Someone to my delight sent an anonymous poem ‘Bandra Meri Jann’ to me on WhatsApp. The amateurish poem took me on a trek to the Carter Road, the Linking Road, the Pali Hill and Bandstand of the city of dreams. It made me relish the soothing breeze blowing along the Carter Road, relive the experiences of the pageant of buzzing street Bazars, high profile designer boutiques, gaudy and stylish shoes and trendy fashion of the Linking Road, and glamour, romances and freedom of the Bandstand. Nonetheless, the poem also took me on an odyssey to the teenage days- full of fancies, fantasies, and dreams when some of my friends sitting on Hassan Khar’s shopfront daydreamed about making it to the film world.
Truly, those were simple nevertheless beautiful days. The films were the ultimate thing we thought and talked about, and the big sin we committed was watching a film in a neighborhood cinema hall without permission from our mothers. Moreover, sticking pictures of film actors and actress on the backside of the door of our reading rooms was another aberration that we indulged in, to the annoyance of our parents. Scissoring pictures of our favorite actors and actress from magazines the Filmfare and the picture post were our best pastime. The scenes, songs, and dialogues of the film that we watched in Shiraz Cinema lived with us for days, to the extent of fixation. Some friends got an overdose of films and started imagining getting to the stardom of the matinee world. Often, some films overawed a couple of my friends so hugely as if possessed by genies and no exorcist, as reputed as Razak Gour of Nowhatta could cast out the spirits of films from them. Looking into the mirror, posing before it and comparing to one or other film actor on a barbers shop at one of the roundabouts in our Mohalla Khawaja Bazar had become the best pursuit for many of us. For oiling his hair profusely with mustard oil to the level of oil driblets cascading down his face like highland brooks one of my friends was nicknamed as “Talwar-I-Teel.” Before leaving to school he at least visited barbers shop twice for looking in the mirror and combing his hair in Dilip Kumar or Dev Anand style – he would often ask youngest of the three barbers to comment on his hairstyle- which one of the two stars it resembled. Sitting on a shopfront, like many other teenage cine-goers of the Mohalla, he often talked about trying his luck in Bombay. Those days one would often hear stories about boys’ crossing over to Pakistan out of adoration for the newborn country or fleeing to Bombay for trying their luck in films. Most of the boys’ months later returned from Film-Nagari to home penniless and in tatters.
Those days, Shama, a film and literary magazine was very popular, many boys read it as religiously as their textbooks and parroted addresses and date of births of film actors and actresses as good as their lessons. I have no idea if girls like boys also dreamt of becoming an actress. Nonetheless, boys often talked about a very pretty girl nicknamed cuckoo, who made herself awkwardly distinct by walking in the middle of the road for boarding the Girl College that she was going to try her luck in Bombay.
It was those days that I for the first time heard the words like Palli Hill and Bandra Bandstand. Then, in wildest of my dreams, I had not thought about getting a posting in Bombay, knowing some top actors, producers, eminent film writers and meeting boys visiting the metropolitan with dreams of becoming actors- ending up in a lurch. Moreover, attending some errand jobs in the much sought after places in the Bandra.
One winter, a group of legislators on tour to the Metropolitan wanted to visit some film studio for watching film shooting. The same was arranged at Ramanand Sagar’s studio. While conducting them to a film studio, one of the legislators, with child’s smile on his face asked me, if he did not resemble Raj Kumar – and if I could get a role for him in some film. It excited him when I told him that B. R. Chopra had offered his boss a lead role in a film and casting Salam Agha, of nikah film fame against him.
Stories of some boys dreaming of becoming film actors and ending up in tatters continue to be part of my memory. One night, the chief executive rang me up, informed me that son of an MLA had ‘fled to Bombay, and asked me to search him out. Three to four days later the Bombay police found him in very bad shape at an ‘ugly place.’ One fine morning, in my Chicago building office at about 11 AM, a semi famished shabbily dressed boy from North Kashmir entered in my chamber. Chasing his dream of becoming an actor, he had landed at the Bandra Bandstand with some good money, which he perhaps he had stolen from his mother. I put him on a job for three months, in my office then sent him back to home with some money in his pocket. Seven years later perhaps in 1991, I saw him in different attire and metamorphosed demeanor- wearing a long shirt touching his knees, breeches six inches above his ankles, long flowing beard, antimony in his eyes and a cotton bag slinging from his shoulder. I was surprised to see my aspiring ‘film actor’ in a changed get up. He told me that he was engaged in “DAWAT O TABLIGH & ISLAH” and was looking after Darasgah in North Kashmir.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist