If anyone could say he had a winning formula on hand, it was without doubt filmmaker Nasir Hussain. His phenomenon track record of entertaining, romantic, musical superhits like Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Pyar ka Mausam (1969), Caravan (1971), Yaadon ki Baaraat (1973) and Hum Kisi se Kum Nahin (1977) are ample testimony of his fine filmmaking skills and undertsanding of what exactly audiences want. In his films, Hussain always revealed a natural fun loving streak and flair for the medium as he confidently tackled stories with lost and found intrigue with energetic romance, witty dialogue and repartee and of course fabulous music.
Hussain was born in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh on 3rd February, 1931. Having initially worked with the great AR Kardar, he joined Filmistan as a writer in 1948. Some of the films he wrote for Filmistan include Anarkali (1953), Munimji (1955) and Paying Guest (1957) before the studio gave him Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) to direct.
Tumsa Nahin Dekha was one of the most popular films of 1957, coming from Filmistan’s stable. Interestingly, its title was in fact determined after a competition was held among the staff of Filmistan! Tumsa Nahin Dekha was a frothy, easy on the eyes and mind film so typical of most Filmistan films. (Filmistan, the breakaway studio from Bombay Talkies was known as ‘the film factory’ and had revolutionized distribution with mid-budget genre productions selling mainly on their star value and music, plots being secondary. Filmistan’s style launched the ‘Bollywood idiom’ as we know it today) The film finally made a star out of Shammi Kapoor. Up to then though he had worked with most of the major actresses of the day his career hadn’t taken off at all. Oscillating between cheap Errol Flynn swashbucklers – a phase he described as playing a male starlet – or so called soulful romances which sank at the box-office he was all but written off. So when the opportunity came his way with Tumsa Nahin Dekha, he shaved his pencil moustache and cut his hair in the famous ducktail style of the 50s and started evoking James Dean and Elvis Presly while following the more freewheeling approach elaborated by Dev Anand.
Another major reason for the success of Tumsa Nahin Dekha was its trendy musical score by OP Nayyar. OP Nayyar composed some extremely special Mohd. Rafi solos on Shammi Kapoor – Jawaniyan Yeh Mast Mast Bin Piye, Yoon To Humne Lakh Haseen Dekhen Hain, Chhupnewale Saamne Aa, not forgetting those evergreen Asha -Rafi duets – Aaye Hain Door Se Milne Huzoor Se, Sarpe Topi Lal Haath Mein Resham ka Rumaal O Tera Kya Kehna and Dekho Kasam Se.
Following Tumsa Nahin Dekha’s success, Shammi Kapoor and Nasir Hussain re-teamed in the equally successful Dil Deke Dekho for Filmalaya, the breakaway group of Filmistan. The film introduced Asha Parekh and she went on to play the lead thereafter in all of Hussain’s films right till Caravan. With Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Hussain set up his own banner Nasir Hussain Films and turned producer-director.
What is extremely interesting about Hussain’s films is that he practically re-made the same film over and over again but the new product always found flavour with the audience. In fact he even had a set of ‘items’ that were repeated in film after film albeit in different combinations and permutations. For eg the clash in the train sequence between Shammi Kapoor and Ameeta in Tumsa Nahin Dekha was repeated in Teesri Manzil with Shammi Kapoor again and Asha Parekh, Beating up the drummer Rocky from Dil Deke Dekho was repeated in Teesri Manzil, Imposters coming to claim the missing son’s place was repeated in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Manzil Manzil (1984). The Bhang song of Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai was repeated in Manzil Manzil, even while maintaining the lost and found track throughout all these films. (In fact when Hussain did dare to go off his formulaic track with Baharon ke Sapne (1967), he met with failure) Perhaps this was the reason that Hussain was never taken seriously by film critics as a director of calibre. But nothing could be further away from the truth.
It is Nasir Hussain who is reponsible for the emergence of the Westernized, free-wheeling, hip-swinging, happy go lucky romantic hero that one sees in Bollywood even today. Often, a special song was written to introduce this type of hero in the film like in Tumsa Nahin Dekha or Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon. Starting first with Dev Anand in films like Munimji and Paying Guest (both of which Hussain wrote) and then of course Shammi Kapoor in Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Deke Dekho, Junglee (1961), Bluff Master (1963), Jaanwar (1965) and countless other films. And certainly no other Hindi film hero made the art of boy chasing girl a more enjoyable and playful affair than Shammi Kapoor. While other heroes of the time were more reserved and gentlemanly in their manner, Shammi Kapoor in contrast wooed the girl with boisterous sensuality accompanied by a brash, cocky swagger and an energetic eagerness to rebuke convention.
Nasir Hussain always maintained that it was more interesting to show the process of the hero and heroine falling in love run through the film rather than have the hero and heroine in love and that is what makes his films special. His films made the process of boy wooing girl and winning her over a most enjoyable affair. Hussain’s films, in fact, were a major influence on the films of Manmohan Desai, another filmmaker who thrived on the lost and found formula. With such a strong element of romance in his films it is but natural that his films were known for their superb music. Each and every composer did some of their best work for him be it OP Nayyar (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon), Shankar-Jaikishen (Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai), Usha Khanna (Dil Deke Dekho) and of course RD Burman who did all of Hussain’s films following Teesri Manzil (1966). In fact The Nasir Hussain-RD Burman-Majrooh Sultanpuri team created musical history together through Teesri Manzil, Baharon ke Sapne, Pyar ka Mausam, Caravan, Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin and Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981).
Apart from the films he directed, Nasir Hussain produced the landmark thriller Teesri Manzil. With Hussain’s story and Vijay Anand’s slick direction, energetic performances by Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh, unforgettable music by RD Burman (O Haseena Zulfonwali, O Mere Sona Re, Deewana Mujhsa Nahin, Humne Tumhe Dekha, Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera), the film remains one of the definitive comedy-thrillers in Bollywood’s history.
In fact, Teesri Manzil and Yaadon Ki Baaraat are perhaps the best examples of Nasir Hussain’s unique style of filmmaking. Though the former was directed by Vijay Anand (who also directed films like Nau Do Gyarah (1957), Kala Bazaar (1960), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Guide (1965), Jewel Thief (1967), Johny Mera Naam (1970) among others), it clearly is a Nasir Hussain film in terms of its scenes, story flow and treatment. Even though Yaadon ki Baaraat was written by Salim-Javed who had written Zanjeer the same year and both stories dealt with the hero thirsting after his father’s killer (Ajit in both the films), the films are as alike as chalk and cheese. While Zanjeer is an intense hard hitting film in the normal tradition of Salim-Javed, Yaadon Ki Baaraat is a Nasir Hussain film in every sense with lost and found, romance, boy chasing girl, fantastic music all blended in beautifully with the revenge track.
Following the failure of Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981), Manzil Manzil (1984) and Zabardast (1985), Hussain stopped directing films. His son Mansoor Khan took over the reigns of Nasir Hussain Films and Hussain continued to write for Mansoor’s films like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992).
Nasir Hussain finally got some sort of belated recognition in 1997 when he was presented with a special Filmfare Award for his contribution to Hindi Cinema. He died of a heart attack in Mumbai on 13th March, 2002.