Muzaffar Ali (21 October 1944) is an Indian Filmmaker, fashion designer, poet, artist, cultural revivalist, and social worker. He is best known for films like Gaman (1978) and Umrao Jaan (1981). Ali has accomplished much in many fields including publicity, tourism, film production, fashion, and writing.
Muzaffar Ali was born on 21 October 1944 (age 79 years; as of 2023) in Lucknow, United Provinces, British India. He was the eldest son of Raja Syed Sajid Husain Ali, the ruling prince of Kotwara, Awadh. He attended La Martiniere, a private educational institution for the elite class in Lucknow. He graduated from Aligarh Muslim University in the field of science. Before entering the film industry he worked in advertising. He has also worked as a communication specialist for Air India.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Weight (approx.): 75kg
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Brown
Muzaffar Ali belongs to a royal Muslim Rajput family of Kotawara.
Parents & Siblings
Ali’s father, Raja Syed Sajid Husain of Kotwara, was a royal prince who contributed to the Indian freedom movement. He did an MA from Edinburgh and was a member of the Scottish Parliament in the twenties before joining Indian politics as an MLA from Kotwara for almost 17 years before and after independence. He ran an informal group, the Indian Humanist Union, which met monthly over tea in Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow, to discuss ideas that would change the world. Ali is the eldest among three children and a half-sister from his Turkish stepmother.
Wife & Children
Ali’s first marriage was with art historian Geeti Sen. They have a son, Murad Ali, who is multi-disciplined much like his father, and has acted in films such as Is Raat ki Subah Nahin and Dil to Pagal Hai and also fiddled with poetry and music. Ali has admitted having “Leftist sympathies” during his time in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Thereupon, he married Left leader and trade union activist Subhashini Ali, who also worked as a designer of the costumes for Umrao Jaan. Their son, Shaad Ali, is the director of hit films such as Saathiya and Bunty Aur Babli.
Ali met designer and architect Meera Ali on the set of a film and eventually got married. They both teamed up to create a niche of sorts when it came to ethnic cloth designing with a unique Kotwara touch. They have a daughter, Sama, who is also showing an inclination for design.
Ali was married twice before he met his current wife Meera Ali, whom he courted and married after six months. He met his first wife Geeti Sen during his Air India days and his second wife Subhashini Ali, daughter of Colonel Prem Sehgal and Captain Lakshmi Sehgal of the Indian National Army, who worked with him on his biggest hit Umrao Jaan.
Muzaffar Ali belongs to a Muslim Rajput family.
Film & Television
Ali had a successful career as a filmmaker. In the early 1970s, Ali worked for the advertising firm MacLaren McCann and met Satyajit Ray. His first film was Gamam (1978) and his next film was his biggest hit i.e., Umrao Jaan (1981). Aagaman (1982), Anjuman (1986), and Jaanisaar (2015) are a few films made by him. He also made and starred in the TV series Jaan-e-Alaam (1986).
Painting & Fashion
Ali has always been an artist. The medium of collage attracted him and he began devoting his time to the art. He exhibited his paintings in exhibitions all over India. Mesmeric Sufi music, and women in black, all in the form of intricate aesthetics reflected in his work. He set up a studio in Delhi and began his journey as an artist. More than 100 of his artworks spread through 11 sections of this beautiful heritage building, which was once the house of the maharaja of Bikaner and is now a cultural center on the India Gate hexagon.
After creating an impact globally with his work, Ali turned back to his roots in Kotwara and Lucknow. He launched his couture line with the help of his wife Meera, ‘Kotwara’, and is involved in several initiatives that celebrate art and fosters the traditional handicrafts of Awadh, and promote Sufism.
In 2004 he instituted the Rumi Foundation to promote Global Oneness which holds Sufi festivals including the World Sufi Music Festival, Jahan-e- Khusaru in Delhi.
In an effort to promote tourism and culture in Lucknow, he instituted the Wajid Ali Shah Festival which celebrates poetry and performing arts.
- National Film Award – Special Mention (feature film) – Gaman (1978)
- Filmfare Award for Best Director – Umrao Jaan (1981)
- Padma Shri (2005)
- Rajeev Gandhi Sadhbhavana Award (2014)
Ali’s net worth is $1 million as of the year 2023.
- In 1994, He was directing a film titled Husn E Jaana with Rubaina Khan (Gangster). He later decided to shelve the film.
- When Husn E Jaana got shelved, he released the songs as a private album in 1996.
- He was planning a film titled Manzar with Zeenat Aman that got shelved. This was in 1984. It was restarted as Zooni with Dimple and Vinod Khanna.
- His Vinod Khanna-Dimple Kapadia starrer Zooni is still unreleased.
- In 2022, Ali launched his autobiographical book titled ‘Zikr: In the Light and Shade of Time’ describing his early days and journey.
- Muzaffar Ali along with his wife Meera Ali have opened up their homestead in Gurgaon and set up a tent restaurant “Maashra”. It offers a fine dining experience in line with the royal cuisine of Awadh.
- In 2008, there was a slight contretemps between Ali and film director Rituparno Gosh due to the looks of actor Amitabh Bachchan for the film ‘The Last Lear’. Ali felt the look was a copy of his own style, however, Rituparno denied the allegations and maintained that the look was an inspiration from Rabindranath Tagore.
- Muzaffar Ali is a black belt in karate. He has been training for a few years now.
- Ali is extremely fond of horses and that also reflects in his artwork. In an interview with The Times Of India, he said,
My love for horses began from childhood stories of the battlefield of “Karbala” to the ornate Duldul to the horses I saw on my travels to the many films on horses.”