Tuesday, April 30, 2019


        ( Brothers ..Balraj and Bhisham Sahni)
              ( Balraj Sahni, Sahir Ludhinavi, Upendra Nath Ashq and Mrs. Ashq.. Photo source..Bhumika Diwedi   ,Hindi writer  from Ashq family )                 





 Before he died in 1973, Balraj Sahni ( 1913–1973) told this to his doctor:-


 “I have had a wonderful life and also received an abundance of love. I have no regrets. I thank my countrymen and salute them……………………… Yes, one regret is that I could not visit Kashmir quite frequently after shifting to Bombay. I could not enjoy its magical seasons due to my engagements in Bombay. ”


When Balraj Sahni ( Yudhishtra Sahni real name ) was told of his selection in a Kashmir-related movie ( a 1972 Bollywood biographical drama film “Shayar-e-Kashmir Mehjoor “), he was more than happy. He played the role of poet Mehjoor's father in that movie. This talented actor had spent his childhood and youth in Kashmir often staying in the family's Villa in Srinagar city during summers. 


 Born in a strict Arya Samaji family in Rawalpindi, Balraj Sahni was a gifted writer, film actor and a longtime associate of IPTA in the country. His roles in movies like Hum Log, Footpath, Do Bigha Zameen, Aulaad, Jawab, Hira Moti, Garam Kot, Kathputli, Pardesi, Seema, Raahi, Devar Bhabi, Anuradha, Parineeta, Chhoti Behan, Anpadh, Kabuliwala, Haqiqat, Sangharsh, Ek Phool Do Maali, Neel Kamal, Bhabi, Waqt, Do Raste, Hanste Zakham, Duniya, Chhoti Bahu, Humraaz, Pavittar Paapi, Garam Hawa and Mere Humsafar and many more have been widely appreciated and noticed. 


 After the completion of his studies, he became a cloth merchant and lent a helping hand to his father in extending his family business. A few months later, he went to Shanti Niketan at Calcutta and served there as a teacher for two years. Then he shifted to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sewa Gram Ashram, and after having a brief stay there, he joined the BBC London’s Hindi service. At BBC, he made friends with a talented actress Marie Seton. Marie introduced him to many cinema actors. That developed his interest in films and theatre.



  I add excerpts from Balraj Sahni’s convocation address at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1972:-


 “I’d like to tell you about an incident which took place in my college days and which I have never been able to forget. It has left a permanent impression on my mind. I was going by bus from Rawalpindi to Kashmir with my family to enjoy the summer vacation. Halfway through we were halted because a big chunk of the road had been swept away by a landslide caused by rain the previous night. We joined the long queues of buses and cars on either side of the landside. Impatiently, we waited for the road to clear. It was a difficult job for the PWD and it took some days before they could cut a passage through. During all this time the passengers and the drivers of vehicles made a difficult situation even more difficult by their impatience and constant demonstration. Even the villagers nearby got fed up with the high-handed behaviour of the city- walls. One morning the overseer declared the road open. The green- flag was waved to the drivers. But we saw a strange sight. No driver was willing to be the first to cross. They just stood and stared at each other from either side. No doubt the road was a makeshift one and even dangerous. A mountain on one side, and a deep gorge and the river below. Both were forbidding. The overseer had made a careful inspection and had opened the road with a full sense of responsibility. But nobody was prepared to trust his judgment, although these very people had, till yesterday, accused him and his department of laziness and incompetence. Half an hour passed by in dumb silence. Nobody moved. Suddenly we saw a small green sports car approaching. An Englishman was driving it; sitting all by himself. He was a bit surprised to see so many parked vehicles and the crowd there. I was rather conspicuous, wearing my smart jacket and trousers. “What’s happened?” he asked me. I told him the whole story. He laughed loudly, blew the horn and went straight ahead, crossing the dangerous portion without the least hesitation. And now the pendulum swung the other way. Everybody was so eager to cross that they got into each other’s way and created new confusion for some time. The noise of hundreds of engines and hundreds of horns was unbearable. That day I saw with my own eyes the difference in attitudes between a man brought up in a free country and a man brought up in an enslaved one. A free man has the power to think, decide, and act for himself. But the slave loses that power. He always borrows his thinking from others, wavers in his decisions, and more often than not only takes the trodden path. I learnt a lesson from this incident, which has been valuable to me. I made it a test for my own life. In the course of my life, whenever I have been able to make my own crucial decisions, I have been happy. I have felt the breath ‘of freedom' on my face. I have called myself a free man. My spirit has soared high and I have enjoyed life because I have felt there is meaning to life. ”



 Excerpts from the autobiography of Balraj Sahni:



 " After spending a few days at Rawalpindi, we went to Kashmir for a holiday. We had a villa in Srinagar. One day we had an unexpected visitor, Chetan Anand, who of course stayed with us. He had come all that far to ask me and Dammo ( Wife Damayanti )to play the leads in his Neecha Nagar, the spade work of which had been completed. By way of our fees, he was prepared to pay us 20,000 rupees. This figure was beyond our wildest imagination. Or was he perhaps pulling our leg? From Srinagar I had written to Hazari Prasad Dwivedi-who was the head of the Hindi Bhavan at Shantiniketan-offering to go back to my old post there and he had replied to say that I would be welcome. Both Dammo and I were, in fact, eager to return to Shantiniketan and renew contact with our friends and colleagues there. But now suddenly it was as if a new vista had opened up before us. "




 "One evening during a stroll along the Jhelum embankment( Bandh ), Chetan Anand told me the story of Neecha Nagar. Although the style of his narration left me unimpressed, I found the story gripping enough. I was reminded of those down-to-earth stories of Gorky and the stark realism of Russian films. Indeed, some of the scenes Chetan described so graphically that they haunted my imagination for several days thereafter. No doubt, it was a bold step that Chetan was contemplating, but to assist him in this venture could not be considered wrong by any means! Chetan went to Gulmarg to write the dialogues of the film, and a few days later the film took a definite shape. By 20th December, we had to reach Poona, where the film was to be shot at the Navyug Studio. W Z Ahmed, that redoubtable filmmaker, was the producer of the film, while Chetan himself was .going to direct it. Chetan returned to Bombay in July end. Before he left, we informed him of our acceptance of his offer, although we had not divulged this secret of ours to our near ones. During that sojourn in Kashmir, I managed to combine business with pleasure. I procured the pre¬ceding four years' files of the Hindi periodical 'Hans' -which was then edited by Munshi Premchand's son Sripat Rai-and read them in between the treks through the valley, but of the countless articles I then read, I found two profoundly moving. One was Antim Abhilasha, the Hindi version of Bijen Bhattacharya's one-act play Zabanbandi, which drew a vivid picture of the travails of the country folk who flee their villages for Calcutta in the wake of the Great Bengal Famine. The other was Krishan Chander's great novel, Annadata."





 "My doctor had advised me to spend some days in Kashmir. Though the situation there was tense, it was nevertheless free from any communal strife. Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling the state with an iron hand. Sheikh Abdullah, Sadiq, D P Dhar and several other leading personalities were behind the bars and the people were very much agitated. Many state officials were secretly in¬citing the people to revolt. Even the police were siding with these officials! An unforgettable episode during that Kashmir sojourn was a chance meeting I had at a secret joint with the great poet of Kashmir's Mazdoors, Abdul Satar 'Aasi'. To earn a living, he was working as a weaver's assistant!  Since I had come from Bombay, where the Central Office of the Communist Party was, the Srinagar comrades used to treat me with deference, which was out of all proportion. I, on my part, would also try to live up to it, although I was no match for them in political sagacity. Thanks to the atmosphere in my home and my education at the Government College, Lahore, I had become an introvert; I had got into the habit of closing my eyes to the events that were happening around me, no matter how momentous they were! Even Marxism could not provide me with a means to get rid of it. I always get nonplussed whenever I find myself in a different situation."


 Let us not forget Balraj Sahni, the most generous, rebellious, affectionate and responsible family man. He died on 13th April 1973 which happened to be the festival day known as Baisakhi. And not many amongst us know that the late Som Nath Butt ( Artist ) was a friend of Balraj. Balraj loved his paintings. Balraj remained close to many leaders or journalists and artists of Kashmir. Some names that come to my mind are G M Sadiq, D P Dhar, Pran Kishore ( Radio Kashmir ), Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and journalist Sati Sahni.


 ( Avtar Mota )



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