While Edwina was staying with me last October and November, she told me many fun stories about her days as a dancer. None was better than this one about Mehmood, although she was hesitant to share it until she saw all the comments she received on the articles about her over at Madhu’s blog. Now she’s ready to spill all, beginning with the reasons she held back, in her own inimitable voice! (My mother asked her why she capitalized words so randomly, and Edwina replied that she capitalized anything she thought important. I love that. We still don’t know why she eschews punctuation but we’re glad she does.)
The First was not being sure whether the Readers would believe Me because the Subject was the Great Actor Mehmood & I was just a Dancer (making up a Story perhaps?) & the Second was because of My Husband Keith & what it would have done to Our Marriage which for Many Years I have been fighting to keep together because of My Life in the Film Industry! Mehmood also had a Big Part to Play at the Time in Rocking the Boat to add to it all!!! [Memsaab's note: most of you know that Keith passed away a couple of weeks ago.] Now Of Course I have so much Confidence in the Readers so far who have accepted all that I have already mentioned in the 4 Articles & made Me feel Strongly in Myself by their Love & Understanding that I decided to talk about Mehmood after all whom I found had some Wonderful Qualities in Himself as well I believe in giving Credit where Credit is due & Mehmood was well Loved by Our Dancer Boys & Girls & He Loved Them all too He always was there for Them in Their time of need of work & Money too especially with some of the Western Lads when necessary but within Reason I Personally thought the World of Him when I came to know Mehmood better! He had a Very Generous Heart which I know for sure & will talk about Later in this Article
When I first set eyes on Mehmood the Actor all I ever Recall is that I was in Mahalaxmi Studios for a Shoot perhaps & I was not far from the Entrance Door that I came in through with My Back to it speaking with some of the Girls when suddenly I felt a Pair of Hands on My Waist & a Voice saying Wow! ‘Kya Kamar Hai’! (What a Waist!) & then Twisted Me around to face Him It was then that I saw Him & immediately behind Him was Suresh Master & some other Guys as well as Companions Suresh Master I came to know later on He & Mehmood were as Thick as Thieves & Suresh was Mehmood’s Main Choreographer They got on like a House on Fire! from what I saw
I did not know Mehmood or Suresh before that incident of Him grabbing My Waist & after Turning Me around said ‘You’re Beautiful’! Then asked if I was Shooting there I just smiled at Him because I became Dumb Struck & Terribly Flattered with this Tall Handsome Hunk of a Man looking down at Me with a Huge Smile on His Face All His Companions were Smiling too & all walked off Together leaving Me wondering what the Hell was that all about? Nothing like that ever happened to Me before & it took awhile before I came back down to Earth with a Big Thud!!! Wow! I shall never forget that Incident for as long as I Live! I was pretty new to the Line & Mehmood was not all that Famous then. As always I find it hard remembering dates & names of the Films that I worked in of Yester Years especially of the earlier Ones when I first started but certain incidents still come to My Mind quite vividly & just as well eh!
Although Edwina doesn’t remember, this was probably in 1958 when Edwina was just beginning her career and Mehmood hadn’t yet hit the top of the marquee. He finally got recognition as an actor in demand with 1959’s Chhoti Bahen. In any case, he zeroed in on Edwina’s 22 inch waist (“Kya kamar hai”)! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have a 22″ waist, and Edwina is tall (5’7″) into the bargain. But I am not jealous, no indeed.
Suresh Master also gave Me work in His Dances that He Directed & of course Mehmood more often than not came on the Sets to speak with Him perhaps to discuss work or whatever as they were definitely a Team so I got to know Mehmood better by now There was no doubt by then that both Suresh & Mehmood got to like Me & talk to Me more like a Friend They both called Me ‘Adu’ & Their famous Expression was ‘Solid’ as a Greeting if One was Special to either one of them Mehmood copied this expression from Suresh really Suresh would say to Me ‘Adu You will never grow old’! Anyway Mehmood would never leave the Set before coming up to Me to exchange words & everyone’s eyes were Naturally on Mehmood which made Me feel uneasy as well It did Boost My Morale as He was such a Charmer & A Flirt! He used to carry a Coin of some sort in His Pocket (a Good Luck Charm) & would bring it to Me & say ‘Adu please touch this as I am off to the Races & need to Win & You will bring Me Luck’ I would then touch the Coin & He would say His ‘Salaam Aleikum’ to All & off He went I experienced this with Him quite a few times He truly liked Me! I cannot deny the fact that His Charm touched My Heart & I developed a Soft Spot for the Man but He Spelt ‘DANGER’ so I kept My Distance for My Own Good Besides I had a Fiancé that I Loved Dearly & was going to Marry come what may which stopped Me Right in My Tracks Thank God!!!
Edwina’s nickname “Edu” is pronounced with the “e” as in “get” but Mehmood and Suresh Master called her “Adu” with an “a” as in “hay” (now I do too). She is in three numbers plus an extended dance performance from 1960’s Shriman Satyawadi starring Raj Kapoor and Mehmood. Edu and Mehmood didn’t appear together in that many songs that we know of, but she gets maximum screen time with him in this song, and it’s a hoot.
Then there was a time & I feel pretty sure that it was before Shriman Satyawadi & in fact before I did any shooting with Our Hero Mehmood for that matter He was definitely trying to get to know Me better I was personally shooting at Andheri or Chembur Studio quite away from Byculla where I lived & was walking towards the Gate after pack up time late one evening when this Red Jaguar Convertable Sports Car pulled up beside Me & a voice said ‘Hop in Adu’ & it was Mehmood at the Wheel He said that the Car was Brand New & that Nobody sat in it yet & that He wanted Me to be the Very First to do just that I said No because it would not look nice Me getting into the Car with Him so I was going to take Public Transport instead He refused to take no for an answer & swore (Kasam Say) no Hanky Panky Nonsense & would not even hold My Hand Said that He was in a hurry to see His Mother who was in the Hospital which was on the way & would only take about 10 minutes & would then Drive Me Home straight after so I accepted Byculla was a long way from where We were so when in the Car He never stopped talking & most of the Conversation were questions about Me & then talk about His Marriage which was on the Rocks at the time He seemed such a Gentleman that I relaxed & became a Good Listener for a change
It’s common knowledge that Mehmood was married to Meena Kumari’s sister Madhu during this time. Whatever Mehmood told Edwina about their problems she doesn’t feel right about sharing publicly, and I don’t blame her.
When We got to the Hospital He left Me sitting in the Car & shot up the Stairs of the Hospital (cannot even remember the Name of the Hospital or the Place) but it was not that long before He was back in the Driving Seat & Raring to go We were back on the Road & He picked up where He left off with His Conversation & Confided even more in Me about His Life in general I felt He just needed someone to talk to & used Me as a Sounding Board & His Marriage was mainly the Issue at that time He & His Wife were in the Process of getting a Divorce When He was relating His Story to Me He did look very Troubled & Sad & My Heart went out to Him! Poor Chap! I thought! When He was talking with Me some Sentences were in Hindi & some in English which is Typical of most Indians eh! By this time I was so relaxed & just could not wait to get Home to My Fiancé Keith who was waiting for Me in My Family Home
Suddenly Mehmood shook Me up when He asked ‘Adu will You Marry Me?’ I replied ‘What? Sorry! No!’
I could never do that because I was already engaged to be Married in November of that Year which was 1960 He then said that I was a Good Girl & hoped that Keith would look after Me properly & left it at that His Mother died the next day [Memsaab's note: we got the date from his biography "Mehmood: A Man of Many Moods"] His Mother died on the 16 January 1960 so I would have been given that Lift on the 15 January & Keith & I married on the 26 November 1960
Anyway when I got Home to Keith I very truthfully told Him that I got a lift Home by this Actor Bloke Mehmood which was the Biggest Mistake I made It caused Keith much Unnecessary Grief & put a great Strain on Our Relationship & later on Our Marriage too! Keith & I were very Young when We Married Keith almost 23 & I 19 Years of age Because of Our Strict Upbringing We had Our Insecurities & Hangups already without My Brother Terence putting more Pressure on Keith by telling Him that He had to hurry & Marry Me since I was the Last Sister to Marry before He could Marry which to Me was Rubbish since We were Anglo Indians & no such Rules were laid down by My Father Keith was under a great deal of Pressure from His Own Mother & Siblings too because I was a Dancer in the Film Line so that made Me Bad! His Mother refused to come to the Wedding Pressure from all sides Made Keith a Mental Wreck Again He did not know how to Communicate with Me & Bottled everything inside of Him Keith also left Me Totally Confused!!! Only lately He opened up & told Me He was so afraid that He was going to lose Me to some Rich Actor Bloke & to the Film Industry Completely when all He had then was Love to offer Me & felt I needed More So You can Imagine what taking a Lift from Mehmood could have done to Him eh! We had no Savings & no Home to call Our Own We lived with Our Parents & then with His & I became Pregnant with Our First Child Nigel who turned 50 Yrs old on 2/11/2011 [Memsaab's note: making him practically my twin!]
Finally the Pressure got to Him & He decided to leave Me with My Mother & go to the UK to make a Home for us as a Family One of His Spinster Sisters (who did not like Me then) jumped to the idea to set up Home in the UK Herself (she did & died there too) so the Two of Them did & I was already 7 Months Pregnant but could not convince Him to stay back because His Mind was made up Keith had 5 Sisters in all & was Their Baby Brother and They all claimed to have Mothered Him at some stage in His Life! Poor Man! Having to cope with One Mother is Ample but to cope with Five????????? Any wonder the Man was so Confused to start with? My Mother became My Pillar of Strength & I became a Stronger Woman & got there in the end!
Keith had to deal with the pressures of a wife working in what was then considered a disreputable industry. There is an interview with Faryal on the Cineplot site where she details what it was like to be a dancer on the sets, and says: “It was nonsense to say that you can be a devoted wife and an actress because you spend most of your time in some other man’s arms. However strong willed you may be you cannot remain faithful to your partner for long under such circumstances.” She didn’t know Edwina!
(Well, actually she did. I guess she just never found out about Edwina’s iron-clad character, because Edwina never forgot she was married.)
After Keith left for the UK I went through Hell trying to cope without Him & being 7 Months Pregnant too It was a Great Struggle but at least I had My Parents & lived in the Family Home My Mother gave Me every support a Good Mother would give Her Daughter Physically & Mentally which helped Me to keep going right through & being with Me even Holding My Hand when giving Birth to My Precious Son Nigel who weighed just over 6 lbs. at Birth God saw Me through it all just like He still does by Closing One Door & Opening Another! When I was still Heavily Pregnant & Missing My Friends & in a Mood of Depression I decided to go to a Studio where My Sister Marie & some other Dancer Friends were working to cheer Myself up & since it was in Shree Sound Studio in Dadar not far from where I lived in Byculla I got on the Bus & off I went to have some fun As I walked through the Gate Entrance onto the Compound of the Studio just a few Yards away was Mehmood with His Friends His Face lit up & He gave Me a Querying Look because He had not seen Me for quite a while Anyway here I was with this Belly of Mine looking very Pregnant indeed! He walked up to Me to Greet Me He seemed pleased to see Me & asked how I was keeping & also asked after My Husband We chatted a bit & I felt sort of uneasy without the Waistline that I used to have that got us to Meet in the First Instance ha!ha! Then I said to Him that perhaps if I did not take that Lift from You in the First Place Keith might still have been here He then replied in amazement ‘But We did nothing Wrong’ ‘You are a Good Girl & Your place is with Your Husband & He should not have left You alone’ Immediately He put His Hand in His Pocket & pulled out this Thick Pile of Notes (must have just come out of a Bank) & placed it right into My Hand & ordered Me to take the First Available Flight to join My Husband in the UK where I belong He said that He had to get back on the Set & for Me to take care of Myself & off He went I was dumb founded & quickly put the Money in My Handbag before anyone saw Me do it I had to get My Head around this so off I went to the Girls on the other Set There was no way I was going to accept this Pile of Notes so neatly tied together come what may I felt so sick with worry!
I met the Girls on the Set & kept what happened re the Money & Mehmood to Myself Then when they went back into a Take I slipped out to find Mehmood again I asked & was directed to the Set that He was on I signalled Him to meet Me outside & He obliged thinking that I wanted to say Good Bye to Him & was going Home He put His Hand Out to shake Mine & say Bye & I put the Pile of Notes back in His Hand & thanked Him with all My Heart & said ‘If & when My Husband is ready to send for Me then & only then will I accept & go to Him which He has paid for with His Hard Earned Money & not before I am His Responsibility & not Yours’ Thank You & God Bless You anyway!
At this point He said to Me that I was so Good & that anyone else would have taken the Money & gone With Tears in My Eyes I said Bye & went back to the Girls The whole thing kept Playing on My Mind & I was in a daze for the rest of the time The Girls Packed Up & We all went off to catch the Bus back Home & there was One just leaving the Stop when all of us ran for it Me leading them & managed to get on it while the Bus was in motion & one of the Girls said Gosh Edu You are Pregnant & You Jumped on & I said Gosh Yes I am & Jumped off again & they all followed me I Really was not thinking at all & We all felt so foolish & were killing Ourselves laughing back at the Bus Stop waiting for another Bus to come along Thank God it turned out to be a Very Exciting Day after all!
Here’s a song from Biradari in which they both appear, although Edwina isn’t in it much. She and her friend and frequent dance partner Robert are interrupted when Mehmood arrives in style. (Faryal is here too, incidentally.)
I did go to the UK when My Son was 11 Months old it must have been by October 1962 We still did not have Our Own Home to go to because it was too soon for Keith to have saved up for a House by then so had to settle for living with an Anglo Indian Family who originally came from Calcutta & settled in Surrey Croydon Their Names were Albert & Joan Cooper with their children a boy & a Girl who were Lovely People & great to live with but not when We had to live in a Tiny Room not large enough to swing a Cat! I just hated the UK & the place where We lived I felt all closed in like being in Prison for a Crime I did not Commit & wanted out It was Hell!
Coming from a Large Family & Living in a Large House & having a Large Amount of Friends I decided that the UK was definitely not for Me at that stage Keith’s Sister most willingly lent Keith the Fares for the Flight so after 4 Months of Prison Sentence also 3 Months into Pregnancy off I went to My Mother India My Parents opened their Doors to Us (Nigel My Unborn Baby Edward & I) & We felt so safe back in Our Family Home
Edwina returned home to India and went back to work dancing and playing bit parts in films for the next five years, giving birth to their second son Edward in 1963.
In the Year 1967 We were back in the UK but with a Big Difference We had Our Own Home with 4 Bedrooms with Very High Ceilings & compared to the Tiny Room in Surrey Croydon it was like Heaven!!! Then when more settled I started going back & forth to visit & stay with Friends for a month at a time I used to be allowed to collect all Leave Summer & Winter & take them in one go because I was well in the swing of Work
What I did mean to mention though was that while I was in India for those 5 Yrs before I went back to the UK I kept My Distance from Mehmood & only acknowledged each other if We passed each other by or worked on the same Set if at all but in a very casual way He was a Big Star by then I would Imagine
Then one fine day (cannot remember Year) but on a Visit to a Friend in Andheri in 4 Bungalows She in Conversation said that Mehmood lived very near to Her in A Flat in a Very High Storey Building & asked whether I would like to see Him & say Hi to Him I said to Her ‘Don’t be Daft’ Keith hated the Bloke & it would only cause unnecessary trouble She said He was pretty ill & by us going there it would put a Smile on His Face & by Jove it did! We went up by a Lift & when We got to His Flat His Wife Tracy opened the Door to Us & invited Us in There Lying on the Bed was Mehmood but looked nothing like ‘THE MEHMOOD’ that everyone knew He looked such a Sad Case!
He was so Huge & had & was having Breathing Problems with Tubes Stuck Up His Nostrils Poor Chap! He was not a Pretty Sight! He looked very Surprised & the First Thing He said to Me was ‘Hey Adu You have put on Weight’ & I said ‘You can Talk’ & He laughed & then said to His Wife ‘I was mad about this Girl’ His Wife was too busy attending to His Medical Needs & lent a deaf Ear to Him He also asked Me if I still remember the Time He gave Me a Lift in the Convertible & told Me the Date as well & I said I did & asked Him how He Remembered it so well He then said that it was because His Mother died the next day My Heart went right out to Him My Friend & I did not hang out too long after that & that was the Last Time I saw Mehmood RIP !!!
It’s sad to think of Mehmood in old age, immobilized in bed. In his youth Mehmood was not only handsome, but a very active and energetic performer. Let’s remember him as he was here, in Bhoot Bungla‘s fantastic “Aao Twist Karen”. Edwina and her friend Teresa (later Oscar Unger’s wife) hang out together at the back for most of the song, coming up front with the others to dance near the end.