Rattan Kumar – Interview (1955)
THE great success of “Boot Polish,” which A won the “Filmfare” Award for the Best Film, threw the spotlight on two juvenile artistes. Both have since become the most lovable and popular of our child stars. One of them is Rattan Kumar, the other Baby Naaz.
“Boot Polish” wasn’t their first film. Both were “Old hands” at the game that goes on before the arc lights on studio floors. For them “Boot Polish” might have been just another assignment. But the film proved that they were not merely “Veterans” but accomplished ones at that.
Rattan Kumar’s real name is Syed Nazir Ali. He was born on March 19th, 1941, and today, at fourteen years of age, he has as many as forty-two films to his credit! Screen assignments are coming in so fast that Rattan will soon hit the half-century mark.
“But,” explained the lad earnestly, “my screen work does not prevent me from going to school every day.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “That is, when I’m not shooting of course.” Rattan studies in the eighth form at the Anjuman-e-Islam High School — “next door to ‘Filmfare’,” he added. Very fond of sports, he plays table tennis, football and other games, but cricket is his first love.
Rattan has played in several filmland cricket matches in many parts of the country. The most recent one was at Jaipur. On that occasion, he headed his own team and the rival team was Baby Naaz’s Eleven.
Young Rattan is an ambitious cricketer and a keen organizer. He has a plan to take a team of fifteen boys on a tour of the United Kingdom.
When Rattan was in Delhi recently, he asked the Board of Control for Cricket to sponsor the tour. The Board referred him to the Bombay Cricket Association. Rattan expects that the local body will recommend his plan to Delhi.
If everything goes well, Rattan hopes to go abroad with his team in May 1956. They expect to play twenty-four matches in England.
Rattan enthusiastically explained, “The tour will give an opportunity to promising young cricketers to learn more of the game in the country where it originated. The tour will also provide sound training for the future. That is why I’m so keen that my plan should have the blessing of the Board.”
But funds? Here Rattan’s father explained they will organize festival matches and variety entertainments to raise the necessary money.
It was from the cricket field that Rattan Kumar practically walked into a screen role seven years ago.
Young Syed was playing a match in front of their house at Kalina, Santa Cruz. Krishan Chander, the famous screen writer, came to see the boy’s father and in the course of conversation said that he required a lad for a role in “Dii ki Awaz” which he was making.
Rattan’s father asked Krishan Chander if he would like to try Rattan. When the boy came in for his tea, Krishan Chander took a good look at him, thought it might not be a bad idea to take him on, and did.
The film as well as its boy artiste made a favorable impression and Rattan Kumar’s next assignment came the following year in Mr. Wadia’s “Balam.”
Followed a series of assignments: in “Hamari Manzil,” “Roomal,” “Sartaj,” “Sargam,” “Afsana,” “Banwra,” “Raj Rani Damayanti,” “Jai Mahalaxmi,” “Baghdad,” “Saudagar,” “Moti Mahal,” “Diwana,” “Raj Tilak,” “Dard E Dil,” “Angaray,” “Buzdil,” “Baiju Bawra,” “Radha Krishna,” “Boot Polish,” “Do Bigha Zamin,” “Bahut Din Huwe,” and “Jagriti.”
Several of these films were extremely popular at the box-office, some even celebrated their Silver Jubilees.
Rattan Kumar has nostalgic memories of Madras where he worked in S. S. Vasan’s “Bahut Din Huwe.” He holds Mr. Vasan in great affection, he said, and added, “Mr. Vasan taught me swimming, fencing and riding.”
Mr. Vasan himself was very pleased with the youngster’s work and gave him a new car as a token of his appreciation.
While in Madras, young Rattan also won the hearts of the Travancore Sisters (Padmini, Lalitha and Ragini). “They treated me like a brother,” he said, “and taught me to dance.”
Just now Rattan Kumar has assignments in the forthcoming films: “Ekadashi,” “Zindagi,” “Dil Dar” and “Mughal-e-Azam.” (This interview was conducted in 1955).