He is the man who gave Aamir Khan his first Bollywood break and salvaged Shammi Kapoor’s career. When film-makers like Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy were churning out movies such as Pyaasa (1957) and Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Nasir Husain believed in making heroes dance and entertaining audiences.
The director, producer and screenwriter, who delivered hit movies such as Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Teesri Manzil (1968), Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992), among several others, had an illustrious career in Bollywood. Encapsulating the life and cinema of the veteran film-maker, writer Akshay Manwani recently launched a book called Music, Masti, Modernity: The Cinema of Nasir Husain.
Aamir Khan, in his foreword to the book, says, “One of my earliest memories of Chachajaan is him coming home from work and suddenly deciding to take all the kids to Khandala! So he bundled all the kids — Nuzhat, Mansoor, Nazish, Nikhat, Faisal and me — into the backseat of his car and off we went for a sudden adventure listening to the Beatles. I think for me his films have this same quality. They are spontaneous, full of adventure, romance, fun, music and the outdoors… Like a sudden freak holiday… and, there is always a journey in there somewhere.”
Khan assisted Husain for four years before becoming an actor, and concedes that he learnt all aspects of film-making from him. “Nasir Husain embraced modernity and westernisation like no other director of his time. His heroes were impish and fun. In fact, Shammi Kapoor plays a western musician, a singer-drummer, in Dil Deke Dekho,” says Manwani, adding, “Nasir saab, in his 2002 interview with film writer Nasreen Munni Kabir, said, ‘I am a big, big fan of Elvis Presley. If he could entertain the West, why not people here?’”
Manwani’s book took two and a half years of research and includes interviews of Husain’s children, Nuzhat and Mansoor Khan (director), his nephew Aamir Khan, lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar, film-maker Karan Johar, and film scholars like Jerry Pinto and Jai Arjun Singh. Husain’s son, Mansoor, says, “The book gives you a perspective on how dad etched out entertainment in his films. He was a big believer in happy endings, so much so that both of us had differences about Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’s climax scene. He wanted me to change the tragic end, since he felt that the audiences don’t like sad endings. But that was dad; he had a terrific sense of humour.”