It is a privilege meeting Gohar Mamajiwala known in the Indian film industry as Miss Gohar, one time leading star, producer and studio owner. Gohar began in the silent movie era and went on to the talkies.
Well-bred and soft-spoken with old-world manners, Gohar also has high intelligence. She is a lively conversationalist.
Born into a well-to-do Bohri family of Bombay, Gohar enjoyed solid material comforts. Fond of reading Gohar emerged as a self-assured teenager.
But the halcyon days all too frequently don’t behave consistently. Mr. Mamajiwala’s business almost collapsed and the family funds were seriously depleted. A family friend, Mr. Homi Master working at the time as a director for Kohinoor Films, suggested that Gohar take up acting as a career. Her parents agreed.
At this time she was sixteen, an age at which all girls have a certain loveliness. Gohar was as pretty as a doll: a round face with a firm jaw and slightly pointed chin, high forehead with the hair-line well away from the finely arched eye-brows, large lustrous eyes, a daintily chiselled nose and a generous mouth.
Her first picture Kohinoor Films’ “Fortune and the Fools” was a hit. It told the story of a rich man’s son who squandered his easily inherited fortune and finally got back on his feet thanks to his wife—a gentle but firm young girl. In the role of the wife Gohar gave the portrayal unobtrusive finish. “Fortune And The Fools” was directed by Kanjibhai Rathor and the role of the hero was portrayed by Khalil.
It was the “silent” era of movies when audience took delight in “stunt” films, adventure stories and mythologicals. That a social drama with a new actress could hold them was a proof of Gohar’s talent.
Her success in the very first film, was followed by her second Picture for Kohinoor. “Fairy of Ceylon” which proved even more successful for both the young star and the studio. An entertainment packed fantasy, this fairy tale adventure was directed by Homi Master and produced by Dwarkadas Sampat and the hero again was Khalil.
Among many motion pictures for Kohinoor Films she remembers the ageless favorite “Shirin Farhad” with Khalil, the historical “Jasma Oden” in which he again played the hero, and “Educated Wife” in which Gohar portrayed the title role of a young doctor married to a man who she discovers is suffering from syphilis. She cures and rehabilitates him and during all of this they discover mutual affection, understanding and love. The hero was played by Vaidya who usually portrayed villainous parts.
It was the sensitive balanced performance she put over in this highly dramatic and emotional role that brought her to the notice of Chandulal Shah who was then about to start directing “Typist Girl” for Kohinoor Films. The heroine was the beautious Sulochana but Mr. Shah insisted that Gohar, an established star, play a cameo part as the drunkard’s wife. Gohar, sure of her ability, gave a performance which did much for the picture, herself and everyone connected with it. There were many Kohinoor movies after that for Gohar, directed by Chandulal Shah and most of the time co-starring Khalil and Raja Sandow.
For two years Gohar was a star under contract to Kohinoor Films. In 1927 came the break, a mutual friend of Gohar and Chandulal Shah, Jagdish Pasta decided to start a film producing concern of his own with their co-operation and technical help.
Ambitious to do something on their own an enthusiastic young quintet comprised of Jagdish Pasta, Chandulal Shah, Gohar, Raja Sandow and cameraman Pandurang Naik started the Shree Sound Studios. It was built by Shah on Pasta’s land. There they made about ten pictures including “Vishwa Mohini” (produced in both the silent and talkie versions) and “Chandramookhi”.
In 1929 Chandulal Shah and Gohar opted out of Jagdish Movietone and started their own movie production company Ranjit Film Company, which grew and led to the eventual acquisition of a studio with four sound stages. Ranjit Film Company’s first production was shot in Krishna Studios. It was a social titled “Pati Patni”—all about why husbands go astray. The film was the first motion picture in which that polished actor and charming gentleman Mubarak made his screen debut.
Soon after Chandulal Shah and Gohar built their own studio called Ranjit Studios. It was one of the major motion picture studios for close on 20 years under their joint guidance.
It was still predominantly the silent era. As Gohar recalled those were happy days, when stars and technicians like the steering crew of producers and directors, were all under contract to the studio. Films were shot within sixteen or twenty days and ran to a merciful six thousand feet.
The Ranjit Studio stars, like stars of other studios, worked in stunt pictures, mythologicals, romantic dramas and socials. And for “stunt” pictures there were neither stand-ins nor stunt artistes. “I suffered my full share of falls and bruises and still retain a few aches and pains —reminders of those hazardous leaps, jumps and falls for the motion picture camera”.
Gohar herself was partner, producer and starring actress and with her competence, in all three departments did a great deal not only to promote the welfare of Ranjit but also foster good-will within and outside. Apart from acting her own stunts, Gohar did her own singing, dancing and make-up like all the other artistes,
Today Gohar leads the same cultured life away from the bustle of the film world from which she retired some years ago. She reads a great deal, from philosophy to fiction, enjoys historical novels and is an ardent moviegoer. She has a polished command of English, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi, and she enjoys seeing foreign and Indian films. Her favorite foreign stars are Audrey Hepburn, Norma Shearer, Rita Hayworth, Frederick March and Clark Gable. Among Indian artistes she likes Meena Kumari, Raakhee, Jaya Bhaduri, Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. Her list of favorite directors includes de Mille, Wilder and Wyler and Chandulal Shah, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, V. Shantaram, Yash Chopra and Gulzar – Patricia Singh [This profile was originally published in 1977]