MUMBAI: The security personnel at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport were stunned when they saw the passport of Aman Ullah Nezami, a multi-millionaire Afghanistan national settled in Saudi Arabia, upon his arrival in India in the first week of January. A senior officer’s intervention cleared Nezami’s passage out of the airport but his five-year visa to India, a rarity among non-diplomat foreigners, had made security agencies suspicious.
Nezami, the only Afghan national who holds such a visa, has been given the honour as he has acquired the identity of an unofficial brand ambassador of Hindi movies outside India.
The 63-year-old, who runs a chain of restaurants, Al-Khalifa, all over Saudi Arabia, has perhaps the largest individual collection of Hindi movies released between 1940 and 1980. He also has a collection of more than 70,000 Hindi songs from these movies.
“I have 5,670 films to be precise,” says Nezami sipping a cup of tea at a South Mumbai restaurant. “Barring a few I have almost every film in this period.”
Passionate about Hindi films and songs, Nezami has spent crores to have them in his collection. He travelled from Jeddah, where he resides, to Berlin to collect a rare song from Ambar from a Pakistani national. “I paid him `1 lakh for the song but the person was more delighted that someone had travelled such a long distance just to collect the song,” Nezami recalls.
Nezami visits India every year for 22 days to meet his icons in the Hindi film industry. He meets the actors, gifts them boxes of dried fruits and takes photographs with them. He also visits the graves of his departed idols, Muhammad Rafi and Meena Kumari, and offers flowers there.
His love for Hindi films began at the age of four when he was residing in Kabul with his family. His father, also a diehard fan of Hindi films, ran a restaurant in the Afghanistan capital. “In those days, Indians especially the Punjabis used to control the business in Afghanistan. They used to visit our restaurants and my father would play Hindi songs to entertain them. I grew up listening Hindi songs since then,” says Nezami in Hindi, a language he learnt watching movies. His mother tongue is Farsi.
He says Hindi films have turned him half Indian. He has installed three flags at the ‘darbar’ in his residence. One is of Saudi Arabia, other is of Afghanistan and the third one is of India. The Saudi and Afghanistan flags are in between two Indian flags.
“Mera khoon hain Afghani par dil hain Hindustani (I come from Afghanistan but my heart lies in India),” he proclaims with a smile. A great admirer of Prime Minister Modi, he says, “If there is a war between India and Pakistan in the future I can say confidently that Afghanistan will be on India’s side. People in Afghanistan are aware that the suicide bombers in our country are Pakistanis, not the locals.”