From Extra to Super Star
Mumtaz first appeared in Shahid Lateef’s Sone ki Chidiya (1958) as a child artist. Her mother, Naaz, was also an actress in films. When her family faced financial crisis, Mumtaz agreed to act in films as a junior artist and started appearing in group-scenes, at a very young age. She appeared in front of camera in V. Shantaram’s Stree and Sehra but she went almost unnoticed.
Mumtaz played the role of sister of the hero in O. P. Ralhan’s Gehra Daag. Mumtaz then got the lead role in Pathan being made by Ataullah Khan, Madhubala’s father, but the film remained incomplete.
A large number of girls regularly flock to the tinsel city of Bombay with a dream to become heroines and most of them end up as extras. There is a union of these extras in Bombay, which provides the junior artists to various films. The junior artist has to shell out a percentage of her income to this union. Mumtaz also had to spend a few years as extra only. However, because of her beauty and perseverance, she got an opportunity to act in lead roles against Dara Singh. And then, she quickly established herself as the heroine of B and C Grade movies. With Jawan Mard, Hercules, Samson, Tarzan comes to Delhi Mumtaz was all over the film industry!
In her second phase, Mumtaz got the roles of supporting actress in Kaajal, Khandaan, Sawan ki Ghata, Hamraaz and Mere Sanam the coveted A Grade family movies. During this phase, she fell in love with Shammi Kapoor, after the demise of his wife Geeta Bali. Everybody expected that they would marry and because of this, she lost the role in Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker to Padmini. Brahmchari with Mumtaz and Shammi Kapoor was a super-hit and Mumtaz was established as a heroine of A Grade big films! Though V. Shantaram’s Boond jo ban gayi Moti was not very successful, but the acting of Mumtaz was appreciated. Mumtaz recorded another big success in Baldev Raj Chopra’s Aadmi aur Insaan.
With the stupendous success of Do Raaste and Bandhan starring Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz became the number one heroine. Unfortunately, Naaz could not see the success of her able daughter.
At one stage, Mumtaz was the heroine in the films of all the top producers – Manmohan Desai’s Sachcha Jhootha, Feroz Khan’s Apradh, Vijay Anand’s Tere mere Sapne, Dev Anand’s Hare Ram Hare Krishna, L. V. Prasad’s Khilona, J. Omprakash’s Aap ki Kasam, etc.
There was coyness in Mumtaz’s acting. She showed extreme verve and energy in every scene. She was extremely spontaneous and rhythmic in all her dance steps. She gave us the intoxicating dances during the phase of supporting roles.
Mumtaz also portrayed the serious emotional roles in Khilona and Tere Mere Sapne with extreme sensitivity. In fact, Mumtaz was so proficient that she could never be tied down by any image and kept on concentrating on diversity of roles.
Though she was not counted in the league of great actresses in the firmament of Hindi Cinema, but she was the top actress as well as was the favourite of all the viewers. She gave hits with all the actors from Dara Singh in Faulad to Dilip Kumar in Ram aur Shyam. Though Mumtaz traversed the path of disconsolate domain of an extra to the sky of a top star, but during her odessy she never lost her spontaneity and vivaciousness with which she groomed all her roles.
When Mumtaz was on the top of her career, she fell in love with Mayur Madhwani, the richest man of Africa, and she took a daring decision to leave the world of arc lights and painted faces. Mayur’s family have been the richest in Africa who have palaces in cities all over the world, along with personal Boeing jets. Madwanis own half the properties in Kampala.
Mumtaz portrayed the role of the daughter-in-law of a billionaire family successfully and with ease, and gave birth to two daughters. Mumtaz travelled the Cinderella like dream path of career starting from an extra, earning just Rs. 37 per day, to a queen, rolling in Rs. 370 Crores… If a film on the life of Mumtaz were made, the critics would term it artificial and impossible, because no normal girl can possibly have a fate like that.
Troubles crept in her married life after fifteen years. Though the reasons are not known, but not bearing a son could be one of them. Mumtaz made a folly - trying to make a comeback at that age. The audience did not accept her in Pahlaj Nihalani’s Aandhiyaan.
• Pramod (Pawan) Agrawal in Navrang, 1994