Tilak Rishi's weblog

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glamorized Republic Day Parade!

I had the unique privilege of witnessing historic scenes of ushering of the Republic of India, on January 26, 1950. The day dawned with a clear sky and sun was bright throughout the day. It was one of the coldest days in Delhi and men, women and children dressed in their best, came out to participate in this great festival. I recall the unforgettable scenes of enthusiasm and rejoicing that marked the beginning of a new era in Indian History when the Republic of India was born with the swearing in of Dr. RajendraPrasad as the first President. The high-domed circular Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan (then known as Government House) was brilliantly lit. Over 500 guests had assembled inside the hall. President Sukarno of the Indonesian Republic, his wife and several members of the Diplomatic corps, members of the Constituent Assembly and prominent citizens had graced the occasion. The outgoing Governor General, C. Rajagopalachari, our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, beaming with pride and joy, the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel, the Iron-man of India, Cabinet Ministers, Judges of the Supreme Court and the Auditor-General of India, were present in the hall to witness this biggest national ceremony of the 20th century. Pandit Nehru and his other Cabinet colleagues were sworn-in soon after. The Speaker of Lok Sabha, G.V. Mavalankar, the first Speaker, sat in the front row. At the most solemn ceremony, India became a Republic amidst rejoicing, fanfare of trumpets and booming of guns. Outside the Darbar Hall, there were unforgettable scenes of jubilation. Large crowds of men, women and children had assembled in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Many of them had come from the adjoining States to witness the ceremony.
The thirty-five year old coach, specially renovated for the state drive, bearing the new emblem of Asoka’s capital and drawn by six sturdy Australian horses carried the President and drove out of Government House at a slow trot, escorted by the President’s bodyguard. All along the route the President was welcomed by shouts of “Jai”. Thousands of people had assembled and had occupied the streets, roofs, tree tops and all available vantage points along the route right from Government House to the Irwin Stadium. The President responded to the greetings of the people with folded hands.
At Irwin Stadium where three thousand Officers and men of the three Armed Services of India and the Police with massed bands had taken positions for the Ceremonial Parade. Here 15,000 people watched one of the most magnificent military parades in India’s recent history. Standing in an Army jeep and accompanied, Brig. J.S. Dhillon, the President inspected the Parade and went round the main stands, later taking the Salute at the march past. Consisting of the units of the Navy, Infantry and Cavalry Regiments, Services Contingents, the Air Force, a Boys’ units of the Punjab Regiment and the Police, the Parade combined color with precision, which the appreciative crowd acknowledge with repeated cheers. Seven massed bands, representing the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Police, provided music, the quality of which fitted with the general excellent pattern of the entire ceremony.
The simple and yet grand ceremony of the Durbar Hall, the excitement of hundreds of thousands of people lining the five-mile route through which the President drove in state and the spectacularly colorful parade at Irwin Stadium, where the President hoisted the Union Flag and took the salute, will remain in my memory for ever.
Today, India celebrates 60 years of its Republic Day with the annual military and cultural parade held in the Indian Capital of New Delhi on 26 January, the Republic Day of India. Before the parade starts, Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, will lay a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate, commemorating all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country. The President, then arrives at the saluting base in his motorcade, escorted by his bodyguards. The President is accompanied by a notable foreign Head of State – who is the Chief Guest at the celebration. The chief guest of 2010 will be President of Republic of Korea Lee Myung bak. Mrs. Pratibha Patil, President of India, who is also the Commander in Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, will take the salute. A 21 gun salute is presented, the President unfurls the National Flag and the National Anthem is played. This marks the beginning of the parade. Various divisions of the Armed Forces then salute the President of India. Floats showcasing the cultures of the various states and regions of India are part of the grand parade, which is broadcast nationwide on television (Doordarshan) and radio. Also part of the parade are children who win the National Bravery Award for the year. The parade ends with a flypast by Indian Air Force jets. The procession starts by moving down from the Rashtrapati Bhavan through Rajpath, past the India Gate and on to Connaught Place, the heart of the city, to enter the historic Red Fort.
Three days later, on the evening of January 29, a stirring ceremony known as ‘Beating Retreat’, is held. It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. The venue is Raisina Hills and an adjacent square, flanked by the north and south block of the Parliament. The Chief Guest of the function is the President of India who arrives escorted by the ‘President’s Body Guards’(PBG), a cavalry unit. The ancient military custom of sending drummers through the streets just before sunset to warn the troops to return to their barracks before the flag is hauled down for the night, has been revived in a unique way. Twenty or more bands, from the three services, perform. The plaintive notes of the old hymn, ‘Abide with me’ is played. The bands fall silent and a solitary bugler takes up the hymn’s refrain. The final notes fade away-marking the end of the Republic Day celebrations.
The big difference between the inaugural ceremony in 1950 and now is the sad sight of tight security arrangements all over the site and the city. Delhi will be under hawk-eye vigil in the run up to the Republic Day celebrations with thousands of policemen fanning out across the city and a massive ground-to-air security apparatus being put in place. Mobile hit teams, anti-aircraft guns and sharpshooters of the National Security Guards will be deployed at various places while paramilitary and Delhi Police commandos will keep a close watch along the route of the Republic Day parade. Snipers will be deployed at high-rise buildings while a total of 105 CCTVs will keep tight vigil on people’s movement between Rajpath and Red Fort, the route of the parade which showcases India’s military might and cultural diversity. A multi-layer security ring will be put in place at Rajpath, where President Pratibha Patil will unfurl the tricolor and take the salute of marching contingents. A special emphasis is being laid on anti-sabotage checks, access control measures and intelligence coordination. The entire route of the parade will be covered by special security and anti-terror arrangements. Elaborate air defense measures, including deployment of anti-aircraft guns, have also been taken to check possible intrusion of air space. Besides, helicopters of the Indian Air Force will hover over the areas around Rajpath and all along the route of the parade. Other security measures like patrolling of crowded markets, checking and frisking in metro, railway stations and bus terminals have been tightened. Security at the IGI airport is also strengthened in coordination with the CISF. Checking and frisking have also been intensified at all entry points to the city with police setting up barricades to keep a vigil on all those entering the capital.
In this day and age, with all the security tension and economic melt down, do we need an annual Republic Day parade of this magnitude to flex our military muscles? A pertinent question posed and debated by India's think tank of the day. Even the charm of the parade as a source of inspiration and pride in the early years of our Republic has given way to horror stories of barriers, security checks, frisking and myriad safety precautions. An embarrassing number of seats in the stands now go empty, as invitees are daunted by the stringent security regulations. Besides, the familiar formula of the parade is getting stale - an endless procession of regiments, bands, cavalry, antiquated artillery tanks and modern missiles, interspersed with schoolchildren and tableaux. Even the cost of the whole operation is mind boggling. A substantial proportion of the armed forces budget is diverted from November 1 onwards towards preparing for the mammoth exercise. Beginning January, the Delhi Police is focused on the parade and not the city’s law and order. On D Day, 196 companies of the Delhi Police and 55 companies of central paramilitary forces, consisting of some 35,000 policemen, are on duty. As well as some 800 commandos. Disbanding the parade totally may seem too unpatriotic to even think of. But perhaps one can think of cutting down on the endless marching columns and add some innovative touches. Maybe for reviving our flagging interest even include Bollywood in a big way to participate and present a glamorized Republic Day Parade.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lohri Is The Liveliest!

Lohri is much more than a festival in our family. It is the day to cherish the most cheerful and lively time we had with our mother alive. Her greatest happiness was hosting guests, friends and relatives, the biggest gathering of them being for the Lohri festival. For her, this was more than just a festival, it was also an example of a way of her life, hosting as many guests as would come and enjoy her hospitality. A true believer in the age-old saying that God visited us disguised as a guest, this was the festival when God blessed us with His presence in full force.

In the evening, with the setting of the sun, huge bonfire was lit in the front yard of our house. Family, our friends and other guests gathered around the rising flames, circled around the bonfire and threw puffed rice, popcorn and peanuts etc. into the fire as offering, told funny anecdotes and sang popular folk songs. Mother would distribute 'Prasad' comprising five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. The traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti and sarson-ka-saag was then served around the bonfire. Throughout the day besides cooking the special cuisine for the festival dinner and making preparations for the big night, mother would keep busy with generous distribution of money and winter savories to enthusiastic children who went from house to house singing songs and asking for offerings for the festival. My wife, my mother's best friend after our marriage, and a true follower of the traditions my mother believed in, helped her throughout to make the festival most memorable for all with festivities and feeding that went on till wee hours.

Next to her love for Lohri and hosting guests, my mother's most favorite hobby was going to movies, a must every Wednesday when it was 'Ladies Only' matinee in most theaters at half the normal rates. All her friends had open invitation to watch the latest movie, where she would not only buy them tickets but also treat them to sodas and snacks, which were sold by hawkers inside the hall during interval. She enjoyed all movies, musicals and mythological, comedies and tearjerker tragedies, with no exceptions. She would even watch some movies, which she liked most, many times. Veer Zara, for sure, would have been one such movie, had it been released in her lifetime. The movie, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherjee in the leading roles, had the loveliest Lohri scene with Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini in guest appearance, singing the mood- lightening and fun-frolic Lohri song . A frothy number about the male-female teasing, the song and the sequence would have been immensely liked by my mother and all those who appreciate Punjabi folk:

Lo aa gayi lohri ve,bana lo jodi ve
kalaayi koyi yun thaamo,na jaave chodi ve
Jhoot na boli ve,kukur na toli ve
jo tune khayeen thee kasme,ik ik todi ve...

Veer Zara's above scene tells the true picture of what Lohri is all about, especially as seen in Punjab's prosperous countryside. Amidst the freezing cold weather, with the temperature wobbling between 0-5 degrees Celsius and the dense fog outside, everything seems stagnant in the northern part of India. However, below the apparently frozen surface, you would be amazed to find a palpable wave of activity going on. People, especially in the northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and parts of Himachal Pradesh, are busy making preparations for Lohri — the long-awaited bonfire festival — when they can come out of their homes and celebrate the harvesting of the Rabi (winter) crops and give in to relaxing and enjoying the traditional folk songs and dances. Lohri is a festival of zeal and verve and marks the culmination of the chilly winter. Dances are one of the most fun loving aspect of Lohri celebration. Punjab is a land of exciting culture, myriad images of swaying emerald green fields and hearty people whose robust rustic dances that reflects unique camaraderie and bonhomie. Lohri dances are very much a part of the heritage of Punjab. Bhangra and Giddha are the most popular form of dances performed by men and women on Lohri. Logs of wood are piled together for a bonfire, and friends and relatives gather around it. They go around the fire three times, giving offerings of popcorns, peanuts, rayveri and sweets. Then, to the beat of the dhol (traditional Indian drum), people dance around the fire. Prasad of til, peanuts, rayveri, puffed rice, popcorn, gajak and sweets is distributed. This symbolizes a prayer to Agni for abundant crops and prosperity. Lohri is also an auspicious occasion to celebrate a newly born baby’s or a new bride’s arrival in the family. The day ends with a traditional feast of sarson da saag and makki di roti and a dessert of rau di kheer (a dessert made of sugarcane juice and rice). The purpose of the Lohri harvest ceremony is to thank God for his care and protection. During this festival the people prepare large quantities of food and drink, and make merry throughout the day and night. Therefore everyone looks forward to this day. According to legend, a good Lohri sets the tone for the whole year ahead - the more joyous and bountiful the occasion, the greater will be the peace and prosperity.

The origin of Lohri is related to the central character of most Lohri songs, Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries. Another story relates that once Dulla Bhatti rescued a girl from kidnappers and adopted her as his daughter. When he got his daughter married off his people would remember their hero every year on Lohri. Groups of children moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song:

Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicaharaa ho!
Dullah bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!...

It has elements that offer similarities to the American Holloween. Much like Holloween, the children sing folk songs outside the door and ask for generous reward, 'lohri," which is often roasted peanuts in shells, sesame-covered molasses-candy known as "riori" or other special gift that family may choose to share with the revelers.

In recent times, with more and more people from Punjab, especially the youth, moving to other countries, particularly USA, U.K. and Caneda, the festival of Lohri has also spread out far and beyond the fields of Punjab. Lohri is the annual event at Stanford! The event includes traditional singing and dancing around the fire, live dhol beats from renowned dholis, free food and snacks, bhangra music, and a special performance by Chardi Jawani, the Stanford Bhangra Team. This is a community event - grandparents to grandkids, all are welcomed. Newly born, Newly engaged, and Newly wed especially encouraged to come! Entrance is free, though there is always a request to bring a blanket or quilt to sit on while you eat and watch the performances. Energetic beats of the dhol and spirited voices of one and all is how the guests are welcome to the festival of Lohri. And, what sends the merriment quotient higher and louder is the rhythmic beating of the double-sided barrel drum. Popular lyrics and a bhangra swirl all come alive to its enthralling beats. Dressed in bright red and green kurtas and a tamba (something like a dhoti) the dholis are an essential part of any celebration, especially on Lohri. With celebrations getting bigger, these artistes are booked much in advance. What follows next is a mix of Bollywood and Punjabi numbers. — Kajra re, Dupatta tera nau rang da, Mauja hi mauja, Nagada nagada in Bollywood, Jazzy B’s Romeo, Jine Mera Dil Luteya and the all time fave Boparai’s De De Gera. Mouth-watering munchies, mountains of Moongfali and popcorn, trays of gachak tempt. And we succumb. (You would have to be a saint not to!) Forget calories and bite into the 13 varieties of gachak, Til (sesame seeds) coated in lip-smacking golden gur (jaggery), gachak and chikki is just the beginning of what will lure you here. A treat for all the senses is the aromatic, eye-catching and scrumptious gulab gachak. Garnished with rose petals, this is quite popular for obvious reasons. If it’s nuts you like to gorge on, then bite into the dry fruit preparations. This rich gachak is very much in demand. Since Lohri is incomplete without these high-cal goodies, no wonder a vigorous version of the bhangra to go with it?

Whether as nostalgic memories of mother's festivities or as the hearty heritage of Punjab's exciting culture or attending the event at Stanford in USA, of all the festivals, Lohri is the liveliest.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Basant Or Jashn-e-Baharan!

It is still very hard to reconcile that I can never return to live in Lahore, the beloved city of my birth. On August 15, 1947, Lahore had become part of Pakistan, the newly created country out of the partition of India, and I along with millions of non-Muslims had to migrate to India. Even though the unfortunate Partition tragedy is history now, and ushering in of the new millennium since then makes it more so, my mind, whether in India or the States, never stops landing back in Lahore, reliving the sweet memories of the first 15 years of my life that I spent in that great city. The sweetest and the most exciting of them is, indeed, of the keenly awaited kite-flying festival of Basant that our entire family celebrated with extraordinary energy and enthusiasm on the fourth floor terrace of our house. The best part of our pleasure was that our father, who never allowed us to distract him from his books on any holiday, would willingly join us to enjoy the festival. It was always a full house on the roof top with our family members, my best friend Bazal and friends of all my brothers gathering in full strength to cheer every time we won the kite-fight in the air by cutting the kite-cord of our adversary, with the bursts of drums and trumpets. My mother and sisters joined in the festivity by making us feast on the most delicious meal for lunch and nonstop supply of snacks throughout the day, all served on the terrace.

Basant Panchami festival brings the news of advent of spring, where the whole environ baptize in romance. The pleasant cool breeze supersedes the cold winters, the flowers swing in the air in their full youth-- there is air of merriment everywhere. Vasant is the season when nature is at its beautiful and bountiful best. Flowers are in full bloom and trees sprout new shoots. It is a season when nature regenerates and every thing is fresh and new. New life is evident in the woods and fields. Wheat and other crops enliven with new life and vitality. Mustard fields turn into a heady mix of yellow and green as the blossoms add color, poetry and romance to life. Basant Panchami has a specific meaning, Basant means Spring, whereas Panchami means the fifth day of the spring. It falls on Panchami - on the Waxing Moon. The festival lies in the month of January-February. This year it falls on Wednesday January 20.

In Lahore the season of spring started with the Basant carnival, an orgy of kite-flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and cultural events in which all communities participated with unprecedented unity. Actually the Muslim, more than Hindus, had a special role to play during Basant because it was they who specialized in making the kite-cord and kites. Karbla, a sacred Muslim place in Lahore, was famous for making of the most sturdy cords for which orders had to be placed well in advance. Lahorites and out-of-town enthusiasts would wear glamorous clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring - “Aya Basant Pala Udant”(come spring winter vanishes) - as they would say. Nighttime kite-flying in the walled old quarter around the 16th century Badshahi mosque and Lahore fort opened the festival. Ancient mughal palaces throw open their doors for all-night parties to view the kites, illuminated by spotlights slashing the sky. Stars from the Lahore ( now known as 'Lollywood') film industry performed with classical Qawali musicians at parties in traditional haveli homes. White paper kites shimmered in the night sky, diving and soaring as rival fliers joust in duels marked by battle cries of Pecha! and victory shouts of bo kata!

In post Partition Lahore, when there are no Hindus left there, Basant festival is still celebrated with the same enthsiasm as in the past, before independence. Pakistanis from across the country flock to Lahore for the festival, crowding the Islamabad to Lahore motorway to catch a glimpse of the flying paper fighting kites. Top hotels report full bookings - "It is an event not to be missed," they say. Basant continues to occupy an important part of the culture of the city. Flying kites is a major part of the festival of Basant. This interesting inaugural act of the festival is performed in the walled, old part of the Lahore city. Important historical buildings like the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque lie at close proximity to this quarter of the city. During this time, most of the palatial buildings of Lahore open their large doors to allow nightlong parties. People of Lahore, who stay abroad, visit their home city at this point of the year to partake in the festivities. Lahore is dressed in an appropriate spring attire, and the festival events include musical performances, art and flower displays, books and handicrafts stalls as well as the Canal Mela (festival) during which decorated and illuminated boats and floats are displayed on Lahore Canal. The most internationally popular event of Pakistan, the Basant festival transforms Lahore skies with a plethora of colorful kites, and has a long tradition of kite tournaments and battles. Tourists from far and near also make it a point to be present in Lahore during the Basant Festival. More than one million people are expected every year to attend the Basant festival, which marks the start of spring. Rooftops are in high demand - rentals for the night have been reported to sky rocket. Organisers work all week to light up an estimated 12,000 rooftops. Residents and revellers crowd into public parks, shopping centers and hotels and on to the rooftops of all big buildings. The festival draws people from as far away as the US and Australia. The festival is also marked with concerts and parties, attracting hundreds of Indians arriving in Lahore, including some of our top film stars. "We love our guests and Lahore is a very safe city," ensures the city's mayor.

In Pakistan, Basant has been seen by some of the hardline Muslim parties as a custom of the Hindus. Islamic clerics have issued edicts each year branding the festival as Hindu in origin. They have often sought to impose ban on Basant. In fact, under their pressure Kite flying had been banned in Pakistan many times since 2005, but the ban has been lifted again and again, especially for the Basant festival. Others see Basat simply as a spring festival, and enjoy the same. Festival enthusiasts call it a rare chance to step out and celebrate in a country riven by Islamic militancy. "Let clerics do their business while we rejoice. It is the only colorful event in the country that Pakistan is proud of, The extremists are a tiny minority in this country, That's what Basant proves," they say. And the festivities go on, as always, during the Basant festival. The only concession some have made to the clerics' anti-Basant cries is to call the festival Jashn-e-Baharan (the festival of spring). The truth is that Lahore boasts of Basant being the biggest festival of the city, and will remain so whether they call it Basant or Jashn-e-Baharan.

Friday, January 01, 2010

My Name Is Khan

Khan is actually my surname. It can have one of several connotations, all related in some capacity to the title of Khan, which originated in Turky and Central Asian traditions and led to the term being used as a surname or suffix by people throughout South Asian Subcontinent. In India it is referred to as name for Pathans as a caste in the same way as Brahmin or other title. It is also a family name for the descendants of people upon whom the British Raj bestowed the title Khan Sahib or Khan Bahadur.
Though a widespread surname in most countries of Central and South Asia, Khan has become the most prestigious surname in India, especially during the last two decades, thanks to my unprecedented popularity as the superstar trio of Bollywood – Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Amir Khan. Of course, the new generation, who has grown up watching me in hit movies as one or the other of the three Khans, cannot deviate from their devotion for them, but their elders would instantly remember me as some of the most renowned Khans of Bollywood of an earlier era, as I take them on the nostalgic journey down the decades, when Bollywood was Bombay, the Mecca of Hindi cinema.

Mehboob Khan

I was a pioneer producer-director of Hindi cinema, best known for directing Mother India (1957), which won the Filmfare Awards for Best Film and Best Director and was a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. I set up the Mehboob Studio in Mumbai. Throughout my career, I produced and directed many blockbuster films, the most notable being the biggest musical Anmol Ghadi (1946), romantic drama Andaz (1949), the swashbuckling Aan (1951), the dramatic Amar (1954) and the social epic Mother India (1957), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957 and was a remake of my own classic Aurat (1940). I have directed 21 other films dating from the late 1930s. I take pride in having introduced and/or helped establish the careers of many actors and actresses who went onto become big stars in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s such as Motilal, Surendra, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Nargis, Nimmi and Nadira.

Mazhar Khan

Another screen legend, whose performance in many a film, especially V. Shantaram’s Padosi (1941), became a household word. I am proud to have worked in some of the most prestigious pictures of 1930s and 40s including Noor Jahan (1931), Subah Ka Sitara (1932), Chandra Gupta (1934), Sunehra Sansar (1936), Bharosa (1940), Sohag (1940), Padosi (1941), Phool (1945) and Nirala (1950). I can never forget how film critics and the viewers alike, on release of Padosi, were stunned to see me, a Khan, playing with perfection the role of a Hindu Thakur and my counterpart, Gajanan Jagirdar, a staunch Hindu, playing the part of the Muslim Mirza. This casting coupe was V. Shantaram's master stroke to convincingly convey the message of Hindu-Muslim unity through his classic movie Padosi.

Yusaf Khan

It is true, my name was Yusuf Khan, when in 1943, actress Devika Rani, who was also the wife of the founder of the Bombay Talkies film studio, Himanshu Rai, discovered me and gave me the screen name Dilip Kumar for my debut film Jwar Bhata (1944). There is an interesting explanation why she changed my name from Khan to a Kumar. The First Lady of Indian Cinema, as she was called, had a crush on her hero, a Muslim, during shooting of a film being made by her husband, Himanshu Rai, the founder of Bombay Talkies. On discovering their romance, he immediately replaced his male lead with Ashok Kumar, his lab assistant. The film was a super hit and Ashok Kumar not only became an overnight star, but also proved lucky for Devika Rani, the two of them together making many hit movies. She hoped the Kumar suffix to my name would be as lucky for me as it was for Ashok Kumar. Lucky it was. Starting my career in 1944, I starred in some of the most commercially successful films of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. I was the first actor to receive a Filmfare Best Actor Award and hold the record for most number of Filmfare Awards won for that category. I starred in a wide variety of roles such as the romantic Andaz (1949), the first technicolor Aan (1952), the dramatic Devdas (1955), the comical Azaad (1955), the historical romance Mughal E Azam (1960) and the social Ganga Jamuna (1961). In 1981 I played a character role in the blockbuster film Kranti and continued my career playing central character roles in hits such as Shakti (1982), Vidhata (1982), Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991). I am, indeed, very much humbled by the immense love and respect I have received from my fans and fraternity throughout my career.

Feroz Khan

As Feroz Khan, I was an actor, film editor, producer and director in the Hindi film industry. For my flamboyant style, with cow-boyish swagger and cigar toting persona which revolutionized the style quotient of the otherwise conventional Bollywood hero, I was known as the Clint Eastwood of the East and a style icon in the industry. I appeared in over 50 films in the 1970s and 1980s, and became one of India's best-loved heroes with my role in the 1980 hit film Qurbani, which I also directed. I produced, directed, and starred in the 1975 film Dharmatma, which was the first Indian film to be shot in Afghanistan and was also my first blockbuster hit as producer, director, and star. This movie was inspired by the Hollywood film The Godfather. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, I was a leading Bollywood star, directing and starring in many of my films. I won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for Aadmi Aur Insaan in 1970, and was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. I launched my son Fardeen Khan's career with the 1998 film Prem Aggan. In 2003, I produced and directed Janasheen, which also starred my son Fardeen. I starred alongside my son again in Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena (2005). Fardeen Khan has since established himself as an another Khan to watch out for.

Sanjay Khan

I made my debut in the 1964 Chetan Anand film "Haqeeqat" followed by the Rajshri film Dosti. In the 1960s and 1970s I starred in the movies Dus Lakh, Ek Phool Do Mali and Intaqam. I also acted opposite my brother Feroz Khan in three films, Upaasna (1971), Mela (1971) and Nagin (1976). I turned producer and director of three films in which I played the leading role, which were Chandi Sona (1977), Abdullah (1980) and Kala Dhanda Goray Log (1986). After Kala Danda Goray Log I stopped acting in films and moved onto starring in and directing television series. In 1990 I starred and directed the Indian TV series The Sword of Tipu Sultan. While filming in 1989, I got severely burnt in a fire on the sets in Premier Studios in Mysore. I recovered after many months in hospital and have since produced and directed television serials. I also starred and directed the Mega Indian TV series "The Great Maratha". In the late 90s I directed the TV-series Jai Hanuman (1997-2000). In the new millennium, I directed a mini series called Maha Kavya Mahabharat and a movie starring Jessica Chapnik called Maryada Purushottam (2005). My youngest daughter Suzanne Khan is married to Hrithik Roshan and my son Zayed Khan is one more rising Khan of Bollywood, with hits like Main Hun Naa, Dus and Om Shanti Om.

Kader Khan

I am an actor, comedian, script and dialogue writer. I have acted in over 300 films and have written dialogue for over 1,000 Indian films, from the 1970s up to the turn of the 21st century. I am most popularly recognized for working with comedian actor Govinda in comedy films by director David Dhawan. I have also worked side by side with other comedians like Shakti Kapoor and Johnny Lever in over 300 films. I played a large variety of parts in films like a supporting role of a father, uncle, brother, relative, the main villain or the side villain, guest actor and comedian.I am said to be as responsible for Amitabh Bachchan's success as a Bollywood icon as writer duo Salim-Javed. I wrote many memorable dialogues for Amitabh's films, including Mr. Natwarlal, Amar Akbar Anthony, Agneepath, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Coolie, Laawaris and Naseeb, which were huge hits at the box office. I recently appeared in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), Lucky: No Time for Love (2006) and Family: Ties of Blood (2006). I have also starred in my own comedy television series titled Hasna Mat, which aired on Star Plus. I am currently writing a sequel to the famous comedy Andaaz Apna Apna.

Amjad Khan

Thanks to Gabbar Singh in Sholay (1975), I enjoyed the iconic popularity for playing villain roles in Hindi films. I have worked in over 130 films in my film career spanning nearly twenty years, though the role of Gabbar, the dreaded Chambal dacoit, remains my most powerful and memorable performance. The movie Sholay is one of the all-time blockbuster movies in India and one of the highest earners, and although the movie had a cast of superstars including Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra, the most memorable character was considered to be that of Gabbar Singh. After the success of Sholay I continued to play villain roles in many subsequent Hindi films in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, though I was also acclaimed for playing many other unconventional roles. In the critically acclaimed film Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977), directed by Satyajit Ray, I played the helpless and deluded monarch Wajid Ali Shah, whose kingdom, Avadh, is being targeted by British colonialists from the British East India Company. I played a positive role opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Yaarana (1981) where I played Bachchan's best friend and in Laawaris as Amitabh's father. In the art film Utsav (1984), I portrayed Vatsayana, the author of the Kama Sutra. In 1988 I appeared in the Merchant-Ivory English film The Perfect Murder as an underworld don. I also excelled at playing comical characters in films such as Qurbani (1980), Love Story (1982) and Chameli Ki Shaadi (1986).

So, that was my role of the Khans of the bygone era of Bollywood. In fact, contemporary Khans are so much covered by the media that any further feedback would be overlapping. Still, in deference to the dedicated devotion of my innumerable fans, I may as well include the three most famous Khans of Bollywood in my brief biography.

Aamir Khan

As Aamir Khan I am an actor, director and producer. I have worked in a number of critically and commercially successful films and have established myself as one of the leading actors of Hindi cinema. Starting my career as a child actor in my uncle Nasir Hussain's film Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), I began my professional career eleven years later with the film, Holi (1984). I had my first commercial success with my cousin Mansoor Khan's film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), for which I won a Filmfare Best Male Debut Award. After seven previous nominations during the 1980s and 1990s, I received my first Filmfare Best Actor Award for my performance in the major grosser Raja Hindustani (1996).

In 2001, I made my debut as a film producer with the Academy Award-nominated Lagaan. I played the lead role in the film and earned my second Filmfare Best Actor Award for my performance. I also won a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance for his role in Rang De Basanti (2006). In 2007, I made my directorial debut with Taare Zameen Par, for which I received a Filmfare Best Director Award. This was followed by Ghajini (2008), which became the highest-grossing Indian film of all-time, its record to be broken by my next movie 3 Idiots (2009). My other notable movies include Dil (1990), which became the highest grossing film of the year, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin (1991), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992), Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993) and Rangeela (1995). Most of these films were successful critically and commercially.

In 2008, I launched my nephew Imran Khan's debut in the film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na under my production house. The film was a big hit in India, and eventually earned me another nomination for Best Movie at the Filmfare.

Salman Khan

I made my acting debut with the film Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988), had my first commercial success with the blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), and won a Filmfare Best Male Debut Award for my performance. I clawed back my previous success in 1994 with his second collaboration with director Sooraj Barjatya in the romance Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, co-starring Madhuri Dixit. This film was the biggest hit of that year, and turned out to be one of Bollywood's highest grossing films ever, becoming the fourth highest earner of all time. I went on to star in some of Bollywood's most successful films, such as Saajan (1991), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994), Karan Arjun (1995), Biwi No.1 (1999), having appeared in the highest earning films of five separate years during my career. In 1999, I won a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his extended appearance in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), and since then have starred in several critical and commercial successes, including Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Tere Naam (2003), No Entry (2005) Partner (2007) and Wanted (2009).

Shahrukh Khan

I began my career appearing in several television serials in the late 1980s. I made my film debut in Deewana (1992). Since then, I have been part of numerous commercially successful films and have earned critical acclaim for many of my performances. I have won thirteen Filmfare Awards for my work in Indian films, seven of which are in the Best Actor category. My films such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Chak De India (2007), Om Shanti Om (2007) and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) remain some of Bollywood's biggest hits, while films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Veer-Zaara (2004) and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) have been top-grossing Indian productions in the overseas markets, making me one of the most successful actors of India.

At the end, I may also make a mention of how the media sees me as the top three Khans of Bollywood:

Amir Khan: Mr. Perfectionist (I do try to be one)
Salman Khan: The Bad Boy of Bollywood (which I am not)
Shahrukh Khan: King Khan (I hope to live up to this title in my next “My Name Is Khan”).