live in people’s minds. I’d say Choti Ammi’s best most successful films came after she married Baba.Before marriage she worked in mythologicals. It was the advent of Kamal Amrohi in her life that brought on the best phase of her career.It is believed that Baba went and whisked Choti Ammi away from her home for marriage. Not so. It was ChotiAmmi who came to Baba’s home. And let me tell you,they fell in love without meeting secretly. During those days lovers from the film industry met in dark corners of studios. Not my parents.Their love blossomed on the phone. His voice was magnetic that she fell in love with him. He never kept her in the dark about his first wife and three children.And do you know what was their main bone of contention? Not that my Baba took all her money. But that she never touched a penny of her earnings no matter how urgently he needed funds.He reminded her, ‘Mere paise tumhare paise hain, lekin tumhare paise mere nahin hain.’ He also made it it clear that he’d never be seen on the roads in her car , nor would she be seen commuting with any of her male co-stars.None of her co-stars was allowed in her makeup room and she had to be back home at 6 pm. Tell me, where these spousal demands unreasonable? People made her seem like a bird in a golden cage.Completely baseless. It wasn’t as if we never went out in the evening.Baba, Choti Ammi and I had fun times watching Hollywood films.While coming back she’d stop at the traffic lights, buy her favourite mogra flowers bring them home and place them all over our home. I can still smell the fragrance of those flowers.”