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Everyone or anyone who has known me for the last 50 years knows that I started my career because of that one post card I wrote to Mr K.A. Abbas who I had not known since Adam – Ali Peter John

But, it was Mr Abbas who trained me in how to handle the media of the times and the actors and technicians who worked with him in his unit of Naaya Sansar….

I was extremely lucky to have joined Mr Abbas when he was about to make a film called “Faasla” which was as I later came to know a modern version of Awaara which he had written for his friend, Raj Kapoor.

Mr Abbas (I am writing Mr Abbas because I have certainly realized that I have not paid him the respect and shown him a gratitude I should have for all that he has done for me) had introduced two new actors in the film, Shabana Azmi, the daughter of his friend and the well known poet Kaifi Azmi, who had past out of the FTII with a gold medal in acting, and Raman Khanna whose only ambition was to be “at least one third of Rajesh Khanna” who was the craze of the times. Mr Abbas appointed me as his “literary assistant ” for reasons only he knew best.

When I finally made bold to ask him why he gave me that title, he said, it was because I was the only addicted assistant he had.

My job ranged from carrying the clothes of Shabana Azmi to location and ask her to report for the shooting in time because she knew and everyone knew what would happen if even one of them was late for the shooting.

My job was also to talk to the new hero and write about him in far away magazines for which I was paid twenty five rupees a piece, which was quite a royal amount for me in 1970.

And one of the most important jobs I did and still remember his carrying a five line report written, typed and signed by Mr Abbas in which he had announced that he had signed Shabana azmi to play the leading lady of his new film Faasla.

It was a preview issue for any actor to have his or her name mentioned on the front page of screen “and that was what Shabana Azmi gained when the news about her being signed by Mr Abbas appeared on the front page of India’s most precious and most popular film magazine screen.

She was soon signed by many other film makers and had made it really big and she never mentioned in any of her interviews that she was first signed by Mr Abbas and I was dying to tell the world the truth because I and Mr Abbas and no one else knew that we had got the first news about her being signed by Mr Abbas publish in “Spring” …..Mr Abbas was shooting a courtroom scene at the RK studios for Faasla.

I didn’t know why he asked me to wear a clean shirt when I came to the studio the next day.

I couldn’t say no to him and borrowed a kurta from my waiter /neighbour Krishna and went to the RK studios.

Mr Abbas who was extremely busy took me in to the corner and said, “Ali Sahab, you are going to make your debut as an actor today with dialogue and your first scene is with Shabana azmi “.

He also gave me the line I had to speak to Shabana in court and I was more excited about the launch I would get as a “decent extra ‘ than the money I would receive on anything else.

The time to prove myself as a great actor came just before the tea break and I spoke my line and my friends clapped and at the end of the day I had to stand in a long queue to receive my first salary as an actor, which was twenty five rupees which I spent in the country liquor bar next to the RK studio and had no money to go back home.

But long after Mr Abbas pleaded with me to leave him, I could hear Shabana Azmi telling the media National and International that she had made her a start as an actress with Shyam Benegal’s Ankur and not Faaala made by Mr Abbas.

I waited for my chance to expose Shabana and my chance came at the release of a book which was a collections of articles written by Mr Abbas and called “read, duty and revolution.

Amitabh Bachchan was the chief guest. And Shabana azmi was one of the distinguished guests. I had finally found my opportunity.

Shabana was again telling people that she started her career with Shyam Benegal’s Ankur, when I stood up and said, “a lady is lying.

She didn’t make her debut in Ankur, but in my Guru’s Faasla” and there was silence all around and the lady looked at me as if I had committed a greatest dark film and I was feeding relieved of a burden I was carrying her 50 long years.

I had finally done a small favor to the man whose life has been one big favor to me.

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