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Even if you are only a casual fan of Bollywood, you must get a copy of this fabulous book by Todd Stadman! Funky Bollywood!
This is no dry, dull academic essay (of which there are way too many of out there already), instead you will find a witty, sharp, and fun filled read awaiting you as Todd discusses a wide range of 1970s Hindi (and regional) action flicks and the people who made them.
Not only is it a fun read, but it is illustrated with tons of gorgeous photos, posters, and advertising memorabilia!
Funky Bollywood is just as colorful as the decade it covers, and you will apprecaited the author’s genuine love for these films. Get your copy of Funky Bollywood, you will not be disappointed! Available at Amazon.com. Just follow the link: Funky Bollywood at Amazon.com
We all know Mahipal from his dozens of mythologicals, fantasies, stunt films, and thrillers, but did you know he also made socials? Well, here is proof! Mahipal starred opposite Nigar Sultana and Roopmala in the 1955 drama MADHUR MILAN.
Possibly the film didn’t do well at the box office. It appears to be the only credit for its director, K.G. Punwani, and it certainly did nothing to turn around Mahipal’s career as a B-film artist. But that’s OK, I think we all preferred Mahipal in his action avatar, anyhow!
Born in Ahmedabad, Ajaz Khan for a time labored as a taxi driver in New York City, while longing to work as an actor. Upon his return to India, he pursued his thespian dream, becoming a familiar face on television with roles in Karam Apna Apna, Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka, Rahen Tera Ashirwad, and Kahani Hamare Mahabharat Ki. Ajaz gained further exposure on reality television when he was crowned winner of Zoom TV’s Bollywood Club. And as a “wild card” entrant on season 7 of the very popular show Bigg Boss he gained even more fans and suddenly became a household name. Along the way, he had supporting roles in several feature films including Ek…The Power of One (2009) starring Bobby Deol, the Ramsey Brothers’ comedy/thriller Bachao…Inside Bhoot Hai (2010), Ram Gopal Varma’s Rakta Charitra (2010), as well as several well received Telegu language films opposite the likes of Mahesh Babu, Ram Charan, and Nithiin. Back in Bollywood, Ajaz had the opportunity to work with living legends Shatrughan Singha in Rakhta Charitra 2 (2010), Naseeruddin Shah in Allah Ke Banday (2010), and Amitabh Bachchan in Bbuddah…Hoga Terra Baap (2011) . Having shown his stuff in character and negative parts, he earned a starring role in a low-budget drama titled The World of Fashion (2011), a movie he admits he would just as soon forget. But, as unremarkable as the film may have been, Ajaz deserves every bit of praise for giving an impressive performance and for showing that he had what it takes play a hero.
Fast forward a few years, and a lead role in Lakeer ka Fakeer (2013) let his star truly shine. This hard hitting film shows how the actions of Mumbai’s underworld affects the lives of everyday people, and Ajaz received very positive reviews from critics and viewers alike. Lakeer ka Fakeer paved the way for lead roles in Ya Rab (2014) and the upcoming releases Love Day and I Love Dubai. Currently he is filming for Puri Jagannadh’s Telugu language feature Rogue. No doubt, we will be seeing a lot of Ajaz Khan in the near future.
Ajaz is known to be outspoken and blunt, but if you follow him on Facebook or Twitter then you already know that he also shows a great sense of humor, has a heartwarming devotion to his young son, and a gratefulness for those who have stuck by him through thick and thin. As a fan, I am delighted that he took the time to chat with me about his career; and as a film journalist, it is a pleasure to spread the word to English speaking audiences about this very talented personality. Hollywood, take note!
Mike Barnum: Your family had no connection to show business, so how did your interest in such a career come about?
Ajaz Khan: I did some plays in school and people said I was good. Then, when I grew up I did an ad for a local 5 Star hotel. People liked my face and I was told I should go to Bombay and try my luck. But my family was against it. I was from a middle class family and they did not want to support me as Bombay is expensive and we didn’t have a lot of money. But, I decided that if I don’t take a chance and face the risk, I cannot do anything. I came to Bombay and I tried my luck. I got my start in television and did several shows. I got [roles in] Karam Apna Apna and Kya Hoga Nimmoka. Again, after that, I have no work, so I am in a downer. But I did not give up. Along came the reality show called Bollywood Club on Zoom TV. I won that show and then I got a part in Ram Gopal Varma’s film Rakhta Charitra along with one other film, plus a chance to work with fashion designer Vishal Kapoor at the PANACHE Runway show in Kathmandu, as a showstopper along with Zarine Khan. So, I got very, very big chances from there on and I became a little bit known.
MB: Your popularity soared with your entry into the competition show Bigg Boss [For you non-Indian’s reading this, Bigg Boss is similar to Big Brother, except that the contestants are all celebrities.]
AK: After Bigg Boss, everything is history. People loved me so much. My honesty, my upfronting, my confidence. They liked it, and they loved me, and I am so thankful to my friends and to people who made me what I am.
MB: Two of your most impressive roles are in Lakeer ka Fakeer and Ya Rab.
AK: Working in Lakeer ka Fakeer and in Ya Rab were great experiences. These are my two solo hero films. So these were my first time. I did Lakeer ka Fakeer all on location. It was realistic cinema and I learned a lot. Then I got Ya Rab with actor Vikram Singh. It was written by Ikram Akhatar who is a very big writer, and director Mahesh Bhatt promoted it. And that was a very good experience to work with Manzar Sehbai, who is a known actor from Pakistan. The experience was mind-blowing and I learned from both films that I can take the responsibility of playing the protagonist and justify the character.
MB: And both roles are very different.
AK: In Lakeer Ka Fakeer I am playing someone who is a normal middle class guy named Fakeer Mohammad, who has a dream to really be something in life. In small slums, the dreams are small, but he dreams to drive taxi in Dubai. And he has a lot of problems because of the area that he lives in, which is notorious for crime. But the police system, politicians, and gangsters, they exploit him and make him into something else. A very different character from who I play in Ya Rab where I am an ACP officer named Rann Vijay Singh. He is from a rich family, very different guy from Fakeer, you know. Very sophisticated, very classy, very responsible. But at the same time he can die for the country.
MB: You did not stick to just Hindi language cinema, you have been very successful in regional films.
AK: For fans I would recommend my south films Dookudu with Mahesh Babu, Baadshah with NTR, and Nayak with Ram Charan. All of my south films are very good and they were very good experiences. They work very professionally, they give you respect and they respect actors also. Acting has no language, it is only expression.
MB: Most of your roles have been very heavy, very serious. But you are known to have a great sense of humor and you have done a few lighthearted parts. Do you see comedy roles in your future?
AK: Yes, for sure you will see me in comedy roles. Jhol Company Public Limited is a comedy, in fact. A dark comedy. Love Day is a friendship comedy film. I like to show my comedy side more because I am a hero inside, not a villain. I Love Dubai is also a comedy film, Ikram Akhtar’s debut film, where I play a bad boy comedy villain. Yes, I am doing comedy. I love comedy.
MB: Rohit Shetty signed you on for a role in one of his films.
AK: Singham Retuns has already released and Rohit Shetty ji promised me, but he did not give me any more work till yet. But I believe his promise that he is going to give me something. He is man of his word, so let’s see. There are a hundred people who promise me, but only one, Ram Gopal Verma, has followed through. He made his promise, so he is the man with the steel balls and he is a legend. Rohit Shetty is making two films, so let’s see. If he does, then I believe.
MB: You have had the opportunity to work with some of the greats of Hindi cinema, including Amitabh Bachchan, and while doing Bigg Boss you got to know Salman Khan.
AK: One of my very, very close friends [director] Puri Jagannadh called me for a cameo part in Bbuddah…Hoga Terra Baap. The film was to be with Amitabh Bachchan. I said “Wow!” and without giving it a second thought I did that role. It was a great experience to meet Mr. Bachchan. I learned so many things. He is so energetic and so punctual and on-time and extremely cooperative. He respects new actors and he taught me many new things. We had fun. As for Salman Khan, everybody knows that he is a very good mentor and a very good guy. He supported me a lot inside and outside, he loved me as a brother and, insha’Allah, in the future we will work together. I wish them both a long life and a happy future.
Not long after I got hooked on Bollywood I began to explore India’s bounty of regional cinema, and when I got to that country’s Punjabi language films it was Harbajan Mann’s feature from 2004 Asa Nu Maan Watna Da that ramped up my interest in Pollywood (an interest which has grown steadily over the years, almost surpassing my interest in Hindi language films, in fact). Not much later I learned that Aryan Vaid, one of my favorite Bollywood actors, had lensed a Punjab film titled Ek Jind Ek Jaan (2006). I scooped up the DVD of the movie just as soon as it was released. Today it remains one of my top three favorite Punjabi films.
Ek Jind Ek Jaan is a delightful movie; colorful, sentimental, family oriented, and full of wonderful songs and dances. It introduced me to people I would come to recognize as regulars in Punjabi cinema, like Deep Dhillon, Gurpreet Ghuggi, and B.N. Sharma. I was already quite familiar with the film’s stars Raj Babbar and the aforementioned Mr. Vaid, but it was my first time seeing actresses Nagma and Prabhleen Sandhu, both of whom are very good. Then there was Mighty Gill. As one of the featured leads he also made quite an impression, and it turned out that this was only his 3rd film. In fact, it was also his final film! So what happened to his career, I wondered? Mighty was charming, talented, handsome, and had a very good screen presence. I wanted to know more about him, particularly why it was that there seemed to be so few “Mighty Gill” films!
It took a bit of searching, but I managed to locate the former actor (billed simply as ‘Mighty’ in his two Hindi films), who now resides with his wife and son in Australia. Born Mantej Singh Gill in a small town in Punjab, his family eventually shifted to the city of Chandigarhi. His lineage is that of a landlord family of Jatt Sikhs whose main occupation was farming and agriculture. Mighty’s parents were both government workers, but he himself was not particularly interested in a 9-5 desk job, so he chose to work in real estate, helping others make the right investment in agricultural, commercial, and residential properties.
The screen name ‘Mighty’ came from his childhood nickname, which his mother used to call him. Directors liked it, and it stuck. It also fitted the muscular build he had sculpted over the years. As a child he was quite weak and fragile and was prone to bullying by his classmates. “They gave such a hard time to me,” says Mighty. “But during my last years of study I got into bodybuilding and worked extremely hard. Maybe it was a hidden anger for being bullied that pushed me to extremes. Now I feel thankful to them. Most of those people are out of shape now!” he says with a laugh.
After some modeling work and appearances in music videos, Mighty Gill found an opportunity to act in films. Here for the first time he gives the lowdown on his time in front of the camera.
Mike Barnum: Your family had no show business connection, so what led you to a career in film?
Mighty Gill: I never thought to step into modeling or films, professionally… things just happened. I was doing my graduation in Mumbai and later, for fun sake, I enrolled in a short term acting course. It was not of much use, but I made contacts from there.
MB: And Tezaab – The Acid of Love (2005) was your first film?
MG: Yes Tezaab was my debut. Somehow I came in contact with its director, Mr. Shakeel Noorani. At that time he was in a financial mess and wanted to make a quicky film to set the meter rolling. He wanted to remake a South Indian film using a new star cast. He took screen tests and I was selected out of few other contenders. I was made to see that original Tamil movie, and I liked it… it was a clean, family film, an innocent love story. The search for the female lead was on during that time and I was happy as I had signed a three film contract with Gems Movies. But destiny had different plans and I was unaware of it.
MB: As it would turn out, Tezaab would not end up being a family film at all.
MG: Family drama and love stories were failing at the box office during that time, around 2003-2005, and bold movies were doing good business. Noorani was not in a position to take any risk and he and his team of assistants decided to make a bold film with a bold theme. They convinced me, and I felt that since he was a family man I knew he wouldn’t make a bad, vulgar film. So now [instead of remaking the Tamil film], we were doing a copy of the American film Unfaithful. Mahesh Bhatt, at the same time, was making a movie titled Murder with Emraan Hashmi, which was also an adaptation of Unfaithful, so there was a race. But because of strong backing, and being good strategists, the Bhatt camp took all the honey.
MB: Your costars in Tezaab were Parvin Dabbas and Shruti Sharma. But I understand that things did not go smoothly.
MG: Irrfan Khan and Shruti Sharma were originally signed for the film, and we even had a photo shoot together. Irrfan Khan backed off later, and Parvin Dabbas was selected [to replace him] for the role of the husband. Parvin is a good actor and was very professional. Shruti Sharma, being a non-professional, gave such a hard time on the shoot.
MB: She was difficult?
MG: I had a big fight with Shruti a couple of times during the shoot. We stopped shooting. The director and his team knew they had made a wrong choice with casting Shruti. They used to have to show her the contract papers in order to get work done. She and I were never friends and we used to talk only in front of camera. No ‘hi’ or ‘hello’… nothing of that sort.
By the time Murder was released our film could not find buyers. I want to tell you one thing, the bedroom scenes for Tezaab were shot very aesthetically, initially, and the film shaped up nicely, but in order to sell the film the bedroom scenes were shot again, and their duration was increased. The director wanted to sell it at any cost. It was at this time when I felt so hurt. I was made to do such things that I never wanted to do. I remember during the shooting of bedroom scenes, when they were using a body double of Shruti, I used to cry my heart out in the dressing room. The film makers tried to pacify me and were telling me that it’s just a part of my duty.
MB: That must have been very difficult to have signed on to something and then have the whole essence of it change as it did.
MG: I did it, being a professional and committed to my work, but after that my heart changed forever and my craze for filmdom vanished. After giving the last shot for the film I went to a secluded beach and cried and cried.
MB: Was your experience with the Punjabi film Ek Jind Ek Jaan a more positive one?
MG: You know, my experience with Tezaab was not really that bad, because eventually I realized what kind of person I am truly. I am certainly not attracted towards glamour and glitz. I got to know that I can work only in my space. And doing Ek Jind Ek Jaan was fun. Everything related to that film was good…the story, music, promotions, cast and crew, etc. Sadly, Punjabi audience rejected its main lead pair of Aryan Vaid and Nagma. Aryan is a good actor, but [as a hero] he just couldn’t make a connection with audience of Punjab. These days Punjabi audiences have more liking for singers turned heroes. Raj Babbar was also in the film and he and Nagma are well known [in Punjab], and they are good and humble too, but the film failed miserably at the box office.
This film has done good for me because the blame (black spot) that I have done an erotic film was washed off after its release. People in my circle remember me for Ek Jind Ek Jaan.
MB: Besides Tezaab, you appeared in one other Hindi film titled Utthaan (2006).
MG: Utthaan was made by my known friend Ujjwal Chatterjee.. I paid him a visit on sets and just did 1-2 scenes casually.
MB: Many performers in Bollywood have complained recently of the casting couch system. Was this also a problem for you?
MG: Casting couch does exist in Indian film industry. Not just for girls, but for boys too. I remember once a famous film star’s secretary, who was a bisexual, told me that if I join their group I will do five films in a year, but if not, I will be reduced to doing one film in five years (laughs).
MB: Had you ever considered the production side of film making?
MG: These days directors are asking me to either produce or invest in films, but I cannot do this. It’s a risky business; in fact it’s 98% risk. One needs a great effort and tons of good luck and a stronghold to succeed in films. I have seen that out of 100% film fraternity, only less than 10% are earning well… the rest are just wasting time and money… but it’s a craze for glamour. Name ‘n fame, which keeps them going on and on. The television industry in India is doing good, though. There is a regular income in that. A little effort and perseverance can help you get good work [in television].
MB: You made only a handful of feature films and then vanished from the screen. What happened?
MG: I was losing my motivation. It was not a question of my bread and butter, so I set my mind and I just quit. I am not much of a social type; you know, going to parties and showing off. I just wanted like-minded people to work with. I am a very simple person. To work in the film industry it doesn’t matter how you work in front of the camera, but how you carry yourself off of it.
MB: So, no regrets at leaving the film industry behind?
MG: I was certainly not cut out for all of that and I thought to quit. I am glad that I made that right move. Now I am happy and doing things my own way. And no pressure to look good all time! I have a beautiful wife and I feel content. I am happy and I have no regrets. I believe in living life proudly the way you want to live. I am blessed with a lot of good things in life. Although my priorities have changed now, and I spend most of my time and energies in my business and family, deep inside my heart I do still crave for good cinema. The element of simplicity has vanished in today’s films. We are getting superior in terms of technology, but on the creative side we are losing our grip. So I will end this with lyrics from Pink Floyd. “There will be war, there will be peace. Everything one day will cease. All the iron will turn to rust, and all proud men will turn to dust”
Though his acting career may not have reached the ‘mighty’ heights that (at least in my opinion) it could have, he still left a mark on Indian film history. And while he is not particularly keen on his work in Hindi cinema, with the Punjabi film Ek Jind Ek Jaan, Mighty Gill has at least one picture that he can one day very proudly show his kids and grandkids.
A curry western? Judging from this advertisement for the 1947 film Namak, one could certainly be forgiven for thinking it to be an oater straight out of Hollywood! The action packed plot involves a robber known as Sher who becomes guardian to two orphaned kids – Gogo and Sofi, the offspring of another criminal, named Smith, who is killed in an explosion. This B-grade feature stars Dulari, Bhim, Dilawar, Habib, and Chandrashekhar.
Hmmm….looks like Fearless Nadia and John Cawas did a little moonlighting for another studio. Wonder if the Wadia Bros knew?
Well, Homi Misty knows, even if he himself is a mystery!
Of all the types of stunt pictures, the militant ones are my favorite! LOL! And it was what ‘Free India’ needed, after all!
Happy Independence, Hindustan!!
A very nice example of art deco design on this advert for KON KISI-KA (or Kaun Kisi-Ka) starring Shobhana Samarth, Padma Devi, Khursheed, and Nazir.
This is also a reminder of the era in which actresses often took top billing. From at least the 1930s through the 1960s, the majority of Hindi films gave top billing to the female lead, as well as supplying women with good, meaty roles in most films, regardless of genre (even including the action or stunt films). The 1970s seemed to put an end to this practice, however, as male dominated films became the norm and film violence seemed to take front seat on movie screens, moving the social driven plots to the side-lines.
Here is another ‘needs to be found’ movie which I think would make an ideal double feature with GOGOLA.
Notice that the already awesome cast, which features Azad, Nilofer AND Helen, also includes this blog’s namesake, Pedro (the Ape Bomb). Pedro, of course is the little monkey on the poster, not the big one…unless of the plot of TARZAN AUR GORILLA has Pedro turning into a giant ape by ‘jadoo’ or some mad scientist’s evil doings, which would would push this film to the top of any must see category!
FASHIONABLE WIFE, a 1959 comedy with one heck of a great cast should have been something wonderful. I mean, my gosh, Abhi Battacharya, one of my all time favorites, in a lead role, and that opposite the the wonderful Jaymala, or as I refer to her ‘The Indian Yvonne DeCarlo.’ But alas, this movie is one hot mess. It is more annoying than funny, and Jaymala’s ‘wife’ character (she plays dual roles) is so unlikeable, I don’t know how you are supposed to even root for her.
Well, this magazine advertisement is eye catching, and I will just pretend that the film was just as good.
PS: There is a 1938 Hindi film also titled FASHIONABLE WIFE, but how it compares to this atrocity, I don’t know.