By: Molly, IndiaFM
Monday, January 08, 2007
Some three years ago a group of writers, poets and journalists from different parts of India got together and decided to visit Pakistan on a private goodwill visit. They had a long-standing invitation from their counter parts across the border. They were over whelmed by the response and reception they received wherever they went. But the one subject that surfaced and dominated every meeting they had, every reception held in their honour was Hindi films. Their counter parts were aware of the latest developments in Mumbai and the latest positions of the stars. They wanted to know the most about Dilip Kumar who they said was still the most popular Indian in Pakistan, not only as an actor but as a man in whom people in Pakistan still saw hope of bringing the two countries together. They said he was as big or even bigger an icon as he was in India. Some closely associated friends and admirers of the icon from Karachi and Lahore even went to the extent of suggesting that the Indian Government considered sending Mr. Mohammed Yusuf Sarwar Khan (Dilip Kumar) as the Indian Ambassador to Pakistan or at least send him on a long goodwill visit to Pakistan and they believed almost all the problems between the two countries would be solved. The Indians were taken aback when some of the leading poets and artists went to the extent of ending every meeting or get together with a common request. "Give us Madhuri Dixit and we will give you Kashmir gladly", they said unanimously. The Indians had heard of the common man of Pakistan raising such slogans but were amazed at the way some of the hard core thinking community of Pakistan could think like them when it came to Hindi films, Dilip Kumar and specially Madhuri Dixit.
Now three years later another group of journalist were on a visit to what is still known as an hostile country, hostile towards each other during the last sixty years. This group was also confounded by the warm welcome they received wherever they went. They hardly had any chance to talk about reviving relations between the two warring countries because they did not feel the need to. They never felt they were in hostile country always ready to take up arms against its neighbour, India. They were given the feeling of being among neighbour and long lost friend. And this group too was flabbergasted by the way the people of a changing Pakistan showed their love, admiration and knowledge about Hindi film. They still had Dilip Kumar as top priority when it came to popularity down the year. They were aware all the young Khans who they knew were dominating the Hindi film scene. They seemed to take a rare kind of pride when they talk about the Khans. They unanimously sounded as if the Khans from India belonged to their clan. This time too the journalist from India were told that one visit by Dilip Kumar all over Pakistan was enough to solve the problem that all the wars fought could not. They were sure that everyone from President Pervez Musharraf, his family, his army, all the governor of the various states, all the artists and academicians and down to the common man were ardent admirer of Dilip Kumar and they were sure they would take every word he spoke seriously. When they were told that Dilip Kumar was not keeping good health, one of them spoke for all of them and said, "Ek ummeed thi, who bhi agar gayi toh kya rah jaayega" (there was one ray of hope and even if that ray threatens to fade what hope do we have?) and again it was the same old, "Give us Madhuri Dixit and we will give you Kashmir". They were told that Madhuri was a married woman and a mother two sons now and one of the poets spontaneously said, "Jo bhi ho, jaise bhi ho, Madhuri, tum Khuda ki kasam lajawab ho." The Indians were surprised by the magic of Madhuri in Pakistan and one of them just said, "Ghar ki murgi dal barabar" and there was amusement all over.
The Indians who were all under fifty were then taken by one big surprise. Some new found friends from Pakistan offered to take them to Peshawar on a rare pilgrimage. They were not told about the surprise getting for them. It was decided to go around Peshawar after eleven in the night. The Indians were not aware of what they were in for till they reached Peshawar. It was only when they were inside Peshawar that they were told that they were being taken around to see the ancestral homes of some of the greatest legend of Hindi films, Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Talat Mehmood, the singer, Madhubala and the modern day icon both in India and in Pakistan, Shah Rukh Khan.
They were first taken to the house where Shah Rukh's grand parents lived before partition. Shah Rukh's parents were Muslims from Peshawar who decided to move to India after partition and settled down in New Delhi in independent India. Their home is still as it was. Some distant relatives of Shah Rukh live there. They played perfect hosts to the Indian journalists and kept asking them all kinds of question about Shah Rukh. Their hearts swelled with pride every time the heard of some new achievements made by Shah Rukh. They said they always told Shah Rukh's father that his son would grow up to be a big man one day, a "Bada Sahab". They felt sorry that Shah Rukh parents did not live long to see Shah Rukh take his first steps to stardom. They made concerned inquiries about Shah Rukh's health. When they were asked about what they felt about Shah Rukh marrying a Hindu girl, Gauri, the eldest in the family said, "kya farak padta hai? aise to hum sab ek hai, ye jaat paat main hum bilkul nahi maante" (what difference does it make? Basically, we are all one. We don't believe in differences between castes and other such trivial things). It was a heart-warming visit for the Indians.
The next stop - the home of Dilip Kumar's parents. There was no one living there that night. But the Indians were told this home was the place where Yusuf (Dilip Kumar) and all his brothers and sisters were born. There father was a fruit-seller who was a large hearted man who never stopped his sons from leaving Pakistan and moving to India in such of greener pastures. The home in Peshawar now stands as a historic monument. There have been attempts to bring it down but the very mention of the name Dilip Kumar stops the authorities to take such a step because for many it is a very special place and maintained like that. The last time when Dilip Kumar and his begum, Saira Banu visited it, it was like a major festival. The people of Peshawar were celebrating the visit of the Shahenshah.
It was getting late but the next name excited the Indian journalists. They were being taken to the more than hundred and fifty year's old home of Basheshwarnath Kapoor, the father of Prithviraj Kapoor. Prthviraj was born in this home and so were his sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi. But Prithviraj who was crazy about theatre moved to Bombay with his three little sons. In Bombay he started Prithvi Theatre, his own theatre group which played a very key role in the struggle for independence. He worked as an actor in silent film and then grew into a major star with the coming of the talkie era. His sons followed in his footsteps and so did his grandsons and now his grandchildren. His setting out of that home in Peshawar was a stepping stone to the building of one of the most illustrious film family in India, a family without which the history of Hindi film will be incomplete. Raj Kapoor visited this home whenever he could and his sons, Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv during the making of R.K.'s "Henna". No Kapoor has visited the home after that visit but it stands as witness to the origins of a saga, a place which gave a man who was destined to build an empire.
The night kept growing as the group reached the home of Talat Mehmood. He had left Peshawar after partition and came to India to give dignity to singing in Hindi films. Some elderly men in the vicinity remembered the handsome young boy who sang very well. "Uske aawaz main dard bhi tha, mohabbat bhi thi, jaadu bhi tha", another elderly man remembered people in the area were proud of him and still mourn his death like they mourn someone in the family.
It was about four when the rare pilgrimage had reached the home where Madhubala, the most beautiful woman ever seen in Hindi films was born. It looks like a haunted house like a house standing in mourning for a number of years. The group stood outside the home and remembered her face and one of them came up with some of the most lilting songs sung by Madhubala and almost brought her alive.
The journalists came back home but have not forgotten those days in Pakistan and that memorable night in Peshawar. The think India should be thankful to Peshawar which has given India so much talent. They are sure some day the war between the countries will end and Hindi film and Hindi star will play a greater part in doing that than politicians and generals.
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