Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan. Lahore is the heart of Pakistan. Lahore is torch bearer of arts and literature in Pakistan. How many times have we heard variations of such adages about Lahore. Perhaps so many times that we take such maxims for granted and mindlessly repeat them without really knowing what they mean. Like in other fields, the pre-partition, Lahore happened to be the Film Head Quarters of India’s Northern Circuit and served as a launchpad for many artists. The greatness of a city is not only measured by the number of talented people it has given birth to but also the number of talented people it attracts to its folds. Many high profile Indian artists lived in and around the Walled City in the 1940s. The filmi life in Lahore was very high profile and animated in those days and Lakshmi Chowk was the spot where the film fraternity got together in tangas decorated with maroon flowers, foot bells and lamps on the side. Here are some interesting facts one may not have known about Lahore’s contribution to early filmy scene in India and a list of great artists Lahore has given us.

The first silent film from Lahore was The Daughter of Today, released in 1924 directed by A. R. Kardar a Lahori, who went on to become one of the most famous film directors of India during the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. First talkie produced from Lahore was Heer Ranjha in 1932. The actress who played the lead in Anarkali, Shahjahan, Shireen Farhan and Daasi was Ragni, also from Lahore. (AR Kardar was the cousin of Pakistan’s first cricket Captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar and both belonged to Bhaati gate).

Dalsukh Pancholi, a film tycoon from Lahore (born in Karachi) and the founder of Pancholi Studios of Lahore, studied scriptwriting and cinematography from New York, and played an important part in the careers of stars such as Noor Jehan, Ramola, Om Prakash, music composers Ghulam Haider and O.P. Nayyar. His first film was Gul-e-Bakawli (1938) starring Noor Jehan. His film Khazanchi was one of the longest running movies of its time.

According to BBC Urdu the most expensive film of India was made in Lahore in 1934. Its cost was 18 Lakh Rupees (at that time). Its name was ‘ShireeN Farhaad’. In the film Shireen farhad (the character of Farhad was played by Jayant a Muslim Pathan, father of Amjad Khan whose name is synonymous with the legendary villan of Bollywood Gabbar Singh)

The renowned filmmaker of India, Ramanand Sagar, from Lahore, was the head of the Bollywood production company Sagar Arts Corp, wrote, directed, and produced motion pictures, and television programs. His most famous works include the Ramayan (1987) a popular 78-part TV epic. He studied at University of Punjab.

It is said that Mumtaz Jehan Begum a.k.a Madhubala (1933-1969) during the 30’s lived with her family at Qila Gujjar Singh. She also attended Kinnaird Girls High School at Empress Road.

Dev Anand and Sunil Dutt both belonged to Lahore and called each other ‘graen’ (one who belongs to the same). Dev Anand did his BA in English Literature from Government College Lahore.

Chaitan Anand (Dev Anand’s brother) was a famous film director in Lahore.

The famous villain Pran belonged to Lahore and got his first role in Dalsukh Pancholi’s film Yamla Jat (1940) because of an accidental meeting with writer Wali Mohammad Wali at a shop in Lahore.

Manoj Kumar and Gulshan Rai (producer of Amitabh starrer hit film Deewar) came from Lahore.

Famous villain Prem Chopra was born into a Punjabi Hindu family in Lahore.

Famous villain Hira Lal belonged to Lahore as well and was picked up from a goldsmith’s shop in Bhaati gate by A R Kardar who took him to Bombay and turned him into a great actor.

Another star that A R Kardar created was Gul Hamid, a handsome young man from Peshawar who acted in Heer Ranjha, produced in Lahore in 1932. The film won an honorary diploma in 1934 Venice Film Festival and also was the first film shown at an international film festival.

Om Prakash the famous comedian, known for his role as Amitabh Bachan’s Munshi Phoolchand in the film Sharabi started work for All India Radio and became famous as Fateh din, all over Lahore and Punjab. He was regaling people at a wedding one day when the well-known film-maker Dalsukh Pancholi spotted him and asked to see him in his Lahore office. Pancholi gave Prakash his first break as an actor in a film called Daasi. He was paid only Rs 80 but the film earned him the kind of recognition that would give him a means of livelihood for a lifetime.

Father of the Chopras, B. R. Chopra was born in Lahore. He studied journalism, directed/produced plays, and worked as a film critic in Lahore. Yash Chopra, B. R’s younger brother was born in Lahore as well, later he joined his brother in Bombay to start their own production house. B.R. Chopra was working on his first film Chandni Chowk when the partition riots began.

Academy Award winner Shekhar Kapur, Director of films like Elizabeth, Bandit Queen and Masoom is also from Lahore. (He is the nephew of Dev Anand).

The talented Balraj Sahni came to Lahore for his MA in English Literature where Faiz Ahmad Faiz was his classmate.

Indian Film Director Raj Kumar Kohli was born in Lahore.

Director Karan Johar and Vidhu Vinod Chopra have their roots in Lahore.

Shayama a.k.a Khurshid Akhtar belonged to Mughalpura Lahore where her father was a dry fruit merchant, until the family shifted to Mumbai.

Actress Meena Shorey (Khurshid) the “Lara Lapa” girl one of the earliest bombshells of Bollywood was from Lahore (Raiwind). Her husband was Roop K. Shorey, a Quetta-born actor/director, and the owner of Kamla Movietone in Lahore. He later moved to India after the partition. His film Mangti ran over 75 weeks in Lahore in the forties, making it his most profitable film.

Kamini Kaushal belonged to Chauburji, Lahore. She did her BA honors in English literature from Kinnaird College. Her father was a professor of Botany at Government College Lahore.

Suraiyya, famous actor of her time and the holder of title ‘malika-e-taranum’ before Noor Jahan (1929-2004) was born in Gujaranwala but then the family moved to Mcleod Road Lahore and remained there for quite some time; from where they shifted to Mumbai.

The famous daredevil actor of early Bollywood days Kuldeep Kaur was born and brought up in Lahore.

Composers O.P Nayyar, Ustad Fateh Ali, Barray Ghulam Ali (the only film he ever sang for was for Mughal-e-Azam) free of charge only as a favor to Naushad, all are from Lahore.

Mohd Rafi lived in Bhaati gate and was introduced to radio Lahore by music composer Feroz Nizami (Lahori) and made his debut as a playback singer in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch. His family owned a barber shop in the Bhaati Gate area and his customers used to request him to sing songs for him while he cut their hair.

Another gem that was introduced by A R Kardar was the music maestro Khawaja Khurshid Anwar who hose a path in music even though he was topper in MA Philosophy from Government college. His father Khawaja Ferozuddin Ahmad was a well-known Barrister settled in Lahore and had a love for music so much so that he had a huge collection of gramophone records of Indian classical and neo-classical music and his precocious son had an unhindered access to them all. Khawaja Khurshid Anwar was an inspiration to many music composers of India and whose disciples included Roshan and Shankar Jaikishen. Khurshid Anwar was a resident of Bhaati gate Lahore.

Music Composer Roshan (father of Rakesh and grandfather of Hrithik) was from Gujranwala and got his first break in Lahore.
K. L. Saigal (singer) acquired fame in Lahore then later moved to Calcutta. His last film was in 1947, music composed by Khwaja Khurshid Anwar.

Roshan Ara Begum from Lahore was acclaimed the best interpreter of Kirana Gharana Sytle of Khayal singing in the subcontinent.

Khurshid Begum and Shamshad Begum–the playback singer made her debut from Peshawar Radio in Lahore.

Famous Musicians from Lahore who migrated later include Pundit Amarnath, Shayum Sunder, Gobind Ram, Lachi Ram, Dhanni Ram were more than compensated by the arrival of Ustad Sardar Khan, Ustad Akhter Hussain Khan, Bundoo Khan, Nazakat Ali, Salamat Ali, Amanat Ali, Fateh Ali, Bhai Lal and Ghulam Hassan Shaggan. There were musicians who were already in Lahore like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Inayat Bai Dheerowali, Shamshad Begum, Sohni, Alamgir Khan, Sadiq Ai Mando.

Khayyam the music composer of Umrao-Jaan fame started his career in Lahore.

Master Ghulam Haider a phenomenal music director who gave Lata Mangeshkar the break of her career in the movie Majboor (1948) was from Lahore.

O P Nayyar, composer of songs like Babu jee dheeray chalna, Kajra mohabbat wala and Kabhi aar kabhi paar was born in Lahore.

Sahir Ludhianvi (Abdul Hayee) started his career in Lahore as a lyricist/poet, who later went on to become one of the biggest lyricists in Bollywood. His inflammatory writings and communist ideology led to his arrest warrants issued by the Government of Pakistan. After this incident, he left Lahore for Delhi in 1949.

The famous Punjabi female poet Amrita Pritam also belonged to Lahore and was married to Pritam Singh a prominent hosiery merchant in Anarkali bazaar of Lahore. She left her husband in 1960 and had openly declared her love for Sahir Ludhianvi.

Teji Kaur Bachchan, the mother of Amitabh Bachchan was a lecturer of Psychology at Khoob Chand Degree College Lahore.

Sajjad Zaheer (father of Nadira Babbar), Jan Nisar Akhtar (father of lyricist Javed Akhtar and grandfather of actor/director Farhan Akhtar), Kaifi Azmi (father of Shabana Azmi), Majrooh Sultanpuri and so many others have a deep links with this city.

Hollywood actors Percy Brandt (The woman on the roof) and Gabrielle Drake (There’s a girl in my soup) were born in Lahore.

So what makes the connection of Lahore with the arts so special? What makes it the hub of cultural activities and a launchpad for so many? Maybe the answer to this question is rooted in the Punjabi extrovert, high living culture of fun and merry making. And Lahore, being the capital of Punjab, epitomizes this culture. Or maybe it’s the unique soul of Lahore that has evolved over numerous centuries and has drenched the very air of this city. The soulful air that inevitably casts a spell on its inhabitants and brings out the best in them. Sitting at the Laxmi Mansion surrounded by the sensual ambiance of the magical Laxmi Chowk, one can understand why Manto’s best works were fashioned at this house. Roaming around in the walled city one can imagine a young Mohammed Rafi standing on a ‘tharra’ around Noor Mohalla in Bhaati Gate and casting a spell, with his velvet voice, on a small crowd gathered around him. With weekly musical soirees, consisting of the musical maestros of the time, at his home in Lahore, it is no wonder that a young Khawaja Khursheed Anwar developed such a fine taste in music and produced numerous unforgettable tunes which were to influence generations of musicians in the Indian sub-continent.

Perhaps that’s what they mean when they say, ‘Lahore Lahore aye’.

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