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Going back in time with Junior Mehmood

Last updated on: August 13, 2012 18:36 IST

Image: Junior Mehmood: Then, and now
Patcy N in Mumbai
Junior Mehmood was a popular child star of his time, having acted in 264 films.
But after a point, we stopped seeing the actor in the movies.
Now 56, Junior Mehmood -- whose real name is Naeem Sayyed -- directs Marathi films and performs with his own orchestra.
He tells Patcy N how he got his nickname, and narrates some interesting anecdotes about the big stars he worked with. 
Early days
I joined the film industry when I was nine years old. I lived in Antop Hill, Wadala, in Mumbai. My father was an engine driver so we lived in Railway quarters. We were six kids -- two sisters and four brothers. I was the third.
In school, instead of studying, I imitated actors. I would do special shows for school functions.
My older brother did still photography on film sets, and would tell us stories about it. I was curious to see the shooting so I accompanied him occasionally. 

One day, they were shooting for a film called Kitna Nazook Hai Dil where Johnny Walker played a teacher. A child artiste had to say a dialogue but he would keep making mistakes. 
I was standing behind the director's chair, though I wasn't aware that it was the director's chair then. I remarked, 'Itni si line nahi bol sakta, aagaya acting karne.' (He can't even say these few lines and he wants to be an actor). The director turned round and asked me, 'Beta, tum ye line bol sakte kya?' (Son, can you recite these lines?

I immediately recited the lines. They made me do the scene but, unfortunately, the film was shelved.
I was attracted to acting and started following my brother and began doing small roles.

How he got the name Junior Mehmood

Image: Junior Mehmood with his guru Mehmood
My big break came with Suhagraat when I was eight years old. I acted with Rajshree and Jeetendra and Mehmoodsaab, who later became my ustad. Most of my scenes were with Mehmoodsaab.

During the shooting, it was Mehmood's daughter Ginny's birthday (she acted in Ginny and Johnny).Everyone on the sets was called for the party. I was not called and felt bad. I told him 'Mera baap koi producer, director nahi isliye main aap ki beti ke birthday main nahi aa sakta kya?' 

He felt bad. I told him if I come for the party, I will see to it that the party rocks. I told him I will dance to your number from Gumnaam -- Hum kale hai toh kya hua dilwale hain.
I went to the birthday party and danced to the song and everybody loved it. After the party, Mehmoodsaab told my father to bring me to Ranjit Studio and he made me his shishya by tying a ganda on my arm and gave me his name.

I was called Junior Mehmood from there on. I had to meet him at least three times a week.
I didn't feel bad that my real name Naeem Sayyed was never used; in fact I was happy that my ustad's name was used because that gave me popularity.

I looked like Mehmmodsaab, so people thought I was his son. All that worked in my favour.

How he acquired stardom

Image: A scene from Brahmachari
On the sets of Suhag Raat, I came to know that G P Sippy was searching for kids and the shooting was going on in Kardar Studios. They wanted 12 kids with different facial features and mannerisms. 

I acted in the film, Brahmachari, with Shammi Kapoor. That was the turning point in my career. There were four shows on Friday. By Saturday morning, I was a big star.
There is an interesting story of how I ended up doing Hum Kale Hait Toh Kya Hua Dilwale Hain in Brahmachari. Bappie Sonie, the director of the film, liked me a lot; after pack-up he would take me home as he was a bachelor at that time.
One day he saw me dancing to the Gumnaam number Hum Kale Hait Toh Kya Hua Dilwale Hain at a Durga Puja function of H S Rawail (filmmaker Rahul Rawail's father) who made Sunghrush in which I acted too. He told me to get my costume lungi and baniyan and my music system to Kardar Studio the next day as he wanted to show Shammi Kapoor my item. 

In the lunch break, the cast and crew saw my dance; everyone liked it. Sachin Bhowmick, who wrote the screenplay, created a situation in Brahmachari where I could perform to the song and the song was shot at writer Anand Romani's bungalow. There was no choreographer. I was asked to perform the way I performed at my shows.
After Brahmachari, there was no looking back. I did Do Raaste, Aan Milo Sajna, Kati Patang, Haathi Mere Saathi and Carvaan. The only source of entertainment in those days was films and most of my films were jubilees. 

Then people started writing roles for me. I wasn't good looking but my art was appreciated. My ustad would tell me which movies I did well or bad in. 
There were just 12 imported cars in the city then, and I had one of them.

Shutters down for acting

Image: A scene from Carvaan
I was a star till I was 12. Then I grew up and started getting fewer roles. 

I was 18 or 19 when my stardom ended. Ankiyon Ke Jharokon Se, Deewange and Geet Gata Chal were my last few good films.
I had a group and we performed Junior Mehmood Musical Nights. In 1990, I started doing Marathi films. I directed and produced seven Marathi films.
I can't make Hindi films because I don't have much money. My Marathi films do well enough to keep the kitchen fire burning. In fact, you could say I get more than I require.
I don't mind doing small roles in films now, but there should be at least one good scene. I deserve that. I don't like it when they call me just to stand with the hero and make faces. So I am happy doing my stage shows.
For the first time in my life, I will be acting in a television serial, Pyaar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha. And My Marathi film Mama Mala Vachwa will go on the floors after the rains.
When I started my career, I would get Rs 60 a day, which was a huge amount at that time because there were very few kids who could deliver dialogues like me. At the age of 11, I would ask for 1 lakh per film.
Master Babloo, Daisy (Irani) and Honey (Irani) were all stars. But they wouldn't do small roles on per day basis like I did.

Getting nervous working with Mehmood

Image: Junior Mehmood
I worked with many actors as a child and was never scared, but whenever I worked with my Guru Mehmoodsaab I would be very nervous and make mistakes.
In Pyaar Hi Pyaar, I had the role of the chaiwalla and in a particular scene, I am called to Dharmendra's house to serve tea. It was Mehmoodsaab who started brand advertising in films. In this film, I had to say in Marathi every time I entered, 'Lipton manjhe uttam chaha ani uttam manjhe Lipton chaha' (Lipton means the best tea).
It was a long scene and I had to speak to every actor present -- Dharmendra, Sulochana Chatterjee and Mehmood. I spoke perfectly with the others but when I faced Mehmoodsaab, I would forget my lines! 

Dharmji said, 'you are doing so nicely, what is happening to you? Why are you forgetting your lines?' They pepped me up, gave me cold drinks but still, I would always forget the lines when I came in front of Mehmoodsaab.
In the end, when I gave the final take, as I was saying my dialogue, Mehmoodsaab walked out of the scene as though someone was calling to him. The scene was canned like that. Everybody clapped after the shot was completed. It was great.
Only a very big actor with a big heart could do such a thing -- give up his dialogue so that a child could be comfortable.

Working with Rajesh Khanna

Image: A scene from Aan Milo Sajnaa
Rajesh Khanna became a huge star, and with all due respect to him, groupism in the industry started. He would discriminate.
I have done the maximum number of films with him: Haathi Mere Saathi, Choti Bahu, Aan Milo Sajnaa, Do Raaste, Kati Patang, Aap Ki Kasam and Dil Daulat Duniya.
I have seen his popularity; he was an emperor.
He was happy in his own world; he never mingled with smaller actors.
We were shooting in Kashmir for the song Yahan Wahan Saare Jahan Main Tera Naam Hai from Aan Milo Sajna. I was on a horse along with Kakaji (Rajesh Khanna).
As the horse climbed a hill, I felt myself slipping off. I screamed and told him I was falling off but he just went on. I fell and was hurt and everyone was laughing.
Kakaji just told me, 'You should have held on tight and you wouldn't have fallen.'

Santa Claus Shammi Kapoor

Image: A scene from Brahmachari
Shammi uncle would treat us like his own kids on the sets of Brahmachari. He would come and ask 'Bachalog aaj kya karne ka mood hai?' (Children, what would you like to do today?)
We would say we want early pack-up as we want to fly kites. He would say let's fly kites here. He would send his driver-cum-man Friday, Suleiman, to get kites for all of us and we would all fly kites.
Some days we would all play cricket, with Pran saab batting, and (producer) G P Sippy fielding.

Best friend Sachin Pilgaonkar

Image: Junior Mehmood and Sachin Pilgaonkar
My best friends in the industry are Sachin Pilgaonkar and Johnny Lever.
Sachin and I worked together in Brahmachari. Sachin was very good in front of the camera. He would do his scene fast, without mistakes. I once told him that one day he would become a star and if I became a producer or director, we should work together. 
He grew up to become an actor, director, writer producer -- a multi-talented person.
When I made Adla Badli with Sachin and Ashok Saraf, Sachin told me that my words had come true and reminded me of what I had said years ago. He did the film for free.

Energetic Jeetendra

Image: A scene from Caravan
I have worked with Jeetubhai in Caravan, Apna Bana Le, and Vishwaas. He was very supportive.
When he was on the sets, there was so much energy. He would tell so many stories and was full of life. He was a chatter box, always talking.
Once when we were shooting in Panchgani for the song Arey Ho Goriya Kahan Tera Desh from Carvaan, he went missing. After he returned, I asked him where he had been and he said he would show me. 
The next day, he took Ravindra Kapoor (who played his friend in Caravan) and me to an old Maharashtrian lady. She was happy to see him again. Jeetubhai spoke good Marathi and chatted away with her. She gave us garlic chutney with bajra and jowar bhakri and we ate our fill. When Jeetubhai offered her 100 rupees, she refused to take any money. She was so poor but yet she just refused to take the money.

Mischievous Dharmendra

Image: Junior Mehmood
I was working in the film Jheel Ke Uspar with Dharmpaaji. In one scene I was facing the camera, and he had his back to it and I had to come and give him a message.
Every time I came in front of him, I would start laughing. Bhappi Sonie yelled at me and called me a "bloody fool". Yet in the next six retakes, I did the same thing!
Nobody understood why I was laughing. Bhappi Sonie was getting angrier. 
Dharmpaaji was actually mouthing bad words without making any sound, and only I could see him. 
Finally, I told Bhappisaab that I will say the dialogue without Dharamji as he was making me laugh. In the end, I did the scene without looking at Dharampaaji. It was fun working with him.

Generosity of Shashi Kapoor

Image: A scene from Deewangi
I worked with Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman in the film Deewangi, directed by Subodh Mukherjee.
It is very common for a Bollywood actor to come on the sets and ask for a scene or dialogue of a character actor to be cut if he is overshadowing the hero.
Shashi uncle is one actor who asked the director to add a song for me in a film. He told the director, if he is in the film and he is so talented, why don't we use his talent? Give him a few stanzas to picturise on him.
In another film, Atithi, Shashi uncle saw to it that I got a song.

Sanjeev Kumar, a simple man

Image: Junior Mehmood in Johar Mehmood Hong Kong
Sanjeev Kumar was such a simple man. We worked together in Sawan Tak's Naunihaal.
He was a hero then, but he and I went to Panchgani from Mumbai Central in a State Transport bus!
I had no status, I was a smaller actor. But his coming with me was surprising. Which actor from today's generation will do that?