Aghajani Kashmeri’s Scrapbook Contains Gems from Bollywood’s Early History

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.

program booklet for Kali Film's Ameena 1934

More on this 1934 film in the next installment of scrapbook...

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.

 

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9 thoughts on “Aghajani Kashmeri’s Scrapbook Contains Gems from Bollywood’s Early History

  1. Great to come across your work while researching for a paper on Josh Malihabadi in films.
    We are very interested in your father’s autobiography and would also like a copy of your film: The Golden Pen. How can we get these?
    If possible, would like to discuss showcasing your work and film in London through our organisation. Will that be possible?
    Best regards
    Lalit

  2. Came across your film and work while looking for reliable sources to write a paper on Josh Malihabadi Sahib’s years in films and in Shalimar Pictures. Your father too was supposed to be in Poona at Shalimar Pictures. Where can we get a DVD of your The Golden Pen? As I am a film historian, we at SACF (South Asian Cinema Foundation in London) would also like to showcase your film and work in London. What do you think of this proposal? Will that be possible? Will wait to hear from you. Best wishes Lalit Mohan & Kusum Pant Josjhi

  3. A splendid effort. Students of the history of Indian cinema will be enchanted by the documentation you provide on the life and work of your father. I am currently writing a book on Bombay Talkies. I would be most grateful if you could provide me information about your dad’s collaboration with Himansu Rai. His autobiography – which is alas! out of print – surely focusses on BT. Regards.

  4. To find that Aghajani [Kashmeri] has touched my life has been an honor and a memorable experience. He was truly Great. Sahar Hone Tak [his autobiography published in Urdu and Hindu] introduced me to Lucknow and Bombay and most of all to him that are now a part of history.So many films that I enjoyed and did not know were written by him and were way ahead of his time. I do not know how many times that i read his fascinating autobiography, which introduced him to me.

  5. I think i would have material on your father’s films, i am a film historian based in Mumbai and also a collector of film memorabilia. I may have some of his film stills and booklets….

  6. Congrat Zuhair, you have completed a marvellous project, its a great tribute to
    a great screen writer……all the best…..

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