33rd death anniversary of A. R. Kardar is being celebrated today


Abdur Rashid Kardar (1904–1989), was an Indian actor, director and producer. He is credited as establishing the film industry in the Bhati Gate locality of Lahore. His 33rd death anniversary is being celebrated today.

Kardar started as an arts scholar and a calligraphist making posters for foreign film productions and writing for newspapers of the early 1920s. His work would often lead him to meet filmmakers around India.

In 1928, the first silent film, “The Daughters of Today” was released in Lahore at a time when the city only had nine operational cinema houses. Most of the films shown in theatres in Lahore were either made in Bombay or Calcuta, besides ones made in Hollywood or London.

The Daughters of Today was the brain-child of G.K. Mehta, a former officer with the North-Western Railway, who had imported a camera into the country for this very project from London. He asked Kardar to assist him as an assistant director on the project and ended up giving Kardar his début role in his film as an actor. Muhammad Ismail, his friend and fellow calligraphist accompanied Kardar in the making of the film.

The film was produced in the first open studio in the city near the Bradlaugh Hall on Rattigan Road Lahore.

It is believed that some other films had been produced indigenously at the studios which had to be closed down for financial reasons.

After finishing shooting for the film, Kardar was not approached for another role for a long time. Hailing from the Bhati Gate locality, where it was not unusual to find writers and poets, Kardar saw a viable future for a film industry.

In 1928, with no work left after their maiden venture, Kardar and Ismail sold their belongings to set up a studio and production company under the name of United Players Corporation, the foundation stone for the film industry in Lahore. After scouting for locations, they settled for their offices to be established at Ravi Road.

Although, the dim-lit area presented with much difficulties after the studios were established. Shootings were only possible in the day-light but nevertheless the area had some very important landmarks like the Ravi Forest and the tombs of Mughal emperor Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan.

It is reported that the team working at the studios would commute on tangas and even lost equipment once while travelling on the bumpy roads on the horse-drawn carriage. However basic and crude their working conditions, Kardar believed in his work and in 1930 he produced the first film under the studio’s banner.

With this film, Husn Ka Daku a.k.a.  Mysterious Eagle. Kardar made his first directorial début. He also cast himself as an actor in the male lead opposite Gulzar Begum with Ismail in a supporting role. The film featured an American actor, Iris Crawford, as well. The film had mild success at theatres but prominently established Lahore as a functioning film industry. Kardar vowed on not acting in any other film and instead focusing on direction.

Immediately afterwards the studio released the film Sarfarosh aka Brave Heart, with Gul Hamid playing the lead rold with more or less the same cast as in the previous film. This production proved equally appealing but was able to stir noise about this industry in film production circles throughout India. Roop Lal Shori, a resident of Brandreth Road in Lahore, upon hearing of a new film industry in the city, returned to his hometown. He later produced Qismat Ke Haer Pher aka Life After Death which would firmly ground the new industry’s reputation as being in line with other film industries of the time.

Kardar shifted to Calcutta in 1930; and joined the East India Film Company, where he made about seven films for them. After the company closed down in 1937 he moved to Bombay and joined Film City (in Tardeo) where he made one film Baaghban. It won the Gohar Gold Medal starring Bimla Kumari, B. Nandrekar and Sitara Devi.

Subsequently, he joined Ranjeet Movietone towards the end of 1937 and made only three movies with them. From here he moved to Circo Productions Ltd., but just one year later, in 1939, when Circo Productions Ltd. went into liquidation Kardar bought out the company and started Kardar Productions. In the same compound, he also started Kardar Studios and started making movies under the Kardar Productions banner from 1940 onwards. Kardar Studios was one of the best equipped studios in those days and also the first to have air-conditioned make up rooms.

In 1946, Kardar gave a commercially successful film with K. L. Saigal and composer Naushad, Shahjehan (1946). Claimed as a “masterpiece”- all songs of the film songs became hits.

Following partition in 1947, A. R. Kardar and his brother-in-law Mehboob Khan both left for Pakistan. However, according to Bunny Reuben, as quoted by Mihir Bose, they returned to India, but no reason was given for their return.

Kardar went back to film making and directed Dard (1947), which starred Suraiya and had music by Naushad. Dillagi (1949), a romantic tragedy, was a commercial success at the box-office. Inspired by Wuthering Heights (1939). Dillagi’s music by Naushad became extremely popular, especially Suraiya’s song “Tu Mera Chand”. Dulari (1949) had equally popular music, with a memorable Mohammed Rafi song “Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki”. It starred Geeta Bali,  Madhubala and Suresh.

Dastan (1950) a tragic melodrama, was inspired from the film Enchantment ,and was cited as “one of the biggest commercial hits”. Jadoo (1951) and  Deewana (1952) marked the parting of ways between Kardar and Naushad.

Dil-E-Nadaan (1953) had popular music by Ghulam Mohammed. He made three more films before starting Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966), which again had music by Naushad. Kardar’s last film was Mere Sartaj (1975).

He introduced many artists to the Hindi film industry who went on to become renowned in their own right, such as Naushad, Majrooh Sultanpuri,  Suraiya. The legendary singer  Mohammad Rafi got his first hit from the song, ‘Suhani raat dhal chuki’ – from Kardar’s film Dulari. He also started the Kardar-Kolynos Contest, to find new talent and through this contest he discovered and introduced to the industry, Chand Usmani and Mahendra Kapoor.

Mehboob Khan’s wife Sardar Akhtar was the sister of Bahar, Kardar’s wife. Kardar was the step-brother of Pakistan’s famous cricketer A. H. Kardar (Abdul Hafeez Kardar).

Kardar, who lived in Marine Drive, died at the age of 85 years, on 22 November 1989, in Mumbai, Maharashtra.


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