NATICK, MA—In a packed hall in Natick last Saturday, a wife, a son, a family and close friends paid tribute to late Amol Mehta, a long-time Massachusetts resident who passed away last year. This tribute, however, was in a style that Mr. Mehta loved: music, Indian cinema and Bollywood songs and themed as: Hum Aur Tum, or Just Duets.
“Tonight, as we listen to classic duets from our talented local artists, we also celebrate my Dad’s passion for Indian Cinema, and in particular his spirit for music,” said Shail Mehta. “My mom has been saying recently that when my dad left, he took her voice with him, as she doesn’t think she sings with the same power as before. But today, based on the great performances so far, I think we can say that dad lent you your voice back for this special evening.”
The event was organized by Rageshree Mehta, wife of Amol Mehta and was hosted by son Shail, daughter Reshma Shah and relative Naishadh Patel, among others.
“My dad’s passion developed during his early ages in Bombay, where he often played in his compound with budding Indian actresses, including Saira Banu, Vaijayanti Mala, and Sheila Ramani. He would avidly watch each new release and compile a collection of autographs of actors,” recalled Shail. “Even during his first heart surgery in London when he was 16, he was told that an Indian princess was also getting a similar heart procedure done in the room next door – that turned out to be the great Indian actress Madhubala, who would soon pass away because of her heart condition at an early age of 36. My dad would live over 50 more years enjoying her’s and others films.”
Shail said that when his father moved to the US, he kept his interest in movies and music alive.
“In fact, I don’t think there is any irony in that he married a childhood friend from Bombay who was active in music and drama, and with that had his very own musician and actress as a life partner,” Shail said. “I even remember my dad took me to classrooms at MIT where they would show Amitabh Bachchan movies, as Indian movies weren’t shown in the US in the big cinemas of today.”
Shail said though his father was not blessed with a great voice, he had a fantastic memory and was his very own live in encyclopedia of Indian music and cinema.
“He could recall actors, musicians, composers and dates of almost every song,” Shail said. “For example, before Harish Dang (host of weekly radio program Sounds of India) could even complete announcing a song in his classic style: bholi surat dil ke khote, naam bade, aur darshan chhote…darshan chhote – my dad would have already blurted out (movie: Albela 1951, Actress: Geeta Bali, Singer: Lata, Composer (and singer): C. Ramchandra).”
Shail said that his dad unconditionally supported his mother’passion for music and despite poor health he would religiously have his video camera and record each performance of hers.
“We would complain that many of his videos were shaky, but come to think of it, I think it was more because he couldn’t help shaking his head to the music,” Shail said. “And he lived a rather devoted and simple life, and much like good music, he never went off key, and always stayed in beat and in rhythm. And even in his final days we would sit and listen to his favorite songs from his childhood; he was still able to recall all the facts around the history of the songs.”
Shail said the power of music also elicits emotions that are sometimes suppressed and amplifies memories, bringing them to back to life.
“My dad rarely showed sadness, but the few times I noticed some tears in his eyes was when he’d be watching a movie or listening to a song that reminded him of his parents that had passed,” Shail said. “And today with my dad’s passing, I can also relate to that as well. Music is indeed therapeutic in many ways.”
Samir Desai, president of Aditi Inc., said he had known Amol Mehta since he met him by chance in the 1970’s at Union Hospital in Framingham, MA.
“The rest is the history of a great memory of a man who had unlimited inner strength. After going through his first open heart surgery when he was 19 years old, he carried on his life without a single complaint,” recalled Desai. “His greatest quality was always seeing the best in things in people, and bringing it out of them at the right time! His memory is what I envied most as I lack one! If I wanted to learn about anything, it would be Amol whom I would approach.”
Even in the face of death, and limited time given by the doctors, Amol Mehta’s courage continued to have no limitations, Desai said.
“During my frequent visits, not a single time did he bring up anything sad. Amol would always talk about everything we did together, about old friends who no longer lived in the area, and of course correcting me about my facts with his better memory,” Desai said. “I am very grateful to have known him and of course his family.”
The musical evening was filled with Bollywood duets. The show was produced by Rageshree Mehta. Nayanika was the creative director. Siraj Khan directed the show. Other participants included: Music Coordinator-Meena Sundaram; Sound Engineer- Jawed Wahid; Artists- Ajay Koul, Anuradha Palakurthi, Diya Yellepeddi, Meena Sundaram, Nayanika Yellepeddi, Rageshree Mehta, Sankar Gangaikondan, Shantanu Sen, Shekhar Shastri, Tehniyat Hakim, Ujjwal Parikh and Shikha Bajpai.
Dancing Divas of Boston danced on two songs: Aplam Chaplam and Aji Chale Aao. Dancers included Shikha Bajpai, Purbi Rana, Priya Bagad and Priya Balu.
Emcees of the evening were: Harish and Binita Dang, Siraj Khan, Gauri Chandna, Jasmine Shah and Eshani Shah.