A Young Aghajani Kashmeri Travels From Lucknow to Rangoon to Calcutta

We begin of course in Lucknow, Aghajani Kashmeri’s

Just before aghajani kashmeri ran away to join bollywood posing at a friend's home in wazir gunj

Just before he ran away to become a Bollywood hero (CLICK to enlarge)

birthplace, the city in Northern India that raised him, the city where he imbibed Urdu poetry and literature,

rubbing shoulders with the most famous Urdu writers and poets, being taken on as the pupil (shagird, in Urdu) of Arzoo Lucknowi, the giant among poets in those days. No wonder that he decided in his late teens that his classroom would not be in front of a blackboard.

A rare still photo from the film zamindar starring aghajani kashmiri and Begum Akhtar

Rare still of Aghajani in Zamindar with Begum Akhtar

Arzoo’s most famous quatrain is about his first sexual encounter, first night, after reading a heavy tome on love. The whole experience is like a blizzard and the book is lost in translation. As the blizzard continues, the book wonders whatever happened to the logic it had imparted to its reader! Babba’s life was like a blizzard, to the end. Both his own autobiography, Sahar Hone Tak, and the documentary bear witness to this.

But given the finite nature of books and the superficiality of timing in a documentary, there is a lot of interesting but extraneous material that is left out. I am going to try and recreate some of that here, in the hope that a bell goes off in the mind of somebody out there. And a comment or many comments appear on the post like the magic of day and night, the seasons, love. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading