Read with interest my friend Vijay Lokpally’s Friday film column on Friday Review back page in the weekly ‘Blast From the Past’ in The Hindu today.
With due apologies, I think Vjay missed the usp of this film. This was the first film in which Amitabh Bachchan, after having done quite a few sidey roles in films and mostly appearing in a few films as some ill fed sickly brother roles, got the chance to appear as an action hero, all with fight scenes with the reigning action villain of that era Shatrughan Sinha. It was Mehmood who took the first risk of giving Amitabh the role of a jazzy action hero, all with singing, dancing, wearing those big print shirts, a complete anti thesis of the Amitabh seen in the earlier films. Fact is Amitabh was desperate to be cast as an action hero, which was the trend in those early 70s, but seeing his lanky physique no film producer or director was willing to take the risk. Mehmood was the first person who bet on him in this role and thanks to that one act of Mehmood, which by the way Amitabh graciously acknowledges, Amitabh transformed into the action star we now know of. But the actual credit for that goes to Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi was those days an Indian Airlines pilot and was flying regularly to Bombay where he would come visiting Amitabh. Amitabh was living in Mehmood’s garage about which Mehmood knew nothing because his brother Anwar Ali, who is the driver in this film, had let it out to Amitabh because they were good friends. So one groggy morning as Mehmood came out to sit in his lawn half asleep he saw a young man walk past entering or exiting his bungalow gate. He shouted out and asked who that young man was and that he wanted to cast such a good looking fellow in his film, upon which Anwar Ali told him that that was Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv. Mehmood asked how come he was here. That is when he was informed about Amitabh and Mehmood realised he was sitting on a gold mine. That’s when he decided to take the risk of launching Amitabh as an action hero. How Amitabh befriended Anwar Ali? That’s another story for some other day
By Faraz Ahmad