Ajit – Self-Portrait (1956)
WHEN “Filmfare” asked me to write this Self Portrait, my first reaction was to laugh!
I least expected to be roped into a series meant obviously for the artist who lives the inner life and thinks about life’s problems and questions which have vexed philosophers.
It is, of course, good to ponder over such problems and my colleagues in this series have done an excellent job on the complex, never-smooth task of self-analysis.
But me? I am, let us admit at the outset, a wrong selection. However, if something of the same kind is wanted, let us get on with it and be done with it.
To me, the reason for my feeling out of place is that I am an extrovert. I have no hidden desires festering in my soul, no frustrations waiting to be laid bare, no secret yens, and no unfulfilled ambitions driving me on.
I would be required to talk mostly of these. But who would like to read what one who looks like a beefy footballer turned actor has to say! I can only repeat what friends already know about me and what fans can surmise easily.
I love life.
I like the solid, basic things of life — a good meal, good cigarettes, a day’s hard work followed by the evening’s rough-and-tumble on the football field.
I like to fight—in films, that is! The psychologist would probably say it expresses an unfulfilled desire to be a champion wrestler or boxer. Nothing of the sort—and to the devil with them.
I have never wanted to be a wrestler or a boxer, though I do like to wear the gloves and throw a fellow on the mat.
I like to play billiards, bridge, badminton sometimes, and tennis. I like watching cricket, football and hockey matches. I enjoy an occasional swim.
Most of all, I love shikar and would never miss the opportunity of a shoot.
I had such an opportunity recently, when the “Naya Daur” unit went to Bhopal. I met an amazing shikari there, a Pathan who could shoot while driving his jeep at speed. With him I ventured into the pitch-dark of the moonless night.
Guided by the stars, we drove, the chill breeze making the blood in me tingle, and we hunted till the early hours of morning. Then back to camp, a few hours’ sleep and I was up to start shooting again—this time with a camera.
I also like people, and I would have my friends with me all the time, playing cards with them and relaxing.
I love my wife, her smile, her taste in whatever she picks for me. Recently, she was visiting her married sister in Hong Kong, and I received from there a king-sized consignment of clothes she had chosen for me. So I went to Hong Kong to meet her and take her on a shopping spree!
I have always lived this somewhat bohemian, hail-fellow-well-met sort of life. I have had fun and have never wanted for anything. I now have much more than what I started out with, and how many can say that?
I began life as Hamid Ali Khan, the eldest in a family of four. My father was an army officer in Hyderabad and I was tipped for military service.
“Join the army—or become an actor!” they said. The choice was small and I opted for Bombay and am here!
All kinds of reasons are given for becoming an actor, among them justifications of “artistic urge” and need of “self-expression.” In my case I know I’m going to be called cynical. Put it like this for me—who would pass up a chance to get fame, wealth and adulation, all in one gloriously-wrapped gift package?
However, there are some who on the way come to grips with the higher values, who reach to the heart of things, who distil the essence of art. Among them is my friend Dilip Kumar. I have not thought of myself as one of them.
The gift-wrapped package often proves illusory when taken in the hands. One gambles on it. And why not, since life itself is a gamble?
Call it the fatalist in me speaking. I own to having a large share of fatalism in my make-up. What is to happen will happen. Such thinking is natural with me and has colored my actions through life. It has made me happy, too.
Like any other person, I have had my own troubles. Some become conditioned to trouble and suffering. Others rebel. As far as I am concerned, I have always shed my troubles by being a fatalist. It has always put me on my feet and made me like a boxer who jumps up before the ten can be counted and is ready to spar again.
In closing, I wish to emphasize what I believe to be the trait which is most characteristic of me. It is that I have no false notions, either about myself or about others.
I know what I am. I know all the things which have gone into the making of the individual named Ajit. I know just where he stands on the ladder in films.
I have come some of the way. How much yet remains to be traversed is to be seen. But, with a judicious approach, one can always take care of the future.