July 30 - August 05, 2004


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Syed Mohamed Kassamali Shah


Coastweek - - The departure of Syed Mohamed Kassamali Shah ('Mithu' to his close friends), last week from this world of pomp shows, novelty and entertainment on 'Silver Screen', brings to mind about 50 years of continuous attachment to one cinema house.

They are some people who follow their heart call ... it reminds me of the time we often scribbled in our autograph during MIOME days:

"Life is like a sheet of untrodden snow,
be careful how you step,
for every mark will show".

My shrinking memory reminds me of a good-natured, clad in a Kaunda suit, with a tin of State Express 555 in one hand and the keys to his office in other, a gentleman standing in the foyer of Naaz Cinema, day in and day out, before the prime performance time.

If I am not mistaken and open for correction, his name should go in the Guinness Book of Records for being the manager of a new-born Cinema House until, a short time, before it's demise.

How can I forget the opening of Naaz with a swash-buckling MGM movie 'KIM' and 'NAUJAWAN' starring Prem Nath and Nalini Jaywant (of thandi hawayein) with one of the maestro music director of those days S.D. Burman.

In those days, during Mithu uncle's youth there was a lot of camaraderie and respect for each other among his friends who were prominent personalities like Mr. Gulam Sarwar Qureshi, Mr. Harbans Lal of Overseas Film Distributors and Mr Chic Chocolate also a cinema owner in Dar es salaam ... and here was his grooming of the art of running a cinema house.

Coastweek - -
Syed Mohamed
Kassamali Shah.

Those were the days of goodwill among friends: Once he was questioned by a friend how come he was glued to cinema business for that long, as a person of his calibre who also was the Mombasa Municipal Councillor ... Mithu uncle sighed and quietly admitted ... because the word CINE...MA has a sentimental value for him, for it ends with MA and 'I loved my mother'.

Among the long list of celebrities who visited Naaz on their Film Premier names of legendary Karim Asif, maker of magnum opus 'Mughal-e-Azam' and actor and the present Minister of Sports of the Indian government Hon. Sunil Dutt who had flown in for the premier of 'YEH RAASTE HAIN PYAAR KE'.

Both times Mr. Shah addressed his patrons in a well organized stage performance ... your's truly was at both the occasions.

Overseas Film Distributors venture to enter the Mombasa market brought in rich dividends for the filmgoers.

The Indian Film market was dominated by Majestic Theatres in the absence of competition did not permit them flow of Indian films as frequently according to market demands of those days.

As soon as Naaz opened its doors filmgoers had a variety of seeing two films a week.

The opening of Moon's made the situation more fluid when spectators were longing to see Baiju Bawra - which was lying in cans due to shortage of exhibitors in Mombasa.

Naaz under the guidance of Mr. Shah kept-on recent releases like Awaara and Tarana thereby keeping their competitors on their toes for bringing in popular films to be screened as early as possible in the race to lead the bandwagon which was slowly heading towards Naaz, so much so, it forced Majestic Theatres to open a new picturehouse named Queen's and it screened Daag, the most recent release of Bombay.

In those days it took Majestic Theatres almost two years to screen a new film.

Mr.Shah leaves behind one son and two daughters, Zahida married to Mr. Sherrif Shahin and Samina married to Mr. Akram Sheikh, of Shankar Electronics, a prominent businessman.

It was sad that Mr. Shah's illustrious wife Razia Begum Sahiba also died on 16th May this year.

Yours truly remembers Mithu uncle frequently reciting this sher to youngsters:

"Jab tak jahan hai raunaq-e-bazm-e-jahaan rahe Duniya me baamuraad raho shaadman raho."

Mithu uncle, May you fare thee well, when you meet your Lord.

May the Almighty Allah grant his noble soul eternal peace , and "sabr" to his family.

'Barey shauq se sun raha tha zamaana, tumhi so gaye dastaan kehte kehte.'

- Shakur Bythea, Nairobi.





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