Junior Mehmood, child actor & dancing star of ’60s & ’70s, dead

Junior Mehmood, whose puckish screen presence and carefree dance moves propelled him to stardom as a child actor in Hindi films in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, passed away in Mumbbai on Friday. He was 67.
“My father passed away at 2am following his battle with stomach cancer. He was in a critical condition for the last 17 days and had lost 35-40 kg in a month,” his younger son Hasnain Sayyed told PTI.
The actor’s career spanned over 150 films in four decades but he is best remembered in blockbusters such as ‘Brahmachari’ (1968), ‘Do Raaste’ (1969), ‘Aan Milo Sajna’ (1970), ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ (1971) and ‘Caravan’ (1971).
Over the decades, Hindi cinema has platformed several notable child actors. Ratan Kumar, Baby Tabassum and Daisy Irani were saleable names and recognizable faces in the 1950s. So were Honey Irani, Master Babloo, Neetu Singh, Baby Sarika and Master Sachin in the 1960s.
Junior Mehmood (real name: Naeem Sayyed) also emerged in the 1960s. The Mumbai-born son of a railway engine driver was first noticed in Jeetendra’s ‘Suhaag Raat’ (1968). The film also starred top comic Mehmood, who took the child actor under his wings and gave him a catchy trade name, Junior Mehmood.
The young performer stood out from the pack with his innate sense of rhythm and a sharp comic timing. The audience fell in love with him in Shammi Kapoor’s ‘Brahmachari’ where he mimicked and reprised his ustad’s famous lungi dance from the 1965 film, ‘Gumnaam’, ‘Hum kale hain to kya hua dilwale hain’.
In a 2012 interview to rediff.com, Junior Mehmood recounted how the film’s director, Bhappi Sonie, saw him dancing to the number at a Durga Puja function and asked the young actor to get his lungi, baniyan and music system to Kardar Studio and showcase his hotstepping moves to Shammi Kapoor. Everyone loved his enactment and a scene was created for him by writer Sachin Bhowmick.
“There was no choreographer. I was asked to perform the way I performed at my shows… That was the turning point in my career. There were four shows on Friday. By Saturday morning, I was a big star,” the actor recounted.
Savvy film producers saw his box-office value. At the peak of his career, a Junior Mehmood (JM) song and dance routine would be woven into the script as an added attraction of sorts. By his own admission, he would charge Rs 1 lakh per film, a staggering amount for a child actor those days. His name would be highlighted in TOI advertisements for qawwali shows.
Gemini’s ‘Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani’ (1971) saw his free-spirited jive in the song, ‘Aesa banoonga actor main yaaron’. In Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Do Raaste’ (1969), he frolicked to ‘Apni apni biwi pe sabko guroor hai’ – the song’s echoes can be heard in the 1981 chartbuster from Lawaaris, ‘Mere angne mein’.
JM would often be given mischievous one-liners. As a bratty youngster with a gift for the gab, he was a scene-stealer in films such as ‘Aan Milo Sajna’ (1970).
When his teenage years ended, so did stardom. Unlike Neetu, Sachin and Sarika who made a successful transition to adulthood with lead roles, Junior Mehmood couldn’t make that leap. In Sachin and Sarika’s winning lead debut ‘Geet Gata Chal’, he only had a risque dance track, ‘Mohe chhota mila bhartar’. The same year, he pranced in drag in the film, ‘Daku aur Mahatma’ (1977), where he had the relatively meaty part of a boy brought up by bandits.
In the following decades, he got plenty of vacuous roles first as a young adult and then as a grown-up. The actor also performed for his own troupe, Junior Mehmood Musical Nights, and directed and produced seven Marathi films.
He had fond memories of working with Jeetendra (‘Caravan’). A few days ago, the ailing actor expressed a desire to meet fellow actor Sachin- one of the kiddos in Brahmachari-and ‘Jeetu-ji’. His wish was fulfilled on Tuesday.
The actor is survived by his two sons and wife.

First appeared on timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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