“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them’’- William Shakespeare
For the common man, greatness (born, achieved or thrust) is measured through success or recognition. Common or uncommon, almost all people aspire for such greatness but, even after summing up all the 3 ‘some’s of Shakespeare, majority will end up in endless waiting. However, one should not give up till the end because miracles can happen anytime. Yes, when it happened for ‘Akbar the great’ after 4 centuries and ‘Hyder Ali the common’ after 5 decades, it can happen for any ‘in betweens’ too.
Akbar, rated as one of the all time great rulers of India, was known for his valor. He had multiple talents in varied fields including art and literature though being an illiterate. He preached tolerance and adopted Din-e-Ilahi as a state religion. He married Jodha to avoid bloodshed and allowed her to stay Hindu till the end of her life, never once interfering in her beliefs. Love was his forte, as he loved all people and religions. His rule was governed by love. It would have been interesting to know of his personal love life with wife Jodha. Yet the Indian film industry, which began its illustrious career in the 1930s, never once showed interest in this aspect. On the other hand the love story of Salim (Akbar’s son) and Anarkali (a dancer with no noble origin) was repeatedly filmed; the story focuses on Akbar’s aversion to love and Akbar the great was portrayed as the villain.
Hyder Ali began his acting career in the film ‘Jungle King’ (1960) at the age of 10. He got an opportunity at 16 in the film ‘Bhoot Bangla’ (1965), after his brother Akbar refused the role for want of lead roles. To continue film career, Ali gave up studies after standard VII, and was bent upon crossing his parents’ common class status in the film world. His father, Syed hasan Ali Zadi (screen name Kumar), played the role of sculptor in ’Mughal-E-Azam’ and the song ‘Zindabad Mohabbat Zindabad’ was picturised on him. His mother Pramila (originally Jewish with the name Esther Victoria Abraham and film maker and actress Nanda’s uncle Baburao Pendharkar gave her the name Pramila) was also in the film field. In fact, she was the first ever Miss India. In 1963, his father migrated to Pakistan but mother remained in India with the children. Later, Ali switched over to direction and assisted director Roop K. Shouri to work for films like ‘Akalmand’ and ‘Ek Thi Rita’. He directed ‘Mazaak’ (1975), starring Mehmood, Moushumi Chatterjee and Vinod Mehra. Failure of this venture prompted him to try film editing, but the result was no different. Later, he got some recognition in television for his role of Raja in the serial Nukkad, directed by his childhood friend Aziz Mirza. In another television serial (Manoranjan directed by Kundan Shaw), Ali acted as director and he was considered the right choice for the role because in real life he had flopped as an actor, director and film editor! It was not a compliment to him but Ali continued in the film industry with the help and goodwill of Mirza though without recognition. But Ali did not give up his aspiration for star status even after reaching the wrong side of fifties!
And the time has come for Akbar the great and Ali the common when in 2001, Asutosh Gowariker (director of Lagaan) was looking for another good story. Hyder Ali could convince him on the novel idea of the romantic part of the Rajput Princess Jodha’s marriage with the Mughal emperor Akbar. Ali and his daughter Venil did some research and took the help of S.N. Pushp (a journalist from Jaipur) to complete the project. The story was handed over to Gowariker on January 1, 2005. And what followed is history!
The film Jodha Akbar (released in 2008) based on Ali’s story is a blockbuster. Credit goes to the actors, director, other technicians and producers, but Hyder Ali got his well-deserved recognition due for his golden idea. Akbar might have to wait for centuries for depiction as a romantic hero, but Ali’s wait of about 50 years is also not short by human standards.
Ali credits his mother Pramila and wife Dr Uma Sankari for his success. Not to ignore the role of his perseverance, he sums up his achievement as a message to youngsters: “I got an opportunity at 60 and jumped at it. My advice to youngsters is that never give up on your dreams. You have to keep trying in this industry. I have been struggling since the age of 10 and I have got the biggest break after 50 years of my life.”
(We thank “India in New York”- A Guide to Events and Entertainment from India Abroad
(February 15, 2008) for the information)