‘He used to come to the cinema hall like he was visiting a temple for worship.’
A week before the well-respected film critic Rashid Irani passed away, Rafique Baghdadi — the well-known critic, raconteur and passionate Mumbaikar — had met up with him.
Rashid and Rafique met up because their friend Darius Cooper — who taught English at Mumbai’s SIES college before migrating to the US to teach and write The Cinema of Satyajit Ray: Between Tradition and Modernity and many other books — had called them from America to chat.
Rafique looks back at his time with Rashid and tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, “Rashid used to read, breathe and eat cinema!”
I think I first met Rashid in the 1970s when we used to watch films at film societies.
Those days, German films were screened at the Max Mueller Bhavan and French films were shown at the Alliance Francais (both in south Mumbai, where both Rashid and Rafique live).
Wherever there were film screenings, we used to land up there because we had a common interest. We also started going to film festivals together.
Rashid used to read, breathe and eat cinema! He used to come to the cinema hall like he was visiting a temple for worship.
The other common interest we had was reading.
In those days, there were very few book shops and it was difficult to get good books to read. The only exception was the Strand bookstall in Mumbai (which closed down).
The only thing I thought he was insecure about was that he feared he would not find a book that he was looking for.
In later years, he was a regular visitor at Kitab Khana at Fort (south Mumbai). He was a great fan of magazines. He would spend a lot of money on them.
We also shared an interest in food.
We used to go out often to eat, but that stopped later when he turned vegetarian.
After he turned vegetarian, we started going out for cakes or falooda at Crawford Market (in south Mumbai).
I recall going to his home in younger days. His mother was a good cook. She would always give me badam pista from Iran.
He was a dildar (generous) man.
The lockdown really put a full stop to his life.
He was restricted to his one room and then loneliness set in, as he did not have a family. His brothers had died before him.
With Rashid’s death, an era of cinema has ended in Mumbai.
Nobody could tell you what cinema was in Bombay in those days. Only Rashid could. He was an institution in himself when it came to cinema and food.
In those days, very few people wrote about cinema. Worse, very few newspapers covered cinema. There were magazines like Society and they needed people who could write on subjects like the New Wave of French cinema or the New Wave of German cinema.
It is then that Rashid and I started writing and we developed a friendship that lasted 50 years.