Veteran character actress Minoo Mumtaz, famed as the ‘Reshmi Salwar-wali’ girl – and sister of the late comedian Mehmood Ali – passed away in Canada early on Saturday, a family member said. “Regret to inform that my loving sister Minoo Mumtaz passed away (in Canada) a few minutes ago. Deep gratitude to the film fraternity, media, fans, friends for decades of love and adulation showered upon her,” her brother and former actor Anwar Ali said in an early morning statement. Born as Malikunissa to Mumtaz Ali (dad) and Latifunnisa (mom) in Mumbai, she started her career as dancer in her dad’s highly popular song-and-dance stage shows. Earlier, the family used to reside in Nadiadwala Compound in Malad west, and later she specialised in dancing which got her a break in the film industry in the early 1950s, and later was often called the ‘Dancing Queen of Bollywood’, successfully carving her own niche alongside other top dancers of the film industry. It was the late legendary actress Meena Kumari – the sister-in-law of Mehmood – who advised her to adopt her family pet name ‘Minoo’ as her film name, which clicked and apparently did wonders to her career. Over the years, Minoo went on to dance and act in over 75 films with several memorable big or bit roles or dance sequences during her movie career spanning nearly three decades. Noted for her bubbly, vivacious roles, often paired with the top heroines of the day as sister, ‘saheli’, sidekick,, spinster, confidante comedienne and even a crook, but Minoo flourished most as a crooner-dancer on screen. She is especially remembered for the superhit O.P. Nayyar dance-duet, “Reshmi Salwar, Kurta Jaali ka…” (‘Naya Daur’ – 1957), sung by Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum, and filmed on her and Zaibunissa Khan alias Kumkum, who passed away in July 2020. Minoo excelled and performed effortlessly either as a classical dancer, courtesan or cabaret dancer, with popular songs like “Saaqiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahin Aayegi”, “Jaa Re, Jaa Re” and “Main Tumhise Puchhti Hoon, Tumse Pyar Kyun Hai” filmed on her. Hanif Zaveri, author and close family friend of the prominent Mehmood Ali film clan, recalls how Minoo got married with a film director S. Ali Akbar in 1963 and the couple had two daughters – Gulnaz, Mehnaz and a son Aejaz. Though none have any Bollywood connect, barring their illustrious cousins like actor Masood alias Pucky Ali, actor-singer-composer Maqsood alias Lucky Ali, actor Maqdoom alias Macky Ali, who played the crippled child in “Kunwara Baap” (1974), etc. Interestingly, Zaveri said that while Minoo was a Sunni Muslim, her husband was a Shia, but their alliance was truly exemplary as they followed the tenets of both sects of Islam. “Minoo was dear to her four brothers, especially Mehmood… After her marriage she settled in Canada with her husband, who made a few films in India…” Zaveri, who penned Mehmood’s biography – “Mehmood – A Man Of Many Moods” (2005, Popular Prakashan), told IANS.After her first break, she acted or danced in scores of major films like “C.I.D” with a hit number “Boojh Mera Kya Naam Re”, “Pocketmaar” (both 1956), “Naya Daur” (1957), “Yahudi” (1958), “Howrah Bridge”, “Dilli Ka Thug”, “Aji Bas Shukriya”, “Adalat” (1958), “Kagaz Ke Phool”, “Insaan Jaag Utha”, “Chirag Kahan, Roshni Kahan” (1959), in the fluffy ’50s.
In the sexy ’60s, she was featured in “Ghunghat”, “Chaudhvin Ka Chand” (1960), “Gharana”, “Chhota Nawab” (1961), “Sahib, Bibi Aur Gulam” (1962), “Taj Mahal” (1963), “Jahan Ara”, “Ghazal”, “Chitralekha” (1964), “Preet Na Jaane Reet” (1966), “Palki” (1967).
She worked with a majority of the top stars of the black-and-white era and then the early colour films featuring Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Kishore Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Raaj Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Pradeep Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Suraiya, Geeta Dutt, Madhu Bala, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, Sadhna, Bina Rai, Nutan, Vyjanthimala Bali, comedians like Johny Walker, Om Prakash, Mehmood, and many others.