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Singer-actor Master Nissar was the first superstar of the talkie era, as the term is understood today. A product of the Madan Theatres, Calcutta, Nissar took to films when the company built a film studio. Because of his ability to speak fluent Urdu and sing songs, he was an instant success. Nissar made a sought-after team with Jehan Ara Kajjan. People used to flock in large numbers to studios to catch a glimpse of him.

Master Nissar along with Jahanara Kajjan, appeared in India’s second talkie, Shirin Farhad — released just two months after ‘Alam Ara’. ‘Shirin Farhad’ was such a hit with the audience that in his subsequent talkies he sang 30 to 40 songs.

Nissar ruled the roost until a typewriter mechanic called Kundan Lal Saigal decided to don the greasepaint. His decline was sudden in the wake of the Saigal wave of the mid-thirties. Nisar switched to character roles in the late 40s.

Nissar, one of the first Bollywood actors to hit stardom, however, died in penury. At the later stage of his life he survived on the munificence of the Good Samaritans from Bollywood, including actresses Nargis and Nadira.

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Celebrating Cinema

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