Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Swaran Lata : First Tragedy Queen

By Iftikhar Chaudri 

Swaran Lata was a Pakistani film actress. She started her career in the film industry in British India and later moved to Pakistan. She was described as a Tragedy Queen because of her intense presence on screen and her apt dialogue delivery.

Swaran Lata was born into a Syal Sikh family in Rawalpindi, British India on December 20, 1924. She did her Senior Cambridge from Delhi and then joined Academy of Music and Arts, Lucknow. In early 1940s, her family was moved to Bombay.
Sawarn Lata was born a Sikh and converted to Islam after she married Nazir Ahmed, a famous actor, director and producer at the time. She changed her name to Saeeda Bano. The Swaran-Nazir pair was a very creative ensemble, churning out many movies together both before and after Partition.
An exceptional and wondrous story about how she entered the realm of acting trails Swaran. Her parents died when she was very young and she lived most of her adolescent life with her elder brother, whom she recalls "very strict". However, it is the story of how she got discovered that Swaran tells with great passion: "I was a student at college in Lucknow, India. When I was traveling from Delhi to Lucknow, a few directors saw me. They approached me to act in films but I was not interested at first. One of them then went to my elder brother with the offer, and to my utmost surprise he agreed".
Swaran Lata started her career as a stage actress. Her first film was Awaaz released in 1942. Swaran and Nazir migrated to Pakistan at the time of the Partition of India. They left everything they had behind in Bombay and shifted to Lahore. The duo had to start from scratch and in the process became one of the pioneers of the Pakistan film industry.
Swaran Lata was heroine of Pakistan's first ever silver jubilee film Pherey. The film was a Punjabi film but she was an Urdu speaker who was trained in Lucknow, the home of Urdu littérateurs. For the film, she was coached in Punjabi language by Baba Alam Siahposh, a Punjabi poet, who was also one of the lyricists of the film songs.[
As heroine, Laarey, Naukar, Heer and as character actress Sawaal were her famous films. From 1960 onwards, she reduced her appearances and mainly shifted towards character roles.
In her lifetime, Swaran has worked with great names like Prithviraj Kapoor, Motilal and Dilip Kumar in India and with Santosh Kumar, Darpan, Inayat Hussain Bhatti and Habib in Pakistan. Let me fill the gap with information about her careers, gathered from my cinema historian friend Muhammad Rafiq in England. Swarnlata made many films, the most famous of which undoubtedly was Ratan, whose great hits by Naushad continue to delight (Sawan ke badlo, Pardesi balama, Mil ke bichhar gayain akhian etc.). She married Nazir and the mention of one brings back memories of the other. Nazir was born at the turn of the last century, and after silent films in Lahore with AR Kardar, moved with him to Calcutta. He appeared in silents like Chankaya with Kardar directing. In 1932, he acted in Ezra Mir’s Zarina and shifted to Bombay. After Kardar’s Baghban, Nazir became a hero and appeared with Sitara Devi in films like Salma (1943).

Swarnlata had appeared with Dilip Kumar in Pratima (1945), directed by Arun Kumar. Nazir took her on for his Laila Majnu (1945) in which they played lead roles, follwed by Wamaq Azrra in 1946 and Abida in 1947. She also appeared with Navin in Insaaf in 1946. Nazir and Swarnlata married and moved to Pakistan where the inseparable pair appeared in the Punjabi movies Pherey (1949 — the first Punjabi film made in Pakistan), Mundari (1949), Laarey (1950), and Shehri Babu (1953). Nazir was getting on in years and on the set of Heer (1955), he noticed Inayat Hussain Bhatii in a minor role and suggested to Swarnlata that the younger man may be more appropriate as her male lead. An so it was. Swarnlata’s last Panjabi film was Billo Ji (1962).
Swarnlata was born in Lucknow and was Urdu-speaking. She was coached in Punjabi by Baba Alam Siahposh, the Punjabi lyricist and poet. Swarnlata said in an interview once that it was she who had brought Inayat Hussain Bhatti and Zubaida Khanam to films in 1955. Her Urdu movies in Pakistan were Sachai (1949), Bheegi Palkein (1952), Khatoon (1955), Naukar (1955), Sabira (1956), Sauteli Maa (1956) and Noor-e-Islam (1957). The last film also starred our Sialkot friend, Qayoom Shah who was given the filmi name of Dawar. Nazir died in 1983. Without doubt, Nazir and Swarnlata formed the movie industry’s golden couple. In her last interview she said that the great hero of the 1940s, Motilal, wanted to marry her but she declined. She was 90 when she died but her movies and the songs associated with them will live.
Swaran Lata died at the age of 83 in Lahore on February 8, 2008. Swaran Lata had four children - three daughters (Ismet Murshed, Iffat Rashed and Talat Abbasi) and a son (Aslam Nazir).
Her Films
• Awaaz (1942) Hindi film
• Tasveer (1943) Hindi film
• Pratigya (1943) Hindi film
• Ishara (1943) Hindi film
• Us Paar (1944) Hindi film
• Raunaq (1944) Hindi film
• Ratan (1944) Hindi film
• Ghar Ki Shobha (1944) Hindi film
• Preet (1945) Hindi film
• Laila Majnu (1945) Hindi film
• Pratima (1945) Hindi film
• Chand Tara (1945) Hindi film
• Wamaq Azra (1946) Hindi film
• Shaam Savera (1946) Hindi film
• Abida (1947) Hindi film
• Gharbar (1948) Hindi film
• Sachai (1949) Urdu film
• Pherey (1949) Punjabi film
• Anokhi Daastan (1950) Urdu film
• Laaray (1950) Punjabi film
• Bheegi Palken (1952) Urdu film
• Sheri Babu (1953) Punjabi film
• Khatoon (1955) Urdu film
• Naukar (1955) Urdu film
• Heer (1955) Punjabi film
• Sabira (1956) Urdu film
• Soteeli Maa (1956) Urdu film
• Noor-e-Islam (1957) Urdu film
• Shama (1959) Urdu film
• Billo Jee (1962) Punjabi film
• Azmat-e-Islam (1965) Urdu film
• Sawaal (1966) Urdu film
• Duniya Na Maney (1971) Urdu film

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