Glimpses of 'Mother India' Premiere: Honoring Mehboob Khan's Legacy

My friend and Editor and Publisher of Mayapuri, Mr. P.K. Bajaj ji has been a great source of relief for me at all times but he has been more of a ray of inspiration for me during the virus attack... Ali Peter John

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Honoring Mehboob Khan's Legacy
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My friend and the Editor and Publisher of Mayapuri, Mr. P.K. Bajaj has been a great source of relief for me at all times but more so during the virus attack he has been a ray of inspiration for me and he shown no signs of letting up and one of the best things Mr. Bajaj does is send me videos that remind me of other times, other eras and other great and unforgettable names that have been etched in the pages of history.

Birthday Special Mehboob Khan The past is gone, it never comes back again. Some glimpses of the premiere of 'Mother India'

It is in continuation of his mind-blowing videos that Mr. Bajaj sent me an old video capturing the first show of Mehboob Khan's magnum opus, 'Mother India'. I had heard personal reports about the show from eminent names like Raj Kumar, and Rajendra Kumar (he made his major debut in the film and Sunil Dutt played the lead roles). I had also heard the great Dilip Kumar speak about it and if there was one person who gave me a unique narration about it, it was Mr. Chimkant Gandhi who was Mehboob Khan's right-hand man and who was responsible for bringing three newcomers, Raj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, and Sunil Dutt, into the film's cast. I had seen a similar video about the premiere a few years back but this time when I watched it repeatedly I had tears in my eyes of both joy and a strange sadness. It settled in my heart, which brought me back to my feelings about the video, the film, and the people involved in the making of the film.

I know there might be many others who might have seen this video, but I was watching it with my heart's eyes. The video opens with a scene outside Liberty Cinema in South Mumbai, a posh theatre that has many times hosted premieres of some of the best movies, the last being Yash Chopra's last films and Sooraj Barjatya's first few films.

The scene at Liberty opens with a large crowd of men and women discussing the rates of tickets at the booking counter and the rates in the black market. Through the voices, one can hear that tickets were being sold in the black market for Rs 50 and Rs 100 and people still wanted to watch the film which was highly publicized even months before its release and during the promotions. There was a true story of how Nargis was trapped in a fire and how the young actor Sunil Dutt saved her by risking his life this incendiary scene ignited the flame of love and respect between them and it led to one of the most controversial and yet successful marriages of the country.

Back to the premiere scene at Liberty. The cars of the big stars drove in the opposite lanes of Liberty and the excitement among the crowd grew with the arrival of each star.

Nimmi, who rose to fame with her stupendous success with 'Barsaat', was the first star to arrive at the gate, 'Barsaat' being her first film in which she was first introduced by Raj Kapoor who had seen her only once on the sets of Mehboob Khan's 'Andaz' and cast her without answering many questions and Raj Kapoor's opinion about her has stood the test of time. Nimmi was surrounded by her new fans but she was seen successfully making her way to the entrance of Liberty.

After Nimmi, two good friends and talented actresses, Nadira and Shammi arrived at Liberty. Both were wearing white saris which was against their image in their films. They were followed by Shobhana Samarth, the actress who was playing Sita in Vijay Bhatt's film 'Ram Rajya'. She was overwhelmed with all the respect she was getting because of her image as Maa Sita. And she was allowed to go inside peacefully.

Then the earth, sky, moon, sun and all that is alive, applaud together when Lata Mangeshkar comes walking in with her head covered by her pallu and a god-like glow on her face. And then when Mohammed Rafi humbly comes towards the entrance, it seems heaven and earth have come together to catch a glimpse of God's favorite creations. He has that heaven which is clearly visible on his face even though he is on this earth.

The brigade of male stars moves in headed by Sohrab Modi followed by Fearless Nadia. She is a stark contrast to her vivacious image on screen. The brigade continues and moves in behind Mehboob Khan, the man behind the magnum-opus with a radiant smile of confidence who is surprised when hundreds of his fans chant his banner motto “Muddai Lakh Chahe To Kya Hota Hai, Wahi Hota Hai Jo Manjoor Khuda Hota Hai” and Mehboob has a smile of triumph and determination on his face and walks in.

Following Mehboob Khan is others like the legendary actors Sheikh Mukhtar, Yakub, Kanhaiyalal, Rajendra Kumar, and then Raaj Kumar. For both of them, it was their first experience of what stardom meant and a kind of prophecy about where and how high they would reach as a star, and their fans could be heard shouting 'Hai' there.

However, time stops and hearts skip a beat when the dashing Dilip Kumar arrives dressed in a sharp skin suit and the women in the crowd go crazy on seeing him and it is a sight similar to the scene when Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh Khan makes their presence felt at any public or private occasion. This is one reason why Dilip Kumar is always called the 'first star among all stars'.

The crowd outside kept growing and people kept shouting and crying in joy and refused to leave their seats till the show was over when all the celebrities who had gone in and come out were all delighted to have seen such a great film as 'Mother India' and asked everyone around to watch the film again and again. This was the story of the spectacular success of one of the biggest films ever made in India.

As I watched this rare video, I wondered where all those premieres and exclusive shows had gone. What was once considered a prestige issue is now considered a scary issue, especially after the Mumbai bomb blasts and the blatant physical attacks on celebrities like Yash Chopra, Rakesh Roshan, Gulshan Kumar, and Bhargava. And then there were no grand premieres or parties inside five-star and other hotels or even in the open. Filmmaking used to be so much fun and excitement earlier. And now it is a dangerous business carried out in an atmosphere of suspicion and fear.

Will the past come back again? Ask yourself and tell me  



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