Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ajit: The Humanbeing

Ajit, the man who redefined the Bollywood villain with his series of impeccable performances in films like "Zanjeer" and "Yaadon Ki Baraat", was as suave as most of the characters he portrayed with the ease and conviction of a true veteran, but certainly in real life had not even a remote resemblance to those menacing characters that have now become history. Born Hamid Ali Khan in 1922 in Golconda, he belonged to a traditional Pathan family, where acting in films was a taboo. Hence he
had to run away from home to pursue his dream of acting in films.

Working hard and putting up with struggle to find his place in the industry he did films like "Shahe Misra", "Hatimtai", "Sone ki Chidiya", "Aap Beeti" and some more as the male lead, but was not very successful. His most films as a hero were I think with the beautiful Nalini Jaywant. It is said that one of his directors suggested that he change his name from the rather longish Hamid Ali Khan to something shorter and so Hamid Ali Khan came to be rechristened as Ajit.

Somewhere down the line as his career graph as a hero did not reach the expected heights of glory he turned left on the road of his career to become a villain. "Suraj" starring Rajender Kumar and Vijyantimala was his first film as a "bad man". He acted in more than 200 films, portraying varied shades of human emotion with excellence.
Much of it is known to the Bollywood lovers and I have not told anything new.

I would now like to share my own impression of this wonderful person, who spoke so softly that if you did not watch his lip movement carefully there was every chance of you missing what he was saying. Also his sense of humour was as subtle as his style of conversation. At least I was all ears when he spoke. And even now thinking of some of his humour I smile in the solitude of my room, remembering his towering (and at times intimidating) personality with the fondness more than just that of a fan.

I was in school when one Sunday afternoon I was returning from a friend's place and saw quite a big car parked under the huge Banyan tree in front of our bungalow in the residential colony of the company that my father worked for. Still wondering who
the visitor could be I saw a blurred figure blowing cigarette smoke sitting comfortably on the diwan in the drawing room. My eyes taking some time to adjust to the contrast in the sunny outside and a slightly cozy shade inside, and hence the delay in recognizing the man dressed in an off white pant and shirt and a maroon sleeveless cotton sweater. That was the first time I really saw him.

After this first meeting our families became very close. He liked the serene calm of our place, away and yet no far from the noisy lanes and roads of Mumbai.So his family (and often he accompanying them) visited us once in a while. Guests at my place were treated with visits to his shoots. I would never let the opportunity go by to accompany the visitors and perhaps that is one reason I have come to love Bollywood unconditionally!

He was a most humane person. Never an iota of pride touching him even at the peak of his career. Many of his close as well as extended family members depended on him for much of their life's requirements. He looked after them with love and affection rather than with charitable benevolence. In the last years of his life he had shifted with his family to Hyderabad. In those days he cherished his family and old time friends the most, spending time and showering his love on them, making up for all the lost hours that had gone into tight shooting schedules.

A couple of days after his eldest son got married, Ajit Saheb was answering a journalist in a telephonic interview. The journalist it seems after congratulating him on his son's wedding ceremony, asked about his favourite onscreen mistress "Mona
Darling!", to which he smilingly replied:"Let her rest in peace...I've matured!"

The initial fright which we as children had, gave way to a respectful awe for him that has remained even after he is no more.
He died on 22nd Oct 1998 in Hyderabad. And as I pay my respectful homage to him, something I do every year, I often wonder if his father ever forgave him for making a career in the film industry?

Zohra Javed

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