Remembering Balraj Sahni on his 104th birth anniversary.
Balraj Sahni (1 May 1913–13 April 1973), born Yudhishthir Sahni, was a noted film and stage actor, who is best known for Dharti Ke Lal (1946), Do Bigha Zameen (1953), Kabuliwala (1961) and Garam Hawa (1973).
He came from Bhera, now in Punjab, Pakistan, and was the brother of Bhisham Sahni, noted Hindi writer, playwright, and actor.
Sahni was always interested in acting and started his acting career with the plays of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). Incidentally, his wife Damayanti became well-known as an IPTA actress much before Sahni made a name for himself in films. He started his film career in Mumbai with the film Insaaf (1946), followed by Dharti Ke Lal directed by KA Abbas in 1946 (Damayanti’s first film), Door Chalein in 1946, and other films. But it was in 1953, with Bimal Roy’s classic Do Bigha Zameen, that his true forte as an actor was first recognized. The film won the international prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
He followed it up with an encore in the 1961 classic Kabuliwala penned by Tagore.
Sahni’s wife Damayanti, who was the heroine of his 1947 film Gudia, died at a young age that same year. Two years later, he married his first cousin, Santosh Chandhok, later known as an author and television writer.
Sahni’s acting was very well liked and appreciated in all his films. He acted opposite top heroines like Padmini, Nutan, Meena Kumari, Vyjayantimala, and Nargis in films like Bindya Seema (1955), Sone Ki Chidiya (1958), Sutta Bazaar (1959), Bhabhi Ki Chudiyaan (1961), Kathputli (1957), Lajwanti (1958) & Ghar Sansaar (1958).his character roles in films like “Neelkamal”,”ghar ghar ki kahani” “Do raste” and “ek phool do mali” were greatly appreciated. However, he is perhaps best remembered by the current generation for the picturisation of the legendary song Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen from the movie Waqt (1965) on him. Sahni appeared opposite Achala Sachdev in the number.
He also starred in the classic Punjabi film Nanak Dukhiya Sub Sansar (1970) as well as the critically acclaimed Satluj De Kande.
His role as the angst-ridden but stoical Muslim man who refuses to go to Pakistan during partition, in his last film Garam Hawa, has often been called his best performance by critics. Balraj, however, could not see the completed film to rate his own performance, as he died just the day after he finished dubbing work. The last line he recorded for the film, and hence his last recorded line is, Hindustani:- “Insaan Kab Tak Akela Jee Sakta Hai?”