As lively as a bottle of ginger-pop and fizzing with fun and frolic is Agha, popular comedian of the Hindi screen and one of the half- dozen universal favourites of the Indian filmgoer.
Of Persian descent, Agha is fair and well- built, with the full face and open expression of an easy-going individual and a smile like the “Good Humour Man.” Born in Poona, where his father was working, Agha spent the greater part of his life there.
“School and college?”
“What?” shouted Agha, “I only went to school for three and a half days,” and, he added by way of explanation, “that was as long as I could stand it.”
After that short educational spree, he spent his time “either playing or mooching around,” he said.
In the course of one or both of these unenlightening activities, Agha used to spend a lot of fascinated time at the Poona Racecourse and thought he’d love to be a jockey, because the life seemed to him to be an ideally easy one with a few hours’ work per day and a lot of money at the end of the week. Besides, he loved horses.
In typical comedian fashion, just when he was all set to combine work with pleasure as a jockey, Agha started to grow. “I grew like the bean-stalk in the fairy tale,” he declared, “and very soon jockeying was definitely out so far as I was concerned.”
But his sorrow over this major disappointment in his life was mitigated by the family’s migration not long after to Bombay, where Agha soon succumbed to the spell of the First City’s gloriously infectious bustle, learned some English and was able to widen his circle of friends, pals, chums and buddies— that’s how his acquaintances are graded in the degrees of his affection.
The family was living in Nagpada and Agha, along with his happy young friends, joined the dramatic group at the Nagpada Neighbourhood House. He loved it and through his friends’ encouragement, praise and their eventual urging, as well as his own inclination, he thought of film acting as a career.
Then came the arduous trek around the film studios in search of a role. Hard and disappointing as it was, Agha kept on. He finally got a part as a comedian in a film—”I have forgotten the name,” he said—which was being produced by Prithvi Pictures.
This first spurt of his career was abruptly stopped by his turning up half an hour late to work on the very first day, as a result of which he was dropped from the cast.
“At Rs. 45 a day too!” recalled Agha, shaking a mournful head.
As he came down from the office where this major tragedy occurred, Agha met some friends to whom he told the sombre news. They, in turn, told him to rush off and try for work with a new company called Kanwal Movietone. He took the advice and was lucky to land a job as the Production Manager of their current picture.
In the concern’s next film, Agha played his first role as a comedian. The picture was titled “Painted Sin” and starred Mehtab and Nazir. It launched Agha in films as a comic.
That was in 1933 and, after the usual ups and downs, Agha today is right in the public’s heart, a well-established actor and a prime favourite with a following of fans all over the country.
Among the pictures in which he has acted are “Mara Gaon,” “Juar Bhata,” “Nazaare,” “Mangala,” “Sansar,” “Patita” (in which he “had a chance to do a little work”) and “Shahenshah,” the first Indian film to be made in Gevacolor in this country. Now he is acting in Gemini’s “Bahut Din Hue,” being produced in Madras, and “Badshah,” “Pilpili Saheb,” “Ladla” and “Chandni Chawk,” all on the floor in Bombay.
A keen racer, Agha owns two horses, Rani Padmini and Mrignyani, and follows their progress with ardent interest. He is also a football fan and visits the pictures occasionally. His favourite stars are Bob Hope and James Stewart.
He plays and likes to watch cricket and is, he claims, a superlative billiards player and a wonderful horseman – “I ride like a champ,” were his words.
Asked, “Do you fly?”
“Fly?” Agha repeated blankly, and then— “Yes, yes!….. I fly kites!” came the happy, crazy reply.
Happy, brimming over with fun, bubbling with life, zest and hilarity, Agha is blessed with the good things of life and has all he wants, including a lovely wife and four attractive children, three girls and a boy (This interview was conducted in 1954).