Jalal Agha remembers his father Agha – Moments with Papa
Agha and laughter go hand in hand — on screen and off screen too. Jalal Agha reminisces about life with his fun loving father.
When I was born daddy was away shooting at some studio. Someone gave him the message that he had got a son. He sent back a message saying the child is to be called Jalal (Wrath). I always wonder how he knew my underlying nature so early, to give me such an apt name. I am usually a cool person who likes to joke but when someone makes me angry, boy I really get mad.
We were a very close-knit family. Everyday before going to bed my father and I used to wrestle. This went on till I was eight years old. I was a very mischievous child and so I was transferred from the local school to a boarding school in Pune. Whenever I came home from Pune during the holidays, my father used to come to receive me at the station. Now, to know which on the various coaches I would be in, we developed a signal between us. When the train arrived he would put his fingers to his lips and whistle loudly as he used to do in his films. Hearing this whistle I would answer similarly. Then he would pinpoint the source and find out which coach I was in. This became such a habit that he would even whistle during parties to locate me. One day he had come to visit me at the hostel and took me out to lunch. After lunch he dropped me back and as he was going away I whistled. He came back and demanded what was wrong. I told him I wanted money. He suddenly flared up, for a moment, but then seeing the humor in it he gave me the money.
Dilip Kumar was a very good friend of my father’s. Sometimes I used to go and stay at his Pali Hill residence for days together. One day Dilip saab came to my father and asked him if I could act as young Salim in Mughal-e-Azam. My father said a definite no. Not one to take a no, one day Dilip Kumar came home and took me away for three days. During those three days I shot for Mughal-E-Azam. On one of those days he called my father for lunch on the sets. My father was surprised to see me there. But then everybody started praising my acting. So in spite of being angry at being deceived he felt a little happy. But then the time came for me to give my shot. I went up to K. Asif and told him I did not want my father on the sets. So he asked my father to go out. My father got angry and demanded to know who ordered it. He pointed to me. You should have seen my father’s face. My father shouted at the top of his voice and threatened me that when I got back home I would get a good beating. I think that was the only time my father was thrown out from any set!
He used to take me to the studios with him. He taught me a funny line and would show off to his friends by asking me, “Mein tera kaun?” and I would say, “Daddy,” Then he would ask me, “Tu mera kaun?” “Baap” would be my prompt reply and everyone would laugh. We used to take two sticks and fence on the sets. While fencing he would look behind me and shout, “Look out”. I would turn around and he would poke the stick into me and say “Got you!” He used to behave like a child when he was among children. We had no ego hassles. One day when I was playing on the sets of Ranjit studios,I entered a room and saw him smooching a top heroine. He did not see me and I just closed the door and went away. Till today he does not know that I saw him.
I left Xavier’s and joined the Scindia School at Gwalior. Now Gwalior is quite far from Bombay when compared to Pune and at least I had relatives in Pune, but I had no one in Gwalior. My mother began crying while I was leaving, so my father forced me to go and pacify her. He asked me to at least act like I was crying or else it would hurt my mother. He always considered others’ feelings.
My father would send very little money to me in Gwalior and I would always be hard-up for pocket money. Whenever I came back home my father and I always had a confrontation.
Then I joined the FTII. Again my father would send me very little money. One day we had to go to Delhi from the Institute. I wrote to my father for money and he sent just enough for the journey. So in Delhi I had a problem getting food. I would go to one of the temples and have a thali for Re.1 . Later I wrote a hard hitting letter to him accusing him of ill- treating me. He liked the letter and immediately sent me Rs.300.
When I graduated from the FTII most of the people I approached told me to do the type of roles my father did. They would say ‘Arre, tum Agha ka beta hai,ye pehle kyo nahin bataya?” And I would walk out of the place.
My father had a passion for horses. Every Sunday was a social occasion for him. He would have his suit ironed and get ready to go to the races. No one could stop him on Sunday. Even if I was sick he would pat my head lovingly and tell me to take care, and go off to the races
Once when we had gone for a show to Karnataka he informed the organizers before-hand that he had to be back in Bombay by Sunday. But the programme went on and on. Furious he pulled me out and took me to a car where the driver was sleeping. He woke the driver and told him to drive to the nearest airport which was Belgaum. When we reached Belgaum we found that we’d missed the plane. He rented a car at Belgaum and drove to Goa and from there we caught the flight to Bombay. After dumping me somewhere close to our house he drove straight to the race course. Such was his passion for racing.
One could not ask him how he fared at the races for he would get angry. All we could do was wish him good luck when he was leaving. He even had a house at Worli, which is very close to the race course and now his present residence in Pune is also close to the race course. He also had three horses which he has now sold.
Another passion he had was playing cards. Reading could also be called one of his passions.
Lately my father has been dogged by bad luck. First he had a heart attack and just as he was recuperating, we realized he has cancer too. When he first heard this he was frightened and began losing interest in life and often used to sit and cry. One day I went up to him and consoled him saying that he had taught us to face life with a smile, and if he cried what would h apppen to us.
Luckily the cancer was detected at an early stage and he came out of it fighting fit.
My father would always go out of his way to help others even if they didn’t want his help. I would always fight with him over this. I had told him not to recommend my name to producers. But he still would not listen. Once when I was offered a role in Farz I asked the producer if my father had recommended me. He said yes and I turned down the offer.
Though my father was strict, he was kind and understanding. When my sister wanted to marry Tinnu Anand (who then looked like a hippie) my father would hear nothing of it. But I put my foot down and said that I would stand by her. The next day when I came home I saw him painting one of the doors. Curious I asked him why this sudden activity. He shouted at me saying that my sister’s wedding was just a few days away and I was still loafing around, and he gave me a brush and asked me to paint the other door. That was his nature. He could always forgive and forget this industry. But what has the film industry given him, he fought his way from being a nobody and today has become Agha, the comedian. He has done shows for army jawans but still has never been rewarded for his social work. He has not even got a thank you. But he is content with life. Even though we’ve had differences before, today I can’t help but admire this person (Jalal Agha interviewed by Vijay Shekhar in 1989).