Just how many films do you need to tell the world you have arrived…If you were K Asif (1922-1971), then you would have come up with only two films as a producer, and interestingly directed only three yet would have reserved a place among the pantheon of notable names in Indian cinema! Highlighting the exciting and interesting kind of people who inhabited Bombay movie industry in the first half of 20th century, this producer-director-screenwriter is definitely one among those who is still remembered for his stellar films.
Superstition-laden that the Hindi cinema world is, which believes in taking up projects at the auspicious time with the mandatory muhurats and right hero-heroine combination, it still had directors like this gentleman whose films took their own sweet time to complete and were constantly bogged down by delays, sometimes even before the project went on the floors!
Today, Mughal-e-Azam is a cult classic. However, in those days, it was a project which was conceptualised with a different hero-heroine combination and was abandoned the first time around when the handpicked hero died. Not only this. The film was thought of with a different heroine – Suraiya – in mind but it went to another stunning beauty, Madhubala.
Thus, the version which hit the screen in 1960 with the classic pairing of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala was possible only after a longtime the film was in the making. It was not unnatural of course those days for films to take a good two-three years as in some cases, stars and the allied professionals were on monthly salaries with the production house/studio which hired their services.
This Asif-directed venture in which Kamal Amrohi was one of the screenplay writers was an all-time box office hit then, a distinction which it held for 15 years. Pundits are also of the opinion that it remains so, despite many thunderous hits of the modern day Khans, if one adjusts its collections on inflation basis.
The director continued to flirt with mega projects which were started and which had to be abandoned or delayed even later. ‘Love and God’ his project released in 1986 is a classic example. It was commenced with Guru Dutt in 1963 but the actor died a year later. The role then went to Sanjeev Kumar, six years later in 1970 but this time around, K Asif himself died in 1971. And 15 years later, the widow of the director approached a director, KC Bokadia, known for his quick fix masala flicks to salvage the film and release it.
By the time it saw the light of the day, its hero Sanjeev Kumar too had died! Some story this, yet K Asif was surely one of his kind. Asif died 47 years ago on March 9.