Author Pran Nevile traces fortunes of nautch girls — from being the life of celebrations in royal courts and shining on the silver screen. . Gone are the times when actresses like Rekha and Meena Kumari played nautch girls and mesmerised the audience in songs like In Aankhon Ki Masti […]

The lost era of nautch girls

IN HARMONY: Guru Dutt listening to a song being sung by his wife Geeta Dutt, while their son Arun looks on.   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES A tribute to the genius of Geeta Dutt, whose 86th birth anniversary was celebrated last week. Geeta Roy appeared on the world […]

Her songs never die

As we celebrate Shakeel Badayuni’s birth centenary, let’s go back to the life and times of the instinctive poet-lyricist. Among the composer-singer-lyrist triumvirate of the music world, the lyricist is the one whose contribution is denied due recognition. Overshadowed by the other two, stalwarts such as Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi […]

Straight from the heart

As the entertainment industry celebrates the birth centenary of Kanan Devi, let’s rewind to the life and times of the first melody queen of Indian cinema. Kanan Devi, the melody queen and superstar of 1930s and 40s, was a remarkable personality. An epitome of beauty, glamour and grace and the […]

Our fair lady

Jahanara Kajjan.   | Photo Credit: 25dfr kajjan1 Here is a peep into the artistic and personal life of Jahanara Kajjan, a forgotten actor and a singing star of the 1930s. Hailed as the reigning queen of the stage, the glamorous movie actor, the trained singer, the fashionable modern girl, […]

A gem called Jahanara Kajjan

A relook at “Devdas”, 80 years after it first kissed the silver screen. Recently, I saw Saigal’s “Devdas” on television which virtually transported me to 1935 – three quarters of a century ago when I had first seen it in Lahore as a schoolboy. An all-time classic “Devdas” turned out […]

Radiating with brilliance

Pran Nevile talks about the ‘incomparable’ Lahore, its singers, artists, dancers and his fascination with the British Raj By any writer’s standards, Pran Nevile’s career has been enviable. He has written several of the strongest books on the British Raj, of the past twenty years. But because of the ponderous […]

Lahore a part of me

Pran Nevile presents some rare snapshots of India from the US Library of Congress collection THE invention of the camera in 1839 was hailed for its ‘exact’ reporting of reality. The invention caught on like wildfire and within a year, it surfaced in Calcutta. Photography also received support from the […]

Vintage vignettes

            Artist’s representation of celebrations of “Charak Puja” festival Emergence of the British as a dominant power in India encouraged British professional artists to come to India towards the late 18th century. They were able to earn fame and fortune through landscape paintings of the Indian panorama and by making […]

INDIA: A French View

William Hodges was the first artist whose works introduced the Indian landscape, architecture and life to the West. Pran Nevile writes about this pioneer who was smitten with the beauty of our country FROM time immemorial India has attracted adventurers, traders, travellers, missionaries and scholars, many of whom have left […]

India’s Past on Canvas

  The magnificence and beauty of Kashmir is unrivalled and undisputed. This paradise on earth, a unique blend of divinity and romance, has inspired poets, philosophers and seers over the centuries, writes Pran Nevile Kashmir, nature’s most spectacular work on earth, has, for centuries, enamoured seers and sages, merchants and […]

God’s own land

  The first pictorial representation of Pushkar appeared in 1848, nineteen years after the first written account of the place by a British historian. Pran Nevile on the works of the scholar and the artist PUSHKAR is considered as one of the most significant places of pilgrimage for Hindus. With […]

The story of Pushkar

Cooling tales from the Raj by Pran Nevile     The heat of the Indiansummers scared the English. Before the advent of punkhas and Americanice in early the 19th century, the English dreaded theoppressive heat and miseries of the hot season. One of the earliestcomments on the Indian summer was […]

Beating the heat

Much before playback singers entertained listeners, a host of accomplished performers recorded songs and ruled over people’s hearts. Pran Nevile brings alive a few forgotten celebrities of the gramophone era The invention of gramophone and cylinder records by Thomas Alva Edison in 1877 marked the dawn of a new era […]

Melodies on record

The Company School of Painting, or pictures made by artists during the British Raj, refers to the genre of pictures that were specifically commissioned by or made for the John Company officials and other European residents. Pran Nevile gives a vivid account of the socio-cultural practices of the period, replete with rich […]

In the Company of Art

MASTER MADAN There has never been a singer like Master Madan who sang with a touch of the divine. There has been no effort to keep the memory of the child prodigy alive either in Jalandhar where he was born or in Shimla where he lived. Pran Nevile, who recently […]

Forgotten voice

In his evocative book Lahore: A Sentimental Journey, Pran Nevile reminisces about the land of his birth, once called the Paris of the East. The memoir recaptures the atmosphere, ambience, mood, lifestyle that existed in this bustling city in the 1930s and ’40s. The famous Anarkali bazar, the splendour of […]

Back to Lahore

Pran Nevile   Noor Jehan’s death anniversary falls on December 23 NOOR Jehan, the melody queen who enchanted millions of music lovers in the subcontinent for more than half a century passed away four years ago in Karachi on December 23, 2000. Those who witnessed her meteoric rise from a […]

Noor Jehan lives on in her songs

Prakash Tandon MY association with Prakash Tandon who passed away recently covered nearly four decades. He was my boss at one time during my stint with the State Trading Corporation (1969-73). Later, he became my friend, philosopher and guide who inspired me to turn into a freelance writer. It was […]

True Punjabi

The nautch girl held the white sahib spellbound for nearly two centuries. Pran Nevile describes the magnetic appeal, grace and romance of the nautch which was found superior to all operas of the world. The word “nautch” is an Anglicised form of the Hindi/Urdu word nach derived from the Sanskrit […]

Nautch girls: Sahibs danced to their tune

Kanan Bala was among the first superstars of Indian cinema. Her melodious voice and exceptional acting abilities mesmerised audiences. Pran Nevile pays a tribute to the actress whose death anniversary falls on July 17.   Kanan Bala with K.L. Saigal in and Lagan (right) Street Singer Kanan Bala began her […]

Heroine who carried honey in her throat

Khurshid, the singer-heroine of K.L. Saigal, died on this day three years ago CELEBRATIONS of singing legend K.L. Saigal’s centenary cannot but revive memories of Khurshid, a singing star of the 1940s who attained fame and popularity after teaming up with the maestro in Ranjit’s hit Bhakat Surdas (1942). A […]

Remembering Khurshid

As the world pauses to remember K.L. Saigal on his birth centenary today, Pran Nevile takes a look at little-known facets of the man, while Devinder Bir Kaur reports on the efforts to keep his music alive. K.L. Saigal in Dushman Saigal with Jamuna in the first Devdas HE was […]

Salute to a legend

Pran Nevile Beauty and dedication Ecstasy “ART is the creation of beauty”, says Will Durant. “It is the expression of thought or feeling in a form that seems beautiful or sublime.” Indian art is a mirror of femininity which is visible in the wealth of sculptures and paintings where the […]

Portraits of feminine mystique

“Layi Hayat Aaye Kaza...” “Shama Ka Jalna Hai...”
With his stunning portrayal of Devdas, Saigal brought the author Saratchandra’s desperate character to life. His brooding looks, that drooping lock of hair and his mournful singing Dukh ke ab din bitat nahin made him a cult figure and Saigal became the first superstar of Indian cinema, writes Pran Nevile […]

Hindi cinema’s First superstar

Pran Nevile THE Delhi-Lahore bus, put back on track on July 11, was once again hailed as a historic step on the long road to Indo-Pak peace. The Wagah border came to life with jubilant crowds on both sides, bringing back memories of the momentous bus ride by Indian Prime […]

More than a bus, it’s a bridge of faith

Pran Nevile   The newlyweds going on a honeymoon— G.F. Atkinson, C 1850. THE imperial enterprise was a masculine affair. Until the late 18th century, very few British women ventured to come to India. The original charters of the East India Company also forbade women on its trading posts. To […]

Memsahibs and the Indian marriage bazaar

Pran Nevile   Madras Nautch Party: A painted photograph called for skill. THE camera made its appearance in 1839 when Louis Daguerre unveiled his invention in Paris. The first photographs were hailed as mirrors of reality. It brought a crisis in art and some painters exclaimed that with the advent […]

An ode to the painted photograph

Pran Nevile Gauhar Jan singing in 1902. A file photograph from H.M.V. Calcutta GAUHAR Jan of Calcutta, who became a legend at the turn of the 20th century was one of the most renowned and charismatic performing artistes of her time. The first artiste to be recorded in India by […]

The importance of being Gauhar Jan