Life they say is full of pleasant surprises. For me, one of them came when I was in the middle of translating my father’s autobiography, Sahar Hone Tak, and making notes for a documentary proposal I was going to make to OMNI-TV for a one-hour TV show on Babba.
I was rummaging through a large box containing the personal possessions of my father.
My wife Carlotta Cattani had already dived into some other boxes and discovered several rare photographs of my dad during his early bid to become a Bollywood hero in Calcutta (Kolkatta). To my pleasant surprise, I found that Adda my mother (Khursheed Kashmeri, nee Khursheed Kabiruddin Kazi) had kept a scrapbook which contained even more gems, everything from Babba’s filmography to the reviews of his movies, little pamphlets of rare films that I had no idea he had written or in which he had acted. It even included invitations to the premiere of several of his movies.
That scrapbook proved invaluable during the production of The Golden Pen, giving me material, ideas and inspiration. It became the sum and substance of my Bollywood dad. And I drew heavily from Adda’s scrapbook as we plowed ahead with the documentary, battling everything from a shortage of funds to the kind of red tape that besets all governments. Now of course I am finding more and more sites listing his early films, one of them being movietalkies.com. He is variouisly listed in these films as Aghajan, Aghajani, and sometimes as Aghajani Kashmiri, a popular variant of the spelling he chose as his last name, Kashmeri.
My intention is to share the contents of the scrapbook with you, or at least part of the contents that I believe would be of interest to those of you who’ve experienced Bollywood up to the 1970s. And of course to those of you who take a keen interest in the history of the Indian cinema.
In the early 1930s, Aghajani Kashmeri was just one of hundreds who were part of the building blocks that laid the foundation for today’s mega cinema emanating from India. But Adda’s scrapbook that she so dilligently kept and maintained provide us with pictures and program booklets (yes, in those days every movie had its own program booklet for the audience) and reviews give us an insight into Bollywood’s history. A pictorial and popular history rather than a tome churned out by anthropologists or anthropologist wanna-be’s!
So stay tuned… and be patient as I put together the next installment of Babba’s scrapbook.