Theaters of Lahore
As right from outset Lahore used to be a center of all cultural activities. All sort of theaters were live like there at Bombay, Calcutta and Dehli. Due to the cultural, social dissimilarities and influence of Hindus on Bombay based film industry, people on this part of the sub continent specially in Lahore tried to establish their own separate identity. In these theaters, theatrical companies from other cities also used performed their shows. Initially silent movies were screened here but still people main interest was towards theaters cause they used to provide the entertainment in their own language, culture and traditions. Alfred theater, Manik Shah Theater, Globe theater, Prem parchani, Natik mandli, Jamadar theater, Rehmat theater, Punjab reforming theatrical company were the major theaters operational at that time at Lahore. Since at that time Lahore was confined within the old Lahore gates, accordingly these theaters were established near Taxali, Bhati and Shah Aalmi Gates. Amongst the popular theaters at that time, Mahabir theater was built near Shah Aalmi Gate in Bansan Wala Bazar in which Master Rehmat’s theatrical company used to present their dramas, Aziz Theater was in Taxali.
First Cinema of Lahore
In 1908 Aziz Theater it was converted into a cinema and it was named Royal Talkies which is still operational as Pakistan Talkies (More details) have the honor of being Pakistan’s First cinema.Bali theater was in between Malik Theater and Paramount Cinema (Both the theater and cinema are demolished now). Other than these theaters, there were a number of theatrical Clubs in almost every street and used to amuse the general public. In these clubs there were local actors and intellectual mind like A. R. Kardar, M. Ismail, M. Ajmal, Heeralal, Lala Yaqub, Master Ghulam Qadir Fazal Shah, Patras Bukhari, Imtiaz Ali Taj, Master Ghulam Qadir, Master Ahmed Din, Jagvaish Sethi and Rafiq Ghaznavi were very actively doing their bits for performing art. Others actors were mostly the student of Government College subsequently, who became pioneers of film on its arrival at Lahore and played very vital role in establishing the foundation of films in this part of Sub continent.
Cinemas of Lahore in 1920
Other than theater hall and open air theaters, one cinema hall was established which used to give clear and magically pictures with camera tricks as compare to the theater so it started getting more attention of spectators. Once the investor felt this changes they started building cinema halls so till 1920 seven more cinemas were emerged which made total eight cinemas only in Lahore and those were:
- Empire cinema. Jaswant new megistic, Qaiser and presently Moonlight
- Excelsior cinema. At present Ritz cinema
- Lakshmi Talkies. Renamed subsequently as Parbhat and presently Empire cinema
- Deepak Theater. Renamed as Picture house, Perl Roxy, Wallington and presently Malik theater
- Crown Cinema. It was set to fire in 1946
- Royal theater. Renamed, Aziz theater and presently Pakistan Talkies, it is the oldest cinema of Pakistan…. More
- Gati Theater. Subsequently Kings, Novelty and presently Tarunnam
- Mahabhir Theater. It was for theater dramas, subsequently converted into Diamond theater and at present Niger cinema.
With the induction of cinema in Lahore, general public became more inclined towards cinema as compare to theaters so the organizer and artists of theater also started drifting towards cinema. Moreover with the inauguration of local indigenous film by Dada Sahib Phalke, people at Lahore also started their own production. Although cine world was introduced in Lahore but mostly movies were either American, British or Bombay/Calcutta origin as such no local movies were made or released resultantly a large number of audience were more inclined towards the theater where traditional stories and tales were staged in regional languages.
First Film Production of Lahore
As regard to the first Lahore base production there are mixed stories but no authenticated information about this aspect is available. As per these stories, the first film which was a two reeler short film produced, directed and shot by Pana Lal Gosh. This short film was based on a story about fake money and it was shot at Pakistan Mint area in Shalimar Garden.
The story about the first silent feature film again there are different versions like Hamari Anar Kali was the first feature silent film which about story of moughals so to give it real touch the shooting of the film was done at an old house (Haveli) at Chona Mandi. Secondly some school of thought says that Qismat Ke Hair Phair was the first feature silent film of Lahore before partition. Yet another story about first feature film is about Daughters of Today by A. R. Kardar. All these films started and completed in between 1923-27 with outdoor shooting as at that time there was no film studios and facilities of indoor film shooting.
This dire need of local movies against different cultures was felt by the two enthusiastic of Bhati Gate of Lahore. These were Abdul Rasheed Kardar and M. Ismail, books cover artist and book writer by profession respectively. So they started their first publicity group and named it ARME Artists (AR for Abdul Rasheed and ME for Muhammad Esmail). They arranged a movie camera from Shankar Das photographer’s shop situated at Mall Lahore and made their first experimental movie in which Master Ghulam Qadir (Hero), M. Ismail (villain) and A. R. Kardar as side hero, performed as artists where as son of Shankar Das was the photographer. This first effort was encouraged by the people so both friends went to Bombay to gain more expertise in film making.
First Silent Feature Film of Pakistan
Although cine world was introduced to Lahore but all the movies were either American, British or Bombay/Calcutta origin as such no local movie was made or released resultantly a large number of audience were more inclined towards the theater where traditional stories and tales were staged. So the dire need of local movies was also felt by the two enthusiastic of Bhati Gate of Lahore. These were Abdul Rasheed Kardar and M. Ismail, books cover artist and book writer by profession respectively. So they started their first publicity group and named it ARME Artists (AR for Abdul Rasheed and ME for Muhammad Esmail). They arranged a movie camera from Shankar Das photographer’s shop situated at Mall Lahore and made their first experimental movie in which Master Ghulam Qadir (Hero), M. Ismail (villain) and A. R. Kardar as side hero, performed as artists where as son of Shankar Das was the photographer. This first effort was encouraged by the people so both friends went to Bombay to gain more expertise in film making.
In 1924, after performing an insignificant role in Heer Ranjha at Bombay, A. R. Kardar returned back and both of them collaborated Gopal Krishan Mehta who had recently acquired cinematography training from Germany and established a film production house named Premier Film Co. that’s how the first ever Punjab based film production house came into being. Daughters of Today was the first silent film produced by Premier Film Co. which was directed and produced by Gopal Krishan Mehta who was basically a railway officer. Master Ghulam Qadir was the hero and Walayat Begum performed as heroine of the film whereas A. R. Kardar appeared as villain. Three years after the film became a big hit and opened new venues for the Lahore based film eager.
In 1925 Himansu Rai along with Justice Lahore High Court Mr. Justice Moti Lal Sagar and his brother Seth Prem Sagar established a new film company named Great Eastern Film Company and also laid foundation of Punjab’s first film studio, Punjab Film Studio. Great Eastern Film Company produced their first film The Light of Asia with collaboration of Emelca film company of Germany, this company has also an office in Dehli (India). This film was directed by Franz Osteen of Germany and story of the film was based on the life of Gautama Budh. The writer of the film Niranjan Pal basically had this idea for making a film on Gautama for last twelve years who derive the idea from a German Doctor Otto Heinreich’s advise. So Niranjan Pal took almost six months to complete the script of the film and wanted a German director to direct the film but was unable to find someone of his own choice. Then he met Charles Urban who took the film script from Niranjan and paid him five hundred pounds. Charles Urban hired the services of Floyd Martin Thorton as director of the film and decided to start the film shooting in summers of 1913. But it could not be matured because of the misunderstanding of directors of the film production company. Next year in 1914, world war l started so the complete Europe was affected resultantly this film idea went into the shelf until 1919 when Niranjan Pal made a film company in collaboration with United Kingdom under the chairmanship of UP Governer Lord Metson. Once again Emelca film company of Germany was contacted for making of the film but once again film was delayed because of the financial constraints. So Niranjan Pal was in look out for some investor so he met Himansu Rai in London who was there in regard to his Law education and gave him the idea of making of The Light of Asia. Hamansu not only agreed to but also accepted the main role of film as well. On his return Hamansu met retired Judge Sir Moti Lal Sagar and his brother Seth Prem Sagar in Lahore who were agreed to invest for the Great Eastern Film Corporation.
Himansu Rai played the main role of Gautama in The Light of Asia whereas for Gopa, the heroine of the film Himansu Rai and Niranjan Pal went to Calcutta and published an advertisement in the newspaper and in response to this ad, they selected school Anglo-Indian student Renee Smith and brought her to Lahore with name of Seeta Devi who subsequently became a top heroine. Two brothers Prafulla Roi and Charo Roi were also included the cast of film from Calcutta. The Light of Asia became the high budget film with expenditure of Rs. 90000 in that point of time and film was also declared technically much ahead of films made in all over India. This film proved a big hit not only in sub-continent rather it was screened in Japan and Windsor Palace London, UK and a special film show was organized for Royal family. Read more…….. 1924-1947 Films
In 1927 a censer board was established by the Government of Punjab and next year Great Eastern Film Company produced another film Love of a Mughal Prince on a story written by Hakeem Ahmed Shujah, Seeta Devi as Anar Kali and Sawan Singh acted as Shehzada Saleem and film was directed by Prafulla Roi and Charo Roi. It was first costume film of Lahore which was made in Sheikhupura Fort. Love of Mughal Prince took two years in completion because of the financial constraints. Still this film was under completion, then Imperial Company of Bombay released their film Anar Kali which was directed by R. S. Choudhry and D. Blumoria and Salochna played the lead role in the film who were an adorable pair of that time. So Anar Kali did a box office business. On the other hand once Love of a Mughal Prince was released it did not do well because it was labeled as copy by the earlier released Anar Kali. After the failure of Love of a Mughal Prince, afterward Great Eastern Film Company never produced any other film and was closed forever.
In 1929, Roshan Lal Shori, A. R. Kardar and Luis herald attempted another film company with the name of Three United Players and started Unlucky Lovers but it was never completed due to financial constraints. So disappointed A. R. Kardar after seeing that announced films were neither being made nor completed, he separated himself from Three United Player and after selling his all belongings he made his own production house named United Players and also established a open air studios at Ravi road, Lahore. The first film produced at the Ravi Road Studios was Husan ka Daku or Mysterious Eagle. A. R. Kardar was the director himself as well as the leading male actor, M. Ismail played a supporting role. An American actress, Iris Crawford, also acted in the film. Famous artists like Faiz and M. Ismail made a very huge film posters and banner which were pitched in complete Lahore, especially a large banner was placed in Bhati Gate. Mysterious Eagle (Husan Ka Daku) was released on July 12, 1930 in Deepak cinema, Bhati Gate Lahore and gave a good business to A. R. Kardar. After this film Iris Crawford went back to Bombay. which proved a big hit at box office.
So the encouraged Kardar made another hit named Brave Heart (Sarfrosh) and Master Ghulam Qadir, Miss Gulzar, Rafiq Ghaznavi, M. Zahoor, Fazal Shah, Ahmed Din and Gul Hameed were in the main cast. Brave Heart (Sarfrosh) was released on July 30th, 1930. It was another big hit by A. R. Kardar. The success of this film gave a fresh energy to the complete film crew including A. R. Kardar. The earning of the film was rupees one thousand, one hundred seventeen, two aanas and six paaies.
A. R. Kardar’s next film was Safdar Jang, he made under the banner of United Players Corporation in October 1930. In the cast he added Hira Lal and Inayati Suniyari in lead role and Gul Hameed, M. Ismail, Fazal Shah, Ahmed Din and Master Ghulam Qadir were in remaining cast. A. R. Kardar carried out maximum of his film shooting in Shalamar Garden and other historical places of Lahore. On release this film also did a box office business. And that’s how Lahore was also took start following step to step with Bombay and Calcutta in film making. Unfortunately, these films were not that successful as of Bombay and Calcutta based movies as they were a step ahead in all the tiers of film making.
After the success of Safdar Jang, A. R. Kardar produced and directed Shepherd King (Gudareya Sultan) and Gul Hameed, Gulzar, Heera Lal, Hassan Din, Haider Shah, Fazal Shah, Ahmed Din and M. Ismail were in main cast of the film. This film was released in the cinema of Bhati Gate, Lahore.
In 1930, A. R. Kardar’s next film Wandering Dancer (Awara Raqasa) J.K. Nanda was engaged as director of the film. Ruqeyya Khatoon was invited from Calcutta and was employed with the salary of four hundred rupees per month. Ruqeyya was daughter of Lutaf Ali who was barrister at Calcutta and her mother was European and she was born in England. After doing her senior Cambridge from Calcutta she had performed in Baby Bridge Bride which was produced under the banner of Asiatic Film Corporation Calcutta and directed by Pandit Sheeda. She was very good dancer and singer. On completion of Wandering Dancer she gave a wonderful dance performance in Town Hall, Lahore which well appreciated by the audience.
Gul Hameed performed the lead role with Ruqeyya Khatoon in film Wandering Dancer (Awara Raqasa) and in other cast Lala Yaqoob, Gulzar, Heera Lal, Fazal Shah, Ahmed Din, Hassan Din, M. Zahoor and M. Ismail were included. Mostly the shooting of the film was done at River Ravi. The story of the film was based on Son of Sheikh and on its release it proved super hit film and A. R. Kardar liked this story so much that afterward she reproduced Sultana in Calcutta and Dulari and Yasmin in Bombay basing upon the same story.
During the shooting of Wandering Dancer (Awara Raqasa) Gul Hameed was filming a sequence of horse chase when he fell down from the horse and was evacuated to Meo-hospital and he remained hospitalized for fifteen days. Hassan Din and Ahmed Din were also participating in this scene but they remained safe and out of this accident.
Director and actor Nazir before joining the film industry was running a cloth shop in Kaisray bazar but he was having lot of affection for the film, finally sold the shop and joined the unit of A. R. Kardar. At that time A. R. Kardar had started his new film project Mysterious Bandit, Nazir debut his film career from this film. In other cast of the film Gul Hameed, Gulzar, Zahoor Shah, True Shah, M. Ismail and Nazir. But due to some reasons this film was unable to be released by Kardar. The heroine of the film Gulzar who was very good dancer and belonged to dancing bazar went back to Calcutta, disappointedly. A. R. Kardar invited Lailawati Devi from Bombay to cast her as heroine of his next film. Though she arrived but due to some unavoidable reasons she was not been able to work for Imperial Film Company. However she performed in theaters and people like her dancing performance.
Next film which was released by United Players Corporation was Sweetheart (Qatil Katar). For heroine of the film, A. R. Kardar casted two dancing girls of Lahore Dancing Bazar, Sardar Akhtar and Bahar Akhtar. Bahar Akhtar played the role of heroine whereas Sardar Akhtar acted as vamp of the film. It is interested to mention here that during the shooting of the film which lasted for fourteen days at Shalamar Garden and remaining shooting was scheduled at the tomb of Asif Jah, A. R. Kardar developed affection with Bahar Akhtar. During the shooting A. R. Kardar took Bahar Akhtar to one of his friend at Sheikhupura and this episode was terminated into their marriage which was not openly revealed. Subsequently, Sardar Akhtar sister of Bahar Akhtar, who was in knowledge of the story informed her parents so guardians of Bahar Akhtar launched kidnapping case against A. R. Kardar in the court but it was bounced back when she gave her confessional statement in the favour of A. R. Kardar and court rejected the case and he was unconfined. After release A. R. Kardar stopped the filming of Sweetheart (Qatil Katar) which was almost completed and burnt all the negatives of the film as heroine being his wife. On the other hand the guardians of his wife created an unavoidable environment for A. R. Kardar so he closed the United Players Corporation film company and sold the complete equipment and shifted to Bombay along with his wife. It was A. R. Kardar’s second marriage, his first marriage was an arranged and his first wife was from an honorable family of Waan Radharam, a village situated 60 miles from Lahore.
There were total seven films were released in 1930 for More details
It was revolutionary year in sub-continent as first ever talkie film of India Alam Ara was released on March 14, 1931 at Majestic cinema Bombay. The film was made under the banner of Imperial Film Company by Ardsher Irani, music composed by Feroz Shah Mistry, written by Devid Joseph and Munshi Zaheer have written the dialogues of the film. Zubaida, Master Withal, Jalo Bai, Pirthivi Raj, W. M. Khan, Elarz, Jagdesh Sethi and Soshila were in the main cast of Alam Ara. Total 10500 feet length of film was made with cost of rupees forty thousand. In Lahore the picture was released at Capital Theater (Regent Cinema) by Royal Pictures Distribution Company owned by Hakim Ram Parshad. The film publicity was popular that 2 aanas ticket was sold at 6 aanas which was sold at black ten to fifteen rupees. The release of Alam Ara totally terminated the era of silent films. So producers who were in the process of making silent films switched over to talkies.
Hakim Ram Parshad owned five cinemas in Lahore and was known as King of Cinemas. Moreover he had a film distribution office named Royal Pictures Distributer and he earned lot income on the release of Alam Ara. Afterward he invited A. R. Kardar from Bombay and made Play Art Phototone film Production Company with collaboration of A. R. Kardar and established one floor studios named Play Art Phototone Studios behind the Regent cinema at Macleod road which was subsequently renamed as City Studios. After hard work put in by all actors, workers the first film produced was Heer Ranjha. Under the direction A. R. Kardar, daughter of Naziran Billi, Anwar Begum from Amratsar played the role of Heer, Rafiq Ghaznavi as Ranjha and M. Ismail played as Kedo and other cast includes Lala Yaqub, Haider Shah, Hassan Din, Nazir, Gul Hameed and Fazal Shah.
Heer Ranjha was released in 1932 in Capital and Aziz Theater but proved to be a flop film mainly because of the poor cinematography so it was removed from the cinemas just after one week of its release. The best outcome of the film was the love affair of Anwar Begum and Rafiq Ghaznavi which was terminated in to their marriage and both of them shifted to Bombay.
Films (Lahore based) – 1924 – 1947
A comprehensive detail of Lahore based films released before partition of Sub- continent (1947) is consolidated. The era started with the film Daughters of Today in 1924. Although these movies were very less in number as compare to the movies produced by Bombay or Calcutta due to some obvious reasons. But worth mentioning that in spite of meager / limited recourses and presence of all social pressures and bondages, producers and artists had formed not only the master pieces but also produced the legends like Master Ghulam Haider who was the one to recognized, mould and introduced two legends of music in sub continent i.e. Malika -e- Tarranum Noor Jahan and Lata Mangeshkar. Amongst other legends A. R. Kardar, Pran, M.Ajmal, M. Ismail, Heera Lal, Imtiaz Ali Taj, Master Ghulam Qadir, Jagdesh Sethi and many more are the actual product of Lahore. For further detailed information please visit Films 1924 – 1947.
Film History form 1948 till to-date
For details to view Trivia, movies, language details, status, reviews of the film history of a year click the desired year as mentioned below: