Recently, the ancestral homes of legendary actor Dilip Kumar and showman Raj Kapoor in Peshawar, have returned to the spotlight as the KPK provincial government plans to turn their ancestral homes into heritage sites. Many iconic Bollywood stars of yesteryears were born in what is now Pakistan, and shifted to India to continue their craft.
However, the same can be said for stars born in India, who chose to shift to the newly independent Pakistan, to continue or begin their careers here. The Pakistan film industry came into being a year after independence, and slowly grew into its own golden era. While it is difficult to compare the legacy of both film industries, it is worth noting that many artists brought over skills and experience from the other side of the border that helped develop Lollywood. Here is a brief list of notable directors, actors and film crew who were born in India, both before and after Partition.
Beginning with what is considered the first family of Pakistan film industry, famed actor Santosh Kumar’s younger brother director S. Suleman was born in 1938 in Hyderabad Deccan, while both elder brothers, Santosh and Darpan, were born in Lahore in the 1920s. The recently deceased Suleman made over a dozen super hit films in his 40-year film career. His permanent film crew who aided in his success also belonged to pre-Partition India. Writer Agha Hassan Imtisaal was born in Ludhiana, Punjab, while music director Nisar Bazmi was born in the suburbs of Bombay in 1924. Suleman’s sister-in-law, Nayyar Sultana, who was also an accomplished actor, was born in Aligarh, U.P, ten years before the Partition of India. The multi-talented Shamim Ara, who played Nayyar’s Saheli in S.M. Yousuf’s hit Saheli (1960) , was born in Aligarh, nine years before Partition.
The father and son duo of directors/producers, S.M. Yousuf and Iqbal Yousuf, were born in Bombay but migrated to Pakistan in 1960. While the elder Yousuf was already well established as a successful director, Iqbal Yousuf joined the scene with Raat ke Raahi (1960) . The younger Yousuf made a mark on Lollywood with his famous ‘whodunit’ films, and his debut film had the beautiful Rehana as the leading lady. Rehana, who later married the producer of the film, Iqbal Shehzad, was also born in Lucknow in 1931. After a successful career Indian films, she tried her luck in Pakistan, yet Raat ke Rahi was her only success.
Similarly, another father-son team of directors, Rafiq Rizvi and Saeed Rizvi, were born in Delhi and Bombay respectively. The Senior Rizvi, like Yousuf, was already an accomplished director when he migrated to Pakistan in 1955. He remade his signature Indian film Jaagruti as Bedaari in Pakistan, to considerable commercial success. On the other hand, his son Saeed Rizvi, made Shaani, which was the Subcontinent’s first sci-fi film.
It is also worth mentioning that the famed director Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, who owned one of the country’s biggest studios Shahnoor, was born in Azamgargh in U.P. Rizvi is considered one of the pioneers of the industry, turning the burnt grounds of Pancholi studios of Lahore into Shahnoor Film Studios. Similarly, Hassan Tariq was born in Amritsar, Punjab in 1927, and became one of the most successful directors of the 60s and 70s. Tariq is responsible for the celluloid hits like Neend (1959), Kaneez (1965), Behen Bhai (1968), Anjuman (1970) and Ek Gunah Aur Sahi (1975).
Cinematography is considered an integral part of filmmaking and a cinematographer is just as important as the director or producer. The Pakistan film industry was lucky to have had the services of Raza Mir (father of actor Asif Raza Mir), Masood ur Rehman and A. R. Nasir for many years. They were all born in India and chose to come to Pakistan to help shape the industry.
The dashing duo of Muhammad Ali and Zeba were both from undivided India. Whereas Ali hailed from Rampur, Zeba’s birthplace was Ambala in Haryana. Considered one of the greatest actors from Pakistan, Ali even had a remarkable following in India. He regarded actors Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar and Sunil Dutt (all of whom were born in what is now Pakistan) as his close friends. On the other hand, Zeba is one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen in Pakistan.
Yousuf Khan, an actor known for masculine Punjabi movies, was actually born in Ferozpur, Punjab. Yousuf became famous for acting in films written by veteran writer Riaz Shahid, but later moved to regional films. Similarly, actors Habib and Syed Kamal, who were contemporaries of Yousuf Khan, were respectively born in Patiala and Meerut, more than a decade before partition. Kamal, who could easily pass for Raj Kapoor’s doppelganger, was a reasonably good director and producer in his own right, having produced films like Shehnai (1968).
It is not uncommon for a non-Punjabi like Syed Kamal to make a successful career as the lead in Punjabi films. Sultan Rahi, the evergreen Maula Jatt, was born in Muzaffarnagar, U.P. in 1938, while the man who replaced Rahi as the lead in Punjabi films after his death, Ghulam Mohiuddin, was born in Hyderabad Deccan, three years after partition.
Some actors born in India went on to become known for their character acting. Comedic actors like Safeerullah Lehri, who continued to amuse their viewers, was born in Kanpur, while the evergreen Muzaffar Nirala, was born in Delhi. Coming to the villain category, Agha Talish was born in Hoshiarpur Ludhiana, twenty years before Partition. Whether it is the role of a stern father, a wandering man, a ruthless landlord or a scheming general from Israel, Talish was disliked more by the audience than any other ‘villain’. Equally menacing on screen was the film and TV actor Munawar Saeed, who was born in Amroha.
If ever history is compiled about the singers of 60s and 70s, names of Ahmed Rushdi (Hyderabad, Deccan), Mehdi Hasan (Rajasthan), Akhlaq Ahmed (Dehli) and Naseem Begum (Amritsar) would be amongst the top ten. All of them were born during pre-Independance India, and became famous in Pakistani cinema through their playback singing and iconic film scores. They were often guided by celebrated music directors like A. Hameed, Ahmed Rahi and Rashid Attre, all born in Amritsar.
In the same vein, Tasleem Fazli, known to produce lyrics in a very short span of time, was born in Delhi in 1947. Himayat Ali Shair, the legendary songwriter and producer hailed from Hyderabad Deccan, while the legendary songwriter/ director/ producer, Suroor Barankvi was born in Barabanki seventeen years before Partition. Similarly, music director Sohail Rana, who was born in Agra, had a remarkable career writing the scores for Armaan (1966), Ehsaan (1967) and Baazi (1970).
The contribution of Indian-born Pakistan artistes is no less than the contribution of those Bollywood stars who were born in what is now Pakistan, and chose to migrate to Bollywood. Yet through their ingenuity and hard work, this tight-knit community of talented artists helped Pakistani film industry blossom through its golden years, creating now iconic pieces of cinema.