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Remembering Mehboob Khan

Friday, June 20, 2014

Legendary Mehboob Khan, who made classics like 'Mother India', 'Anmol Ghari' and 'Andaaz', passed away 50 years ago. Rajesh V. Gaur and Suneel V. Gaur chronicle the life and times of the great film maker

Mehboob Khan pas-sed away in May 1964, so this happens to be the 50th death anniversary year of the distinguished film director. He was a man of humble beginnings but despite this handicap, Mehboob became one of India's greatest filmmakers. Mehboob has always been referred to as a legend. But how many movie buffs really know the vast repertoire of work that Mehboob Khan possessed? Mehboob's craft was learned in the Film Theatre, the common motif in his films usually being the oppressed poor pitted against the oppressive rich be it the poor tribal against the money-grabbing capitalists in Roti (1942), the commoner against the prince in Aan (1952) or the poor peasant woman against the slimy zamindar in Aurat (1940) and Mother India (1957). From 1940 to 1942, Mehboob made three of his most important films - Aurat (1940), Bahen (1941) and Roti (1942).

Aurat highlights a peasant's love for his land. The story of a resolute young woman who starts life full of hope and dreams but ends up old and careworn.

Bahen was about a brother's obsessive love for his little sister but Roti was unlike anything Mehboob had done earlier – a blistering attack on capitalism and the lust for money. Mehboob then set up his own production house – Mehboob Productions and came out with a regular output of films like Najma (1943), Taqdeer (1943) and Humayun (1945), but they did not do well.

Anmol Ghadi (1946) which starred Suraiyya and Surendranath became a money spinner. The film also had a great musical track by Naushad. Mehboob's next masterpiece was the super hit Andaz (1949). The volatile triangle to beat all triangles, Andaz remains startlingly modern even by today's standards.

Mehboob followed it with Aan (1952) – his first film in colour. Amar (1954), regarded by Mehboob as his favourite film, flopped at the box office.

In 1957, Mehboob remade his earlier hit Aurat as Mother India. This epic saga depicted the sufferings of an Indian peasant woman. So tremendous was its success that the film is in fact a reference point in the long-suffering mother genre. After this high, Mehboob’s next Son of India (1962) was a big disappointment and, in fact, his weakest film. This was his last directorial venture as he passed away in 1964.

Mehboob was a filmmaker who mixed commerce with message and comes across as a man deeply rooted in the art of film-making.

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