When Lahore had a deep connection with the Indian film industry

The Partition was a horrific tragedy that killed thousands and displaced millions in 1947. The winds of unease swept through much of undivided India in the 1940s forcing publics to move places. Film people were no exception. Among other things, Stockholm-based scholar Ishtiaq Ahmed’s fascinating book, Pre-Partition Punjab’s contribution to Indian cinema, also talks about the Lahore-Bombay film linkage in those tumultuous times

Q: Bombay made the first talkies, Alam Ara, in 1931. Can you provide some details about the first talkies produced in Lahore?

A: The first talkie was the Punjabi film Heer Ranjha made in Lahore in 1932. It was A R Kardar who made it.

Q: Lahore became an established centre for film-making in the 1930s and 1940s. Which producers, directors and actors played a key role in this development. In which language were these films made.

A: The producer directors of note were: Abdur Rasheed Kardar (A. R. Kardar), Roop K. Shorey, Dalsukh Pancholi, Dewan Sardari Lal, J K. Nanda. Among actors were Noor Jahan, Pran, Om Prakash, M. Ismail, Nazir, Fazal Shah, Karan Dewan, Hiralal, Sunder, Majnu, Manorma, Mumtaz Shanti, Ragini, Kuldip Kaur, Asha Posley,

Q: You write that the pioneering producer Himanshu Rai (Achhut Kanya) also started his career in Lahore. Do you have any more details? Which other Bengali actors, producers or directors worked there?

A: No, I don’t. What I know for sure is that Bengali educationists moved in significant numbers to Punjab and taught at the major colleges and Punjab University,

Q: Who are the filmmakers and artists who moved from Lahore to Bombay in the 1940s and vice-versa? Do you have any interesting anecdotes related to their migration?

A: Among artistes who left Lahore in the 1940s, and not only at the time of Partition in 1947, were Shyam, Pran, Manorma, Majnu, Om Prakash, Sundar, Kuldip Kaur, Bina Rai (although she joined films only in the 1950s), Karan Dewan and Hiralal. Filmmakers and directors included BR Chopra, IS Johar (also artiste), song-writers Qamar Jalalabadi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Rajinder Krishan and Verma Malik.

Among those who moved from Bombay to Lahore were Noor Jahan and her husband, filmmaker and director Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, Nazir and Swaranlata, Ragini, Mumtaz Shanti, Alauddin, M. Ismail and music directors Jhande Khan, Khurshid Anwar (in the 1950s), master Ghulam Haider and Feroz Nizami. Shyam was from Rawalpindi. One can include Balraj Sahni who was also from the same city.

Q: Your book talks about Dev Anand’s Lahore connection. Can you please elaborate?

A: Dev Anand, whose family belonged to the neighbouring Gurdaspur district had studied at Lahore’s prestigious Government College and left in 1943 after doing his BA hons in English literature. His elder brother Chetan Anand did his MA from GC. His wife Kalpana Kartik (Mona Singha) had close relatives in Lahore including the last Speaker of the undivided Punjab Assembly Dewan S P Singha. Dev Anand visited Lahore in 1999 along with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and visited Government College. All this is mentioned by him with great emotions in his autobiography, A Romance With Life.

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