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October 22, 1998


Villain Ajit, source of a zillion jokes, is dead

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Veteran Hindi film actor Ajit, who had acted in the magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam, died of a massive heart attack in Hyderabad on Wednesday evening.

He was 76, and is survived by his wife and three sons.

He had acted in more than 100 films, mainly as a villain, for the last four decades after the flopped as a hero.

His famous dialogues included the 'Mona darling' bit inYaadon Ki Baraat, 'Lily don't be silly' in Zanjeer and the ones about a 'Lion' in Kallicharan. Ajit's other well known films were Naya Daur, Nastik and Shikari to name only a few.

Hamid Ali Khan, who adopted 'Ajit' as his celluloid name, was a son of the personal driver of Nizam Osman Ali Khan. Ajit the Pathan went into oblivion in 1981, after he underwent a by-pass surgery in the United States. Recently, he acted in a film Jaagir after much persuasion from the producer.

In his four decades of film career, Ajit had acted along with the legendary Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Sohrab Modi, Amitabh Bachchan, I S Johar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Shami Kapoor, Dharmendra and many actress, both young and old.

Ajit, who ran away from home to Bombay after selling his college books, started his film career in the early '40s.

Luck did not favour him in the initial stages of his career, when Dholak, in which he made his debut as a hero flopped. But lady luck smiled on him in Mughal-e-Azam.

In the mid 'seventies Ajit had acted in over 57 films mostly as villain.

Ajit, hailing from Hyderabad, was born near the historic Golconda Fort on January 27, 1922. He had his early education in Warangal district.

Suraj, his first film as villain was released in 1966.

Well-known script writer Salim Khan has expressed his deep sorrow over Ajit's death.

Recalling his association with the veteran actor, Khan said, "It was Ajit who recognised my writing skill and introduced me to several producers in the beginning of my career. He helped me lot throughout my career."

"I remember when I approached Ajit to play the role against Dilip Kumar in Naya Daur he was taken aback; his confidence was shaken," recalls B R Chopra, the producer of the film.

"At that time he was living in a small flat somewhere at Mahim. He asked me how did I believe that he could play well opposite Dilip Kumar? I told him my intuition said he'd be perfectly suited for the role," recalls Chopra.

Ajit was so glad to act in my film that he did not even bother about fees. When I asked him about it, he told me that he could not demand the fee but that I could give him whatever I wished."

However, the first five days of the shooting was a disaster ainxw Ajit could barely speak while acting opposite Dilip Kumar. Chopra was dissatisfied by the performance and asked him to prepare once again.

"He came after five days fully prepared and performed spectacularly," recalls Chopra.

"Though he always played negative role in films, he was a very positive person by nature. He was jovial and always ready to help others," Chopra said.

That view is backed by Prakash Mehra who directed and produced the film Zanjeer. Ajit, he says, always used to crack jokes on the sets. "He always used to tell me that he loves the dialogue that began with Mona darling. In his opinion it was one of his best dialogues in all his films."

When Mehra approached Ajit to play the role of a villain, he had given up acting and was just taking it easy. But on a request from the writer Salim (of Salim-Javed fame) he agreed.

"He was a good friend of Salim Khan and I'd worked in some of his earlier films as an assistant director. Before accepting the role, he told me that since I was making my first film as producer and director he was ready to play the role," recalls Mehra.

During a chat regarding his character with Mehra, Salim and Javed then, Ajit asked them if they had ever met any underworld dons of that time.

Mehra said he'd met Vardarajan and Haji Mastan a couple of times at parties. Ajit pointed out that these dons were never angry when they met people despite the work they did.

"So, Ajit wanted to play the role of a cool villain. And that is why you will see that Zanjeer is one of the first Hindi films where the villain is always smiling," says Mehra.

"Today you can't compare the style of any villain with Ajit's panache. He established his own style. And I'm proud that I produced and directed Zanjeer which gave Ajit recognition..."

Nasir Husain who worked with Ajit in two films, Yaddon Ki Barat and Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, said he was proud to have worked with Ajit, a distant relative of his.

"Actually, when I made my first film Tumsa Nahin Dekha I had planned Ajit as a hero. But due to his busy schedule he couldn't give me dates. So, I opted for Shammi Kapoor. And that film made Shammi Kapoor a star," recalls Husain.

"I always wondered, had I taken Ajit in place of Shammi Kapoor would he too have become a great hero like Shammi Kapoor? But, either way, I feel the generations to come will always remember Ajit for the roles he played as a villain, especially, the Mona darling thing which has become synonymous with Ajit," says Husain.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf, UNI

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