My first introduction to Pran Neville was through Twitter. In an update of Partition Museum, I saw a short video of Pran Neville. In that video, he was referring to the 1941 film ‘Khazanchi’ in Lahore. This film created a ruckus in the entire country. It is a matter of undivided India. Lahore was then a part of India. It was called ‘Paris of the East’.
In undivided India, in addition to Calcutta and Bombay, film production activities had also started in Lahore. Lahore films were fewer and fewer in terms of number and quality of production compared to Calcutta and Bombay. However, the actors, actresses, singers and directors who have come out of Lahore were flagging off their talent and success across the country. However, films produced in Lahore lagged behind in earnings and success.
Ramola was the heroine of the film ‘Khazanchi’ by filmmaker Dalsukh Pancholi and director Moti B Gidwani. In a song from this film, Ramola is riding a bicycle with friends singing ‘Sawan ke najare hain’. His scarf is waving. Pran Neville was stating that because of this song, ‘Khazanchi’ was called a modern film, in which the Azad Khyal heroine was cycling like the hero of the film and singing in a carefree manner. This film before independence and partition made a far-reaching impact on Hindi cinema.
Memories Getting Fresh
Pran Neville was 19 years old at the time of the release of ‘Khazanchi’. He remembered everything about that film. It was in his memory that he wrote in detail about KL Sehgal’s visit to Lahore in 1937 in his book ‘KL Saigal – The Definitive Biography’. He was just 15 years old then. He along with his friend went to listen to KL Sehgal. He bought two rupees tickets in black for three rupees among the crowded crowd. His memory was tremendous.
I remember the conversation in his Gurugram (Gurgaon) residence in April this year. He answered my every question related to the film industry of Lahore and Lahore. He was happy that I was underlining the contribution of Lahore’s film industry. When I came to the context of problems of source and material, I told that it is not possible to go to Lahore in the present condition. I cannot expect any kind of cooperation from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, because in my articles and comments, I have been declared an opponent of the ruling party.
Neville sir listened carefully to me and then gave unique advice in a slow voice. He suggested that you send a letter to the minister of the BJP government. Write in that letter that before the partition most of the producers and owners of studios operating in Lahore were Hindus. I want to know about them. See, the government will help you all. I could not write that letter yet, but by his suggestion I realized that he was a very practical person and a thinker. He used to use power in the public interest. They may be aware of the corridors of power and its functioning due to being in the Indian Foreign Service for a long time.
After knowing about him and reading his books, I did not feel like contacting him despite having a strong desire to meet. I always feel that the active elderly should not be disturbed. Their time is spent in the formality of meeting. However, Twitter’s Pakistani friend Ammara Ahmed had mentioned meeting him somewhere. I asked Ammara about this only. He advised that I should contact him and ask for an appointment. And I was really amazed when he accepted my request and agreed to meet.
I was present at his Gurugram residence shortly before the scheduled date. I was accommodated in his study. I got a glimpse of them while going to study and kept thinking that they must have come from behind. It was 5 to 10 minutes, but they did not come. After looking at his books for a while, I sat down. He came at exactly 11 o’clock. The time of 11 was completed. With coming, he said that I have come on time. You had come earlier, so had to wait. I laughed and they started laughing too. Then for more than an hour, I kept asking something or other and they kept answering my curiosity with all seriousness. He was 96 years old in April 2018.
Yes, age could not touch them. He was constantly active and alert. Indian elders are angry with home, family and society at this age. They feel that today’s generation is incompetent and mindless. In my conversation I realized that he has no such complaint. They want to address today’s generation. Stay in touch with them. He had concrete plans. They were working on them. When I requested that your books should be in Hindi and you should write articles in Hindi too, he quickly gave an article written on Sufi music and asked that it be printed. He wanted to bring his books in Hindi. Hindi translation of these books should be available.
Pran Neville has written a book called ‘Lahore: A Sentimental Journey’ centered on the city of Lahore. In this book, he has written a living picture of Lahore of his era. It has been written in detail on small rayayats. He rightly writes, “The city is not just in its markets and buildings. This atmosphere, environment, happiness and sadness, madness and sadness, fun and most of all in your residents. They are his soul. ”
This book by Pran Neville to understand the beat of any city
Provides effective tools. Pran Saheb has not paid much attention to the political and economic movement of Lahore. They bring out that cultural aspect of Lahore, which exposes Lahore differently from India and Pakistan. Lahori takes pride in the fact that one is India and one is Pakistan… and one is Lahore. This feeling is felt by reading and learning about Lahore before Partition.
Pran Neville had his life in Lahore. He had definitely come to India, but like any marriage he never forgot his maternal grandfather Lahore. He used to go to Lahore as soon as he got a chance. He used to write a lot about Lahore. His book on the Kothewalis is considered researchable. He had a special identity as an expert of British Raj. Along with this he has an important book on the expiration of Indian School of Painting and Company. He has also written a lot on smooth music and film music. He was a friend and friend of Thumri singer Naina Devi. Through him he met Begum Akhtar.
He has also written on both these singers. He did some thumri and ghazal done by Begum Akhtar after one time scattered among her fans. Organizing Sangeet Sabha every year in Delhi was his special pastime. Along with writing a book on KL Sehgal, he was successful in organizing a grand event on his birth centenary with the support of the Government of India to keep his memories of his singing and merits.
There was cultural collectivity in Lahore in the fourth and fifth decade. This city of undivided India was the cultural, educational and political center of the west of North India. Allahabad, located in its parallel east, stops in front of it under the influence. It can be a matter of comparative study how and why both cities of North India could not maintain their luster and intimidation after independence. And now with changing the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj, Yogi Adityanath has also covered Allahabad’s memory.