Excerpts from
Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s interview
conducted by
The News on Sunday on November 19, 2000

In the 1930s, through an exchange of letters, he was in contact with Saadat Hasan Manto, who was living in Bombay and writing for films. In fact in an effort to help Qasmi Saheb make some extra money, Manto invited him to write the dialogues for a film called Dharam Patni.

“I was to leave from Multan and Manto from Bombay and we were to meet in Delhi. It was to be our first meeting,” Qasmi says. “I was given the address of an office in the Chawari Bazaar. As I arrived in Delhi wearing my shalwar kamees and sherwani, I had no idea of what Chawari Bazaar was. But the realisation came as soon as I saw all those women standing in the balconies. I asked Manto and his plain reply was that this was his adda. But soon after, we were given another place to work. I would write the dialogues and Manto would then type them in. He would even make some minor alterations, since he was more familiar with writing for films than I was. Later on, he sent me the money for writing the dialogues. He only wanted to help a friend.”

Another encounter with a filmi seth, involving Manto, Qasmi Saheb and Krishan Chandar is even more interesting. The year was 1941. The venue was Bombay and Qasmi Saheb had been asked to write the songs for a film titled Banjara. As the three of them proceeded for a meeting with the ‘seth’, Manto advised Qasmi Saheb to be patient and do not get too disturbed over what the seth had to say. He was told that the seth owed Krishan Chandar and Manto money for the story of the film, and any undue confrontation was not advisable. 

It so happened that the seth wanted the word of ‘ummeed’ at a place replaced with ‘asha’. An attack followed — not by Qasmi Saheb nor by Krishan Chandar, but by the incorrigible Manto. “Manto said nothing doing and told the seth he didn’t know a thing about poetry.  Intimidated, the seth retorted: ‘Yeh kyah bari bari aankhen nikaal ke dekhta hai (why are you looking at me with these wide eyes).’ The substitution of ummeed with asha was overruled and the cheque was handed over to Manto.

“The story didn’t end there as Manto insisted that the money must be drawn immediately. ‘You never know with these seths. We have to buy a suit for this man (Qasmi). In this dress (shalwar kamees and sherwani) it looks as if he is a landlord and we his retinue.’ He understood the seth mentality well. When we reached home, a man from the seth’s office was already there. He asked the cheque be returned because Japan had attacked the Pearl Harbour.”

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Excerpts from
Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s interview
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