For his 85th birth anniversary, we take a look back at the actor-comedian’s standout roles from Dil Tera Deewana (1962) to Kunwara Baap (1972).
10 memorable roles of Mehmood: Birthday special
Mumbai - 29 Sep 2017 8:00 IST
Even though Mehmood was the son of popular dancer-comedian Mumtaz Ali, he never had it easy. The actor struggled in his early days, taking up odd jobs and driving filmmaker PL Santoshi’s car to make ends meet. He was married to Madhu, sister of actress Meena Kumari and had to take care of his family.
Mehmood had begun acting as a young boy, and even made an appearance in the blockbuster Kismet (1943) as the young Ashok Kumar. He took up any role he could, small or big, appearing in films like PL Santoshi’s Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo (1952) and Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957). But it wasn’t until Parvarish (1958) and Chhoti Bahen (1959) that he was noticed for his acting talent.
After that, of course, there was no looking back. If a hero was acting alongside Mehmood, he had a right to be wary as Mehmood could easily steal a scene. It is said there were many actors who suggested his roles be cut down to benefit theirs. Mehmood worked ahead steadily until the 1980s when the Hindi film scene began to change. After that, he never quite seemed to find the pulse of the audience.
In 1994, he made a small appearance in the cult classic Andaz Apna Apna as Johnny from Wah-Wah Productions, echoing his earlier role in Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966). The short role was a nice throwback to the leading comedian of the 1960s and 1970s.
Here are some of his more memorable roles:
1. Dil Tera Deewana (1962)
Mehmood won his first award, a Filmfare trophy for best supporting actor, for his role as Shammi Kapoor’s best friend Anokhe in BR Panthulu’s Dil Tera Deewana (1962).
He acted as Kapoor’s poor but loyal friend in the film who trades places with him when his rich father sends him away to his jailer friend for misbehaving. There Anokhe falls in love with the jailer’s daughter Malti (Shubha Khote) while Kapoor as Mohan meets the beautiful Meena (Mala Sinha) and begins to drive her taxi for her father.
Mehmood had a proper supporting role in the film, also showing as the evil Sohan who tries to make mischief towards the end of the feature. Amongst his many comic capers in Dil Tera Deewana, besides dressing in drag, was a highly entertaining sequence where Mohan and Anokhe keep switching places so no one’s the wiser about their outrageous trade.
2. Bhoot Bungla (1965)
For his directorial debut, Mehmood took on a rarely used genre in Hindi cinema, the horror comedy. Bringing his own brand of humour to forefront, Mehmood cast Tanuja, Nazir Hussain and Nana Palsikar in a revenge story across generations.
He cast himself as Mohan, a youth club leader who investigates the goings-on at a purported haunted house. He also gave RD Burman, the son of SD Burman, an opportunity to break out on his own as a music composer on the film. Burman also sportingly played the small part of Mehmood’s friend, who accompanies him to the house. Bhoot Bangla allowed Mehmood to explore his artistic talents in his own space.
3. Gumnaam (1965)
Based on the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None, Raja Nawathe’s film Gumnaam transports the very English setting to India. In a large star cast that featured Manoj Kumar, Nanda, Pran, Helen and Madan Puri, Mehmood played the eccentric servant of the mysterious house where an eclectic group of strangers have been assembled.
The highlight of the film is the now iconic song ‘Hum Kaale Hain To’ sung by Mohammed Rafi, composed by Shankar-Jaikishan, and picturized on Mehmood and Helen. In a bad haircut, Hitler moustache and a lungi, Mehmood implores the beautiful Helen to give him a second look in the song.
4. Johar Mehmood in Goa (1965)
Mehmood teamed up with another actor-comedian IS Johar in this project, Johar Mehmood in Goa (1965). Johar played Ram and Mehmood played Rahim, twin brothers separated and given to Hindu and Muslim family, respectively, to be raised.
Growing up in Goa, the two become the heads of a gang of revolutionaries and are constantly getting into scrapes with the law. In one song, there are four lookalikes of Rahim behind bars, and the five of them dance to ‘Aji Aisi Nazar Ko’ to confuse the authorities. Mehmood always excelled in multiple roles, making each one unique. While it seems like all fun and games, Ram and Rahim were actually involved in serious matters and their intention was to actually assassinate the Portuguese governor who was due to visit Goa. They eventually get help from the Indian army to free Goa.
5. Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966)
Winning the first of his many Filmfare best comedian awards with Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966), Mehmood turned in another flawless performance as Atma, the film crazy of son of Om Prakash’s character Ramlal.
Hilariously, he wants to launch his own production banner, called Wah! Wah! Productions and aims to make a horror film. His narration of the project to his father is an all-time classic scene, complete with sound effects, exaggerations and a passion to entertain. Mehmood would have been right at home in a Mel Brooks film. In a film that also starred equally entertaining Kishore Kumar impersonating as Shashi Kapoor’s father, Mehmood stood out by a mile.
6. Love in Tokyo (1966)
Mehmood played the hero’s friend once again in Pramod Chakravorty’s Love in Tokyo (1966), but he had his own comedic arc along with co-stars Shubha Khote and Dhumaal.
As Mahesh, he travels with his friend Ashok (Joy Mukherjee) to Japan to bring his nephew to India. There Mahesh tries to avoid the father of his girlfriend Sheila (Khote), even going to the extent of posing as a geisha. Here too, he was nominated for his performance in Love in Tokyo, but funnily enough lost to himself and his work in Pyar Kiye Jaa for the Filmfare trophy. He became a frequent nominee in the category with 15 nominations and four wins in total.
7. Padosan (1968)
No list is complete without mentioning Mehmood’s stellar turn in Padosan (1968).
He produced the film, along with NC Sippy, and acted in the film as a music teacher — Masterji, hailing from the south. His performance is still talked about. As Masterji, Mehmood goes head-to-head with Kishore Kumar’s Vidyapati who is helping his good friend Bhola (Sunil Dutt) woo Masterji’s student Bindu (Saira Dutt).
Mehmood completely transformed himself for the role, with a long choti, a white dhoti and exaggerated accent. The result is best evident in the song ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ composed by RD Burman and written by Rajinder Krishan, who also wrote the screenplay.
8. Humjoli (1970)
In the romantic drama, Humjoli (1970), starring Jeetendra, Leena Chandavarkar and Pran, Mehmood memorably took on a triple role, aping the three generations of Kapoors from Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971). He plays son Shivram, father Balram and grandfather Parshuram, nailing the impressions of each generation.
The actor brought the much needed comic relief to the film which featured Pran as the conflicted father of Leena Chandavarkar’s Ranibala. Humjoli was a remake of the Tamil film Panakara Kudumbam (1964).
9. Main Sundar Hoon (1971)
Mehmood had a real gift of making the audience care for his underdog characters. He constantly made fun of himself onscreen but added that extra human element to all his characters.
In Main Sundar Hoon (1971), directed by Krishan – Panju, Mehmood played a simple waiter Sundar who is thrust into the spotlight when he becomes a comedic film star. However, in doing so, he loses out on the things he desires the most – time with his parents and the love of the pretty Radha (Leena Chandavarkar).
10. Kunwara Baap (1974)
Another directorial venture, Kunwara Baap (1974) was a film close to Mehmood’s heart. He made the film to highlight the importance of polio vaccinations for children. His son Maqdoom Ali aka Macky was diagnosed with polio and Mehmood made the film as a public service announcement, albeit with his own unique comedic touch. Mehmood played an ordinary rickshaw driver who takes in an abandoned baby and raises him. In the end of the film, Mehmood broke character to deliver the film’s message as himself.