A tryst with silver screen

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In 1957, Ghulam Mohiudin Mir was a 10-year-old orphan facing hardships after the death of his parents. He took a journey that changed his life. Hamidullah Dar reports.
The hardships were too much to bear and he wanted to run away. And that is exactly what Ghulam Mohiudin Mir of Kaunsarbal village in Kulgam district did. He sold his blanket and took a truck towards the plains of India. Three years later, he ended up working in films at the tinsel town.
But the journey was not as smooth as would appear. Three years that passed between his truck journey and a small role in a film were full of hardships.
After boarding the truck at Wanpoh, he reached Jammu where he says the sweltering sun almost roasted him.
“I could not get even a drop of water to drink at Jammu. A contractor gave me a job of planting poles in a jungle. However, fearing reprisal from police for encouraging child labour he threw me out,” said Mir.
Somehow the 10-year-old reached Pathankot. Hungry and thirsty, a leaking fuel tank of an Ambassador car attracted his attention. “I went to the pilfering tank, cupped my hands and drank what the driver later told me was petrol. Then I boarded a train thinking it may take me to Jammu, but after few days, I alighted from the train at Bombay. Dumb-founded, weak and strange to the area, I just started walking in one direction that terminated at sea,” Mir recollects the wandering.
Later a bootlegger Mehboob Khan took him to his house. “He offered me Rs 10 a day for ferrying water that he used in making liquor,” Mir said.
After three years at the bootleggers place, in 1960, Mir thought enough was enough. “I was tired of doing a job that burnt my hands and seared my conscience. One day I decided to commit suicide and jumped into the sea from a rock cliff. To my surprise I fell upon some soft thing that carried me towards the shore. I could not believe that it was a big fish,” says a bemused Mir.
Mir got a new life. “While I was walking back to the city (Bombay), I saw people watching shooting of B R Chopra’s film Dhool Ka Phool at Mahalakshmi Race road. When the shooting was over, I went to Chopra and sought some work in his team. He offered me junior artist’s (spot boy) job,” says Mir, smiling as if he had got the job just then.
Life became to turn soothing. He was given a package of Rs 11 per month that was huge in those days by Mir’s standards. “The film stars used to give me food, cigarettes and drinks from what they would make me fetch for them,” admits Mir, adding that the luxurious life and care free style for several years made him plump, more obvious by his short stature.
For obesity, doctors advised him to relax at a hill station for some time. Life had another chapter waiting to unfold. “I hired a room at a hill station at Powaya where the landlord would insist on me to bring my spouse from Bombay that I had promised to at the time of hiring a room. Once I spent 15 days at Bombay and came back to Powaya to tell the landlord that my wife has died. He approached a Pathan family and my marriage was settled with Fakhru Nissa, a pious woman,” Mir said.
From a spot boy, Mir got occasional stints in front of the camera.
In his 40 years of film career, he worked for renowned filmmakers like B R Chopra, Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai, Shakti Samant, Pramod Chakarvorty, Yash Jowhar and Ramesh Sippy.
“I even have played some small roles in super hit films. In Roti, I and Rajesh (Khanna) struggle for a bread which Rajesh takes after stabbing me with my own knife. Similarly in Sholay, I am one among the dacoits who accompany Kaalia. In Sanjeev Kumar starred film Charitar Wind, I played a cop’s role and in Ramanand Sagar’s Lalkar, I acted as a hangman (Shyam Kumar),” boasts Mir.
Name an actor of yesteryears and Mir has worked with them all. “Not to speak of ordinary actors, even Dilip Kumar would take me to his home for dinner although I remained a spot boy for four decades. Everybody in film industry would call me ‘Kashmiri’ that helped me a lot in those days,” says Mir.
And at a time when he had lost every connection with his home land including his mother tongue, the ‘Kashmiri’ tag was the only reminiscence. “We were shooting for a film starring Dharmendra and Mumtaz at a port when a Hajj pilgrim slipped and fell down. Mumtaz told me ‘Kashmiri, help that Haji sahib stand up’. And as soon as I lifted him up, I recognised him being a Kashmiri. My heart moved and tears trickled down my cheeks. I gave him all details about me,” said Mir, his voice receding to a whisper.
“After 12 years of that incident, my brother visited my home in Bombay in 1999 and I came back after 42 years. I retire here during summers for three months and then go back to Bombay, my home for the last 54 years,” says Mir who has three sons and a daughter who did not fall to the glitter of silver screen.  
“My wife is very religious minded. So she did not want children to take the film line,” he informs.
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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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