Lahore Loves Bollywood!
Rab jaaney…Kab guzra…Amritsar…O kab jaaney…”Lahore” aaya…mein dil oothay chod aaya
The lovely lyric of the super hit song from film Gaddar beautifully depicts the decades old love between Lahore and Bollywood that began in the early era of Indian cinema. Next to Mumbai and Kolkata, Lahore was the largest movie making center in India. In fact the best known industry in Lahore is the movie industry. Like you have Hollywood in America, Bollywood in India, film industry in Lahore is called Lollywood. It is a mixture of Lahore and Hollywood. During the twenties and thirties, a lot of movies were made in Lollywood, based on the ones made in Hollywood. There was even a big movie studio, named “United People's” on Ravi Road. Besides two big studios, Pancholi Arts and Shorie Pictures, that boasted of many super-hit movies, there were a large number of smaller units, which too had quite a few hit films to their credit. 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. Ghulam Haider's "shaala jawaania" was an instant rage. Pancholi's film Khazanchi was one of the longest running movies of its time. Master Ghulam Haider a phenomenal music director from Lahore, was the man who gave Lata Mangeshkar the break of her career in the movie Majboor (1948). Mohd Rafi's debut also happened to occur in Lahore, at the hands of music director Shyaam Sunder in Pancholi's film Gul Baloch. Many of the mainstream stars started their career in movies that were made in Lahore, and later moved to Mumbai where they became some of the biggest stars of Indian cinema.
Many high profile Indian actors and singers lived in the Walled City in the 1940s and Lakshmi Chowk was where the film fraternity got together in tongas decorated with maroon flowers, foot bells and lamps on the side. The tonga was the primary means of transport for the ordinary and elite in the 40s. Most tongas were undecorated, but the ones used by the elite were special and fascinating. Lakshmi Chowk was the hot spot for formal and informal film gatherings. Lakshmi Chowk was the focal point of Lahore’s film industry crowd. By the evening, Lakshmi would be full of tongas, with film stars, top film directors and producers thronging teahouses and discussing filmy affairs. Pran, Om Parkash and Al Nasir, another Lahori film hero, would spend their evenings chatting and playing billiards.
Pran, who mostly played the role of a villain in films, lived in Qilla Gujjar Singh. He was a skilled photographer and took photographs of famous artistes. One day – while standing at a pan shop in Lakshmi Chowk – he met Wali, a leading film director of the time. Wali asked Pran if he was interested in acting and Pran said yes. Wali wrote the address of Pancholi Studios on the back of a cigarette pack and asked Pran to see one of his friends there. Pran started his film career with ‘Chaudhry’ and later appeared as a hero in ‘Khaandaan’, a film by Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. The heroine was melody queen Noor Jahan. Later Pran established his career in Lahore as a villan in punjabi films. Pran migrated to Bombay in 1947. 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. And the man who made the epic master piece Mughal-E-Azam in bollywood, Mr. K. Asif hailed from Lahore. Om Parkash was also one of the great names of Bombay. He lived at Matti Chowk, Lohari Gate and always rented out a decorated tonga to take him from Matti Chowk to Lakshmi Chowk every day. Om Parkash did many small and large roles in films made in Lahore and also migrated to India in 1947. Balraj Sahni also lived at Matti Chowk and was the secretary general of the All India Communist Party. He studied at Government College. Sahni also acted in pre-Partition films in Lahore. Dev Anand lived in Lohari Gate, but later moved to Bhaati Gate. He also studied at Government College. Dev Anand participated actively in politics in Lahore. His brother Chaitan Anand was a famous film director in Lahore and was considered quite influential in film studios when it came to casting and other affairs. Meena Shori was one of the leading female actors of her times. She lived in Bhaati Gate and married the owner of Shori Film Studio (now Shah Noor Studio). She acted in several pre-Partition films made in Lahore and migrated to India in 1947.
Lahore was considered the 'launchpad' for famous singers and musicians. K. L. Saigal, the legendary singer, acquired fame in Lahore then later moved to Calcutta. and then to Mumbai. The subcontinent’s greatest playback singer Muhammad Rafi lived in Bhaati Gate. He was from a family of barbers and ran his own barbershop. Rafi had a beautiful voice and most of his customers would often ask him to sing for them while they got their hair cut or got a shave. A man from the film industry introduced Rafi to film director Gul Baloch who gave Rafi the opportunity to sing three songs for ‘Gul Zaman’. The film proved a launching point for Rafi’s film career in Lahore and by the time he migrated to India in the 40s he was an accomplished singer. Khurshid Begum was an outstanding singer from Lahore who too moved to India for better opportunities. She also lived in Bhaati Gate. She sang several famous songs for various Indian films, including great songs with singer K. L. Sehgal. Hritik Roshan's grandpa Roshan (Roshan Lal), the famous music director, was from Lahore. He was given a chance as an assistant by another Lahori musician, Khwaja Khurshid Anwar (who was in Bombay at the time). Khayyam the music composer of Umrao-Jaan fame started his career in Lahore. Roshan Ara Begum from Lahore was acclaimed the best interpreter of Kirana Gharana Sytle of Khayal singing in the subcontinent. Composer O.P Nayyar, Ustad Fateh Ali, Baray Ghulam Ali (the only film he ever sang for was Mughal-e-Azam), all are from Lahore. Other famous musicians from Lahore who migrated later to Mumbai include Pundit Amarnath, Shyam Sunder, Gobind Ram, Lachi Ram and Dhanni Ram. More recently Lahore has given India Nusrat Fateh Ali, Sabri Brothers, Adnan Sami, Reshma, Mehdi Hassan, Abida Parveen, Tassawar Khanum, Atif Aslam, Ghulam Ali, Rahat Fateh Ali, Shafqat Amanat Ali---- their talent truly saturates Bollywood.
Another stream of Bollywood is also connected to Lahore, in this case intellectually, and that is the progressives. Sajjad Zaheer (father of Nadira Babbar), Jan Nisar Akhtar (father of lyricist Javed and grandfather of actor/director Farhan and director Zoya), Kaifi Azmi (father of Shabana), Majrooh Sultanpuri and so many others have a deep link to that city. Sahir Ludhianvi (Abdul Hayee) started his career in Lahore as a lyricist/poet, who later went on to become one of the biggest lyricist in Bollywood. Tanveer Naqvi was a noted lyricist of his times. He lived in Faqirkhana Museum inside Bhaati Gate. He wrote ‘Awaz Dey Kahan Hai’ and ‘Jaan-e-Baharan, Rashk-e-Chaman’.
Lahore also boosted box-office figures of Bollywood films with its large number of movie theaters where “House Full” sign was a usual sight, especially on Sundays and holidays. It was Lahore that encouraged women to throng the theaters for the first time where the Wednesday matinees were reserved for women in special “Ladies Only” shows in all theaters at half the normal rates. Lahore's love for Bollywood movies continues till date where while the Pakistani films have vanished from the cinema, the screening of Bollywood movies is again in full swing after a setback when Indian films were banned for sometime to help indigenous industry to pick up. Almost every cinema hall in the city including those located in the Northern Lahore and Walled City known for showing Punjabi movies, has switched over to either Indian or English films. The cinema-owners are going for the foreign flicks after the Pakistani films failed to attract viewers in a sizable number to sustain the cinema industry. Many of the Hindi films might have miserably failed to impress Indian audience but they seemed to have conquered Pakistan's historic city Lahore. No wonder today Lahore is fast becoming the Bollywood celebrities' top destination. They are all the time looking forward to crossing the Wagah border to promote their films and mingle with their most favorite film fraternity in Lahore. It is not only because they are well aware of the ages old Bollywood bonds with Lahore, but especially so because they have seen and felt how much Lahore loves Bollywood.