6 comments on “Cuckoo Did Get A Mention Here On Her Birthday This Year…

  1. Hello Richard,

    Let’s hope that Jaya finds out some information about the great Cuckoo and her mysterious husband. In the meantime, here is just a new gossip.

    In the April 1946 issue of Film Pictorial reproduced by Surjit Singh on his fantastic website, one can read under the Believe of Not column (it was a regular gossip column usually well informed): “There have been more contradictions than confirmations of film stars’ marriages during this month as you will see from below:
    (a) Begum Para with Mubarik
    (b) …
    (j) Kukoo (dancer) with Mughni. [I guess “Mughni” is the producer M.A. Mughni]
    (k) …
    It is now for the readers themselves to make their conclusions.”

    While in this list of 11 couples some did not marry (Begum Para did not marry Mubarak for instance), some are close to reality (e.g. Shammi was a girlfriend of Anwar) and some were truly married (Mehtab did marry Sohrab Modi). So what about Cuckoo?

    I don’t know if this gossip is to be believed or not, but:
    – as M.A. Mughni was a producer, it would have been risky for a film magazine to write baseless things about him.
    – Cuckoo was famous enough as early as April 1946 to be included in this list.

  2. Hi, Mel. Thank your this latest bit of obscure gossip!

    If Cuckoo really did marry M.A. Mughni, then that certainly blows all that speculation about K.S. Moray (or More) apart! But what about the common name and the various references linking the two, etc.?

    I looked up Mughni, and I found one Indian film of his listed (Jag Biti) from 1946. But I then found information saying that he moved to Pakistan and was a producer there. (I’m going to be lazy and not name the sources for that, but the info is readily available if you Google. :) )

    The move to Pakistan makes me wonder if our other relatively new commenter, Guddi, could be right that Cuckoo actually did go to Pakistan a lot for some reason. (I won’t comment further about her recollections about Cuckoo’s affair with her father…except to say, that seems a little far-fetched to me, but you never know. Butt there is no way to verify that, either – unless you can think of one.)

    But when did Cuckoo travel to Pakistan? My impression was that it took quite a while for most film stars to be able to travel between the two countries after Partition.

    I guess we may never know the answers to these mysteries – especially with new mysteries coming up.

    But I would add that it wasn’t so unusual for a film magazine to make an erroneous claim about the marriage of a producer, director, etc., and I don’t know how high the risk was, either, since with only one Indian film to his credit at IMDb, this guy wasn’t exactly Sohrab Modi – or V. Shantaram, for that matter.

    But he might as well have been V. Shantaram, and he still might have had weird information about his marriage floating around, to be picked up by today’s blogs.

    A while back, Cineplot reproduced an article from somewhere claiming that Sandhya was Jayashree’s sister. I refuted that information, showing who her real sister was (i.e., Vatsala Deshmukh), and that post registers a relatively huge number of hits in my stats, too. All over the Web, there had been posts repeating this info that V. Shantaram’s third wife was the sister of his second wife, because Sandhya and Jayashree were supposedly sisters. (And I even believed it myself for a minute, too.)

    And there has been so much misinformation floating around regarding other things, like the birth dates of these stars (as we discussed before). So, I wouldn’t rule out that this claimed knowledge about Cuckoo’s marriage was a fabrication, either, or some confusion, at least.

    Anyway, your quote from the article, itself, shows that the author acknowledged that these listed marriages were more likely to generate “contradictions” than “confirmations.”

    But maybe there was some relationship between Cuckoo and Mughni, and that also explained her mysterious connection to Pakistan, where she might have met someone else (as Guddi said), too? Maybe Mughni already had connections to locations in Pakistan before partition made it more difficult to travel between the two places?

    I think that’s the best I can offer regarding all of this at this point. :)

  3. Hello Richard,

    For sure it’s an obscure gossip. And what’s interesting with gossips, is that it’s very often possible to elaborate :)

    Actors matrimonial status is sometimes very complex. For instance, Pramila was 1st married around 1930, had a son and this first marriage was canceled. Then she was married as a second wife to M. Kumar in 1939, and had 4 additional children with him. In the 60’s ,M. Kumar moved to Pakistan with his first wife, leaving Pramila and her five children in India. Pramila then settled down with Nari Ghadiali without divorcing M. Kumar.

    By the way, Pramila is an example of film personalities that worked both in India and Pakistan after partition: she was producer and her own distributor from 1942 to 1960. She had offices in Pakistan (in Lahore for instance), so she traveled a lot between India and Pakistan in the 50’s.

    I was busy traveling and did not see Guddi’s messages. Shame on me! This new development is fascinating!

    I would say that I would be surprised if Cuckoo moved to Pakistan just after Partition. Some very short trips maybe, but nothing long. The reason is that she worked like crazy in Bombay from 1947 to 1953 (29 movies in 1950 for instance). She simply did not have the time to settle in Lahore during that period of time.

    But I would not rule out Guddi’s and Film Pictorial stories because they ring a bell:
    – At the very begining of Cuckoo’s career (1945, 1946), there was obviously a “muslim connection/influence/bond” because most of her movies were made/produced by muslims (Zeenat, Humayun, Laila Majnu, Pehli Nazar… just to name a few). There was even a time when I thought she was muslim living in Lahore :) Anyway, I could not find any clue, even after an extensive search.

    – Cuckoo appeared in 2 pakistani movies: Mundri (1949) and Khana Badosh (1952). I never understood why… Even if the dances were shot in Bombay before partition, it’s odd she accepted that they be included in pakistani movies.

    – The mariage of an anglo-indian dancing girl (presumably christian) with a muslim producer was something probably very significant in India in 1946. It seems too significant to me not to have some background. It could be another man, maybe they were “just good friends” etc., but I’ve the strange feeling it’s too big to be a complete lie.

  4. Mel, thank you for these new bits of information. I suppose this sort of gossip can be intriguing after all. :)

    I don’t really know how much Indian or Pakistani film stars were able to travel between Pakistan and India right after partition. I always think of the stories about Noor Jehan, who could not make a trip back to India (at least not publicly known) until 1982. I know of other stars who traveled among different countries of the Subcontinent fairly frequently – such as singing star Runa Laila – but that was decades after partition, too. I have heard a few tales of film stars who moved from India to Pakistan, only to die in obscurity and poverty. Certainly, that was a sorry fate met by quite a few stars in both countries (and our dear Cuckoo did not do so well in the end, either), but one would think the ones who did badly after moving to Pakistan would have tried traveling back a little if they could. But, this is all speculation on my part, of course.

    I wonder if it helped one’s travel chances shortly after partition not to be a Hindu or Muslim. It’s curious that you used Pramila as an example, since she was a Jew. Did being a Christian or a Jew make such travels easier?

    I don’t know anything about whether inter-faith marriages caused a stir or not. I suppose in Cuckoo’s case, the differences were obvious, since she was also obviously Anglican.

    I knew a bit about Pramila and her Jewish faith mainly because I read info from the documentary film project Shalom Bollywood</em>. (By the way, in case you didn’t know, I am a Jew by heritage and that’s what some people call me. But I have no religious background and next to zero Jewish cultural background. On the other hand, when I read about all these great Jewish actresses in early Bollywood, I can pretend that I actually have some Jewish pride. :) It was an interesting phenomenon at any rate.)

    I did not know about Pramila’s husbands, so I just checked the entry of her on Wikipedia and saw that the fellow-actor husband M. Kumar was a “practicing Shia Muslim.” Do you know if that caused a stir?

    Regarding Cuckoo and the Pakistan connection, the info you provided certainly makes it more plausible that she visited Pakistan. Even Guddi didn’t say that she ever moved there, but that she had met Guddi’s father during her trips there to do one-time performances, etc.

    It did occur to me, also, that she had starred a lot in more Muslim-oriented or Muslim-cast films, especially earlier on.

    It could be that all these different pieces of information don’t really conflict. So, maybe Cuckoo did marry both men whom we’ve discussed and had an affair (or a few), too!

    It would be a shame to dismiss the idea about K.S. Moray/More, especially after all the detective work that’s gone on here, and it is still curious that they would have shared the same last name. :)

  5. Hello Richard,

    About Pramila, I studied a bit her life since I wrote recently the French Wikipedia page on her :) (btw the English page contains several errors but my English is too broken to fix them). She was simply the first example of somebody moving across the border that came to my mind.
    She traveled a lot to Pakistan before (she made Shalimar in Lahore in 1946 for instance) and after partition but as she says in her 1998 interview, it was not that simple to cross the border in the 50’s.

    As far as I understand, inter-faith marriages were, and still are, somehow accepted in India. For instance Patience Cooper (who was Jewish) married Gul Hamid (who was Muslim) and migrated to Bangladesh and then to Pakistan in her later years. So Cuckoo marrying a Muslim, why not ?

    About Jewish actresses, I don’t know why there were so many in the early days of Indian cinema. As far as I see it for now, actresses were very often Jewish (Sulochana, Patience & Viiolet Cooper, Ermeline, Zebunissa, Pramila, Rose, Ramola etc.) or Muslim (Putlibai & Gohar, Fatima Begum & Zubeida, Wahidan & Nimmi, Jaddanbai & Nargis, Kajjan, Ratan Bai, Mehtab etc.). Of course there were also some Christians like Madhuri or Cuckoo (and many more in the silent area), and Hindus like Leela Chitnis, Durga Khote or Devika Rani.
    Strangely, it’s different for men, and except David, no Jewish male actor name comes to my mind.

    Back to Cuckoo, I looked again carefully at what is known (very little) about her:
    – She is almost certainly from Bombay because she started her career there at a young age in 1944. In addition, she plays an extra in Humayun (1945) and I can’t imagine she came from far to appear just a few seconds in a movie.
    – She must have traveled to Lahore to dance in Arsi (1947). This movie was shot at the end of 1946. Pran who was from Lahore played in it. And guess what, there is a persistent rumor that Cuckoo helped Pran to make a break in Bombay in 1948. In addition, Pran plays also in Khana Badosh released in Pakistan in 1952 but most probably shot before partition (the only source saying that Cuckoo’s dance in that movie was shot in Bombay is a conjecture from Cineplot).
    – From mid-1947 to 1955, there is very little chance that Cuckoo traveled or danced on stage because she was working really a lot in Bombay movies.
    – Moreover, India and Pakistan were in a state of war from October 1947 to December 1948, therefore it was probably very difficult to cross the border at that time.

    So about Guddi’s story, it seems plausible to me that Cuckoo met a handsome naval officer in 1945/1946 and visited sometimes Lahore in 1946. But by the time of the partition, I’m convinced she was back in Bombay and stayed there for the years to come. By the way, this awful partition could have been a reason for a break-up/divorce because Lahore was certainly not a place to be for a non-Muslim in 1947/1948.
    Cuckoo was only 20 in 1948. Marrying K.S. More at that time is also very possible. Please remember that the fact that Cuckoo was married with a dance director comes from Edwina’s connections, and “Edwina’s gang” knew Cuckoo only in the late 50’s.

    And to make things even more complicated, there were also gossips about Cuckoo’s affairs in the 50’s. One of them is the producer/director B. Mitra.

  6. Mel, the text for the site of Shalom Bollywood give a distinct description of the reasons why there were so many Jewish actresses in early Indian cinema:

    When Indian cinema began 100 years ago it was taboo for Hindu and Islamic women to perform on screen, so female roles were played by men – sort of Monty Python or Shakespearian style. While the conservative nature of Hindu and Muslim societies shunned the notion of female performers, the Jewish community was more liberal and educated and willing to embrace the exciting new medium of film. The fact that Indian Jews were a lighter shade of brown made these women seem all the more suited for celluloid. However, because of their stage names people thought they were Muslims.

    This makes sense to me… Although I think the line “a lighter shade of brown made these women seem all the more suited for celluloid” could have been put more frankly by saying racist cultural standards automatically declared lighter skin to be more beautiful and glamorous. But I think, probably, the internal cultural mores of different groups were the biggest factor. And when Jewish women were called in to perform in film roles kept off limits to Hindui women, the word probably spread through the Jewish communities, making film acting a possible vocation for Jewish women before other groups. If there is a relative scarcity of Jewish male actors compared to Jewish actresses, maybe it’s because there was no such taboo among Hindu men. And, also, men did not have to meet quite the same standards of “beauty.”

    All of this would certainly also explain why there were so many more Christian actresses in the silent era. If there were even a lot more Muslim actresses than Hindu actresses up to a point, I am not totally sure of the reason for that – except that even the Muslim cultures were more liberal in this area than Hindu cultures of the time?

    I agree with your assessment that if Cuckoo was traveling a lot to Pakistan, she probably did that in 1945-46, not 1947. In that case, it really was during a small part of the time span that Guddi mentioned. I also pointed out to Guddi that it seems unlikely Cuckoo would have traveled to Pakistan during the peak of her stardom, when she was making a ton of films in Bombay. But I guess that if there were rumored affairs on her part later, there were probably affairs before, and she was fairly loose. :) It’s too bad Saadat Hasan Manto didn’t make acquaintance with Cuckoo; he would have loved to go on about her in his dishy literary gossip articles. :)

    Regarding your comment that Lahore was not a place for a non-Muslim to be in 1947-48… Was it that much worse a place for an Anglo or a “foreigner” to be than India? It was my understanding that during the communal riots, you were actually safer if you looked like a “foreigner” – even an Anglo. Never mind that these countries had freed themselves from centuries of brutal British imperialism. :) You had to worry much more about being in the wrong place at the wrong time if you were an Indian-born Muslim, Sikh, or Hindu.

    I’ve recently read some fiction that depicted people of foreign or Anglo descent stuck in India during partition or subsequent riots, who were told that they did not have to worry as much as everyone else. Manto wrote at least one such story. This also happens in a contemporary novel I just read by Louise Brown, Eden Gardens, which centers a lot on the family of an Anglo-Indian prostitute in 1940s Calcutta. Yes, these are works of fiction, but I don’t doubt they were centered in reality, especially where these matters were concerned. (Ms. Brown is a former academic who spent years doing a sociological study-turned-memoir about a “traditional” prostitute family in Heera Mandi. I’ve written here before about that book, The Dancing Girls of Lahore.)

    But … Were non-Muslim Anglos or “foreigners” more endangered or unwelcome in Pakistan after partition than in India? I have no idea – maybe you do? But I have read that some cities in Pakistan were quite ethnically and religiously diverse for a long time. I read this particularly in reference to Karachi, but I imagine it must have been true also for Lahore.

    It would be interesting to learn more about Cuckoo’s Pakistan connections. As you might recall, we learned that there might be a lot more information about Cuckoo’s predecessor, Azurie, in Pakistan than in India… But we know that Azurie actually went to Pakistan to stay.

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