News & Interviews

“He Made Me Sing For The One  & Only Time In My Life,”  Saira Banu On Her Amazing rapport with Filmmaker Mohan Kumar.

Saira Banu

The prolific filmmaker  Mohan  Kumar  who passed away quietly this week, made two of  his most important films with Saira Banu.

Sairaji takes time  off  to share her amazing memories of working with Mohan Kumar; “We used to call him Kumar Saab. Together with that other prolific filmmaker J Om Prakash he formed a team of filmmakers who gave us blockbuster after  blockbuster all through the 1960s and 70s. I did  one  my earliest film Ayee Milan  Ki Bela(AMKB) with  Kumar Saab. This was  right  after my first film Junglee and I was a newcomer shooting with Rajendra Kumarji and Dharmendraji.The shooting in Kashmir was among  the  most memorable  times I’ve gone through as an actress. There we were at  the Srinagar Palace in  the  beautiful Valley, surrounded by mountains and the lake.We would look out of the window  of  our hotel and see clouds hanging down. It was paradise!  We would shoot in this paradise every day.And on many days we couldn’t because of the weather. Kumar Saab who was jovial and fun-loving would look out if the window and say, ‘Today the cloud factory is in full operation. No shooting today.’ He would then organize indoor games for all of us. Those were  days of ties that went much beyond the shooting of a film…I was there with my mother .Everyone called her Aapaji. Her paaya(dessert) was such  a  favourite that she  made it in the kitchen of the hotel in  Kashmir for everybody…Kumar Saab loved good food and good music. I must tell you about  one  incident that happened  during the shooting…Kumar Saab came to me and said that that a valet on the floor where I stayed in the hotel claimed  I had a twin sister staying with me.  In  his innocence the valet thought that the Saira in makeup and the  Saira without makeup(because  that’s how I would  be all day when we were confined  in the hotel during inclement  weather) were two different  people..Such was the  innocence  during those days…I remember in  Ayee Milan Ki Bela I had to perform  a classical dance  for the title song.I couldn’t dance to save my life. To equip myself for the  dance in this film I took the help of one of  Kathak’s most accomplished exponents  Roshan Kumari and slogged day and night to  get the steps night.When I finally performed the number  everyone on the sets including  our director Kumar Saab was stunned. Manmohan Desai with  whom  I had just done  a  film Bluff Master was shooting on the adjacent  set. He came to watch me dance. He couldn’t believe his eyes because for his film I couldn’t dance to save my life.”

If Mohan Kumar made Sairaji dance in Ayee Milan Ki Bela, he persuaded  her to sing for the second  film they  did together.

Recalls Sairaji, “It was  Aman in  1967 a  very important film that we shot in Japan. And  I did sing , and that too with the one  and only Mohd Rafi Saab. The song was..(Sairaji sings)….Aaj ki raat yeh kaise raat ki humko neend nahin aati…. I must tell  you, I always craved to  sing but was too shy to do so. My  grandmother Shahmshad Begum was an  accomplished  classical  singer.And I’d often urge her to teach me. She would demand that I sit and practice  singing with her, which I  never did. But I finally did  sing in  Mohan KumarSaab’s Aman with Rafi Saab. Rafi Saab called me Beta and put me completely at ease before the mike.That’s how  it happened. Everything about Aman  was unique. We did the mahuraton  the airport and we released a flight  of pigeons  in the air for the mahurat shot. We shot the film in Japan.And we’d travel from  city to  city in the same bus  together singing, eating, laughing, joking….Such was the camaraderie that existed among us those days….Would  you believe it Mohan Kumar Saab maintained his relations with Yusuf Saab and I until last year.Every year on   our birthdays and for  any festive occasion  he would come home with two garlands for us and have biryani before leaving. For a  year we hadn’t seen  MohanKumar Saab and I kept asking everyone what happened  to him. Now he’s gone. I will always remember him as generous, kind, jovial easygoing and  fun person.”

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