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Lollywood – The Formative Period (1948 – 1955)


Nasir Khan and Asha Posley played the lead in Pakistan's first feature film (1948). Produced by Deewan Sardari Lal, Teri Yaad was released on 2 September 1948 at a side theatre in Lahore. It was lacking in production quality and that along with the Quaid's death soon after contributed to its failure.

Pakistani Film Industry was trying to recover from the debris of social, political and economical catastrophe. Unrestricted imports of Indian films kept cinema houses running, thereby providing a big chunk of business for Bombay producers and their local Pakistani distributors. Most of the Urdu films of this period failed not only because of Indian competition but also because distributors here were reluctant to promote them. Finance for production, usually provided by the distributor, was practically non-existent for Pakistani films.

Like Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Poona, Lahore was also producing a few Urdu and Punjabi films during the pre-independence days. Four full-fledged studios catered to the needs of the regional industry in Lahore till 1947. Of the four studios, one was burnt down during the riots, one was sealed as its owner had migrated to India, and the other two Pancholi No.1 and No2 could not be utilized. Most cinemas and film production and distribution offices had been sealed, as there was nobody to take care of them. There was not a single artiste enjoying star value. Only M. Ismail, Akhtari, Asha Posley and a few others were left to make rounds of the Puncholi(later named as the Punjab Art Studio) in search of work or kill time. With the return of normalcy, cinema houses which had been sealed, were allotted to Muslim refugees in Lahore, Karachi and Dhaka. Indian films were then openly allowed, because there was no local film production.

Meanwhile, Muslim film personalities started pouring in from various parts of India. Among those who came in the first batch were Syed Shoukat Husain Rizvi, W.Z. Ahmed, Noor Jehan, Sibtain Fazli, Shamim Bano, Luqman, Nasir Khan, Nazir, Swarnalata, Raagini, Khursheed, Charlie, Majid, Pyare Khan, Feroz Nizami, Rashid Attre, Himaliawala, Arsh Lukhnavi, Nazir Ajmeri, Zahoor Raja, Geeta Nizami, S.Gul and others. They devoted their time, money and energy to establish and develop film industry in Pakistan. However, credit goes to Dewan Sardari Lal, who completed Pakistan’s first full length feature film Teri Yaad with Nasir Khan (younger brother of Dilip Kumar) and Asha Posley in the romantic lead. Released on September 2, 1948, it proved to be a big flop in front of Indian films. By the year 1949, the fledgling film industry of Lahore had registered upward growth.

Noor Jehan and Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi also came here in a few more months and Lahore as the only film-making centre of the new state started buzzing with activity again. Shori Studios had been allotted to Rizvi and Noor Jehan, who renamed it Shahnoor Studios, which began production activity from day one. But it took another three years for before a hit film was produced.

Do Ansoo (1950), a pathetic and tragic tale in which the father’s crime completely ruins the lives of two innocent persons, the mother and the daughter, was the first Silver Jubilee Urdu film of Pakistan. Do Ansoo, starred the romantic pair of Sabiha and Santosh for the first time. It was Sabiha’s second film after her debut in Beli. Another notable film of the year was Beli (1950), which was directed by Masud Pervez and based on his maternal nephew Saadat Hasan Manto’s story anout the perils of the 1947 exodus.

In 1951, Shaukat Hussain Rizvi  produced Chanwey in Punjabi, which was directed by his then wife, Noor Jehan. It was also the first Pakistani film to have been directed by a woman and was the only hit film among the 10 films released in 1951.

Ajay Kumar and Noor Jehan in Dopatta (1952).

Sibtain Fazli’s Dopatta, starring Noor Jehan and Ajay Kumar, was the major hit of 1952. The film was also released in Calcutta, India where it played in nine cinema houses and grossed well at the box office. Its songs, sung by Noor Jehan and brilliantly composed by Feroze Nizami, were hits on both sides of the Wagah rorder.

Anwar Kamal Pasha’s Ghulam, Nazir’s Shehri Babu and Imtiaz Ali Taj’s Gulnar were classic films of 1953.

W.Z. Ahmad’s Roohi had all the ingredients to be the top quality film of the year 1954, but was a major failure at the box office. This came on the heels of the action by the government which banned its exhibition in East Pakistan thinking that the film might promote thoughts repugnant to Pakistan ideology. Anwar Kamal Pasha’s Gumnaam and Daud Chand’s Sassi were the hits of 1954. Sassi was a big budget movie and was filmed around the most picturesque areas of the country. It was the first Golden Jubilee film of Pakistan and established Sabiha as the first superstar, than only a starlet. Gumnaam offered the best in production, direction, script, acting and music. An excellent film about a crazy wife waiting for her husband to return from the war front. The husband never returns but she receives the telegram with a sad news when police takes in the hero for a murder.

1955 saw the release of two classic Urdu films Qatil and Inteqam, directed by Anwar Kamal Pasha with excellent production values. Luqman’s Pattan, Ataullah Shah Hashmi’s Naukar, Nazir’s Heer and M.A. Rashid’s Patey Khan were other hit films of the year. Naukar was a plagiarized version of a Bombay production, Aulad. Swaranlata as maid and Nazir as her husband were at their best in this film.

In 1955, Hollywoods’ Bhowani Junction, starring Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger, was shot in and around Lahore, under the direction of George Cukor. Based on John Masters’ novel, it was set in the post-World War II period, showing the inner conflict of a Eurasian woman, torn between commitment to the country of her birth and her love for a British colonel. MGM’s production is remembered for the striking photography of the location. It was the most prestigious extravaganza ever filmed in Pakistan – Mahmood Zaman, Mushtaq Gazdar, A.R. Slote, Ummer Siddique & Aijaz Gul

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