New Theatres’ romance with Prem

May 29, 2011

Best love songs of Vintage Era

New Theatres I have been in the New Theatres mood since I wrote my last post on Pankaj Mullick. BN Sircar established New Theatres in Calcutta in 1931, i.e. the same year the first talkie Alam Ara was released in Bombay. Music has been an integral part and a defining feature of our films ever since. And so it has been with New Theatres as well. It is also not surprising that love has been the dominant theme of our songs. But the New Theatres took love to entirely unexpected heights. It was not merely a matter of semantics that pyar, mohabbat, ishq for them was Prem or Preet. It also denoted for them something deeply spiritual, other-worldly and supremely blissful.

Songs are generally identified with the singer and the music director. But the New Theatres team of KL Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Pahadi Sanyal, Uma Shashi, RC Boral and Timir Baran etc created such transcendental tunes in film after film in the 1930s and 40s that I view their songs as belonging to the New Theatres School. Prem also occurs in so many of their songs and such myriad ways that I felt their best Prem songs deserve a separate treatment.

Here is my compilation of the best प्रेम songs of the New Theatres.

1. Prem nagar main banaungi ghar main by KL Saigal and Uma Shashi from Chandidas (1934), music RC Boral

When I heard this song for the first time at a very young age, the effect was absolutely magical. I was at an age when there was not much difference between reality and fantasy, I could literally believe with Uma Shashi that it was possible to build one’s abode in the City of Love, which was made not of brick and mortar but whose courtyard, roof and doors would all be of Love. Saigal goes further to visualise Love as friends, neighbours and the essence of life. Uma Shashi would bathe in the nectar of Love and would adorn herself with ornaments of Love. And the ultimate is when Saigal describes Love as one’s deed, thoughts and ethics. After Saigal’s intial flops and appearance in Pooran Bhagat (1933) just for his songs, Chandidas was the first film that catapulted him to superstardom as an unparalleled actor-singer.

प्रेम नगर में बनाऊंगी घर मैं तज के सब संसार
प्रेम का आंगन प्रेम की छत और प्रेम के होंगे दोआर
प्रेम नगर में बनाऊंगी घर मैं ….

प्रेम सखा हो प्रेम पड़ोसी प्रेम में सुख का सार
प्रेम के संग बितायेंगे जीवन प्रेम ही प्राणाधार

प्रेम सुधा से स्नान करूंगी प्रेम से होगा सिंगार

प्रेम ही धर्म है प्रेम ही कर्म है प्रेम ही सत्य विचार
प्रेम नगर में बनाऊंगी घर मैं ….


2. Prem ki ho jai jai by Saigal, Uma Shashi and Pahadi Sanyal from Chandidas

Once you have got your abode of Love, life is full of bliss and you would automatically burst into singing victory to Love. The New Theatres could create beautiful lines like Blessed is the tongue that everyday drinks the nectar of Love.


3. Prem Ki Naiya Chali by Uma Shashi and Pahadi Sanyal from Dhoop Chhaon (1935), Composer R.C.Boral and Pankaj Mullick

If the abode can be made without brick and mortar, so can be boat without wood. In this beautiful song Pahadi Sanyal and Uma Shashi dream of their boat of Love floating in water. In the same vein, the sea, the boatman and travellers are all of love.


4. Sanwariya prem ki bansi sunay by KL Saigal and Kanan Devi in Street Singer (1938), lyrics Arzoo Luckanvi, music RC Boral

Street Singer was a movie way ahead of its times. This is a story of childhood friends Bhulwa (Saigal) and Manju (Kanan Devi), who eke out their living by singing in the streets. Bhulwa is the gifted one who tutors Manju in singing. She makes it big in Calcutta and almost forgets Bhulwa, but the true love finally prevails and she comes back to him, leaving all the glitz behind, to the strains of Babul mora naihar chhutal jaye. Sanwariya prem ki bansi sunay is another Prem gem from the New Theatres.


5. Tumne mujhse prem jata kar by Asit Baran from Wapas (1943), music RC Boral

When I first heard this song some time back, I was wonderstruck that such incredibly beautiful song should remain hidden for so long. Now I am aware of many Asit Baran songs through You Tube. No information is available about him on the internet. But it is clear he was another actor-singer in the New Theatres stable and appeared in many films. He seems to have been crowded out by the stalwarts like Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, KC Dey and Pahadi Sanyal. His songs are so good he deserves special recognition. Here is another of my favourite Prem songs.


6. Man prem ki jyoti by Pahadi Sanyal and Uma Shashi from Anath Ashram (1937), music R.C.Boral

Uma Shashi and Pahadi Sanyal combination has given some incomparable songs. Some of the best duets of the 1930s are sung by them.

7. Jagat mein prem hi prem bhara hai by KL Saigal from Karorepati (1936), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music RC Boral

When the world is awash with love, no one can convey it better than Saigal. Kidar Sharma’s lyrics and RC Boral’s signature composition make it a supremely elegant Prem song.

8. Prem ka nata choota jag mein by Pankaj Mullick from Nartaki (1940), lyrics Munshi Arzoo, music Pankaj Mullick

There is something other-worldly about Pankaj Mullick’s voice. He sounds entirely convincing when he sings relationship may break but love need not break.


9. Prem ka hai is jag mein panth nirala by KL Saigal from President (1937), music RC Boral and Pankaj Mullick.

New Theatres were not unaware of Prem doing strange things to the lovers. After acknowledging this phenomenon at a low pitch, Saigal in the last stanza almost admonishes at high pitch:

पागल प्रेमी अब तू क्यों रोता है
प्रेम का तो ऐसा ही फल होता है
पहले काहे ना तू ने देखा भाला

10. Na koi prem ka rog lagaye from President

At times you may get dejection in love. Saigal can express this with unmatched pathos:

ना कोई प्रेम का रोग लगाये
पापी अंग अंग रच जाये
ना कोई प्रेम का रोग लगाये

प्रेमी के इस भोलेपन पर सब दुनिया मुस्काये
रूप के चित्र को मन में रखकर आग से आग बुझाये
ना कोई प्रेम का रोग लगाये

गली गली प्रीतम को ढूढ़े जग से आंख बचाये
मन से जी भरकर रोये आंखों से मुस्काये
ना कोई प्रेम का रोग लगाये

Na koi prem ka rog lagaye

An institution as exceptional as the New Theatres could not last forever. KL Saigal towards the later part of his life migrated to Bombay, though he did not live long. The best of the New Theatres was over by early 1950s. Bombay prevailed over Calcutta. Songs and love-songs remained part of our films. But if the New Theatres said ना कोई प्रेम का रोग लगाये, Bollywood would say the same thing as कर दे मुश्किल जीना इश्क़ कमीना. Can Amitabh Bachchan really complain at the epithet Bollywood?


(The image at the top of this article is courtesy smashits)

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dustedoff May 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm

AK, I learn so much from your articles – especially when it comes to songs of the 30s and 40s! I regret to say that the only song from this list that I’d heard before was Prem nagar mein banaaoongi ghar main, and that because Lalita Pawar’s character sings a bit of it in the 1962 hit Professor. Though of course, Saigal’s Street Singer is a film I’ve wanted to see for a long time, mainly because of Baabul mora – I find that song absolutely haunting.

2 AK May 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm

It is a huge compliment coming from you, I am myself such a big admirer of your writing. It is a big satisfaction for me that I am able to introduce the vintage songs to people like you. I do not remember how I got into the songs of 1930s and 40s, but I got mesmerised the first time I heard these songs, and one thing led to another.

The bit about Lalita Pawar humming Prem nagar mein banaungi ghar main in Professor is interesting. Now I would look for it more carefully. You would recall Kishore Kumar singing many classics in his films. O janewale balamwa in Padosan and so many others. But he would do it as a madcap comedy in a completely irreverent style, yet making it so endearing. I plan to do a blog on KK the wild comic, highlighting his turning of great songs on their heads. I would need your help on this.

I am sure Street Singer would be available on DVD. The high point is indeed Babul mora naihar chhutal jaye. I found the film ahead of its times notwithstanding the very artificial style of dialogue delivery of Kanan Devi, which was the prevalent style those days. I feel Rangeela is loosely based on Street Singer, with a slight difference that Mili (Urmila Matondkar) never really forgot Munna (Amir Khan), it was only the male characters that misunderstood her object of affection.

3 dustedoff May 31, 2011 at 10:09 am

“You would recall Kishore Kumar singing many classics in his films. ”

Coincidence! Only an hour ago, I was thinking of Kishore’s rendition of “Teri gathri mein laaga chor” as part of “Paanch rupaiyya baarah aana” – he made it so hilarious, but yes, in an endearing way. Please do that blog post, sometime – would love to read it.

I have looked for Street Singer, but with no luck. Earlier too, and yet again yesterday after I posted that comment, but it’s nowhere to be found, not even on Induna (which generally has some very old and obscure movies in its catalogue). If you come across it, do let me know – I’d love to lay my hands on it.

4 a c tuli May 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

You were all praise for Saigal’s all-time great ‘Babul mora nyhar chhooto jai…’. If you are interested, I would like to tell you that Street Singer was made in 1938. In those those days, an actor had to sing and act at the same time. Technology for recording a song in a separate studio and then transferring it to the sound track of the film was then not available. RC Boral, music director of ‘Street Singer’, explained the cumbersome way in which this song was picturised for the film. Musicians with their instruments sat in an open truck while Saigal, armed with a harmonium, came behind on foot, singing this classical song. How difficult it is to sing while one is walking, it can be well imagined.
The ‘Babul mora nyhar…’ song that we hear on the radio is the one that was recorded in a sound-proof studio under ideal conditions. The one that we hear in the film is of course different. But it indeed redounds to Saigal’s credit that he could sing so sweetly under trying conditions. Not just the Babul song, all his other songs which were released on old vinyl discs were studio-recorded songs. They are definitely better than their film versions.

5 AK May 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm

It is amazing. I also had in mind Paanch rupaiya barah aana (I was keeping it in reserve for my planned blog). Not only he did KC Dey’s Teri gathari mein laga chor, he also mimicked SD Burman’s classic Dheere se jana bagiyan mein in this song. Many years later he would caricature it as Dheere se jana khatiyan mein O khatmal in Chhupa Rustam, but as playback for Dev Anand. Towards the end of this he came back to the original wordings and did an affected imitation of SD Burman. SDB must have been quite indulgent of KK’s endearing irreverence to allow him such liberties.

I saw Street Singer on DD many years back. I just assumed it should be commercially available. BN Sircar’s son Dilip Sircar also passed away last year. I had met him a few years back and was planning to ask him how to get hold of New Theatres movies. Now I do not know how to go about it.

6 AK May 31, 2011 at 8:06 pm

@a c tuli
Thanks for the correction in the year of Street Singer, and all the useful information.

7 Richard S. June 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm

…And I have been in a New Theatres mood since I saw Mukti on YouTube last week. 🙂 I think I know a good amount about 1940s Hindi film music at this point, because that is the decade that became my favorite as my obsession with old “Bollywood” 😉 movies and music progressed (while it actually moved backward in the temporal sense) during just the past few years. But the ’30s (whether Hindi or Bengali) are newer territory for me (with a few exceptions, like the songs from Street Singer, which I’ve known for some time now, relatively speaking). And I have to agree with Dustedoff that your blog is becoming very informative for this period!

I wish I could find Street Singer on DVD. I am in the U.S., in New York City, but I’ve heard generally that if I can’t find a film in one of the big stores in Jackson Heights, chances are I wouldn’t be able to find it in a lot of places in India, either. And I’ve seen no trace of Street Singer on DVD. Thankfully, I have been able to see lots of songs from this film on YouTube, and I know a bit about the plot (which, btw, I saw somewhat echoed in the Padmini section of Raj Kapoor’s 1970 film Mera Naam Joker), but finding the whole film would be another matter entirely.

I am not surprised that I can’t find it on DVD, as I’ve found it almost impossible to find a commercially released DVD of any Indian movie dating from before about 1944. (Common wisdom/history would put the cutoff point at ’47, but I have seen a few films from slightly before them, I guess partly thanks to badly restored editions from Friends. 🙂 ) However, since I actually was able to see Mukti on YouTube last week, I have increased hopes that someone somewhere will put the entire Street Singer online, maybe even with English subtitles. (Or else maybe one of our online friends will create a copy – that’s how I got to enjoy Roti (1942).)

I have noticed, by the way, that there is good information regarding New Theatres to be found online (I haven’t bookmarked any articles, but if you do a search, they’re easy to find). I’ve also found some good information in Mihir Bose’s book Bollywood: A History. At first I was not so impressed by this book, but I have found it to be an interesting resource with respect to New Theatres and the 1930s.

Anyway, this was another delightful post… I’m glad that you’ve been in a New Theatres mood too! 🙂

8 AK June 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm

@Richard S
When I wrote this post I thought about you! Your blog itself is such a wonderful source for vintage films/songs. Now you and dustedoff have made me think of doing some more New Theatres articles. It would come some time in future.

You are right Mera Naam Joker 3rd part has shades of Street Singer, but it was so poor compared to the first two parts, that I often completely ignore it in any reference.

To think of it, I watched on DD Vidyapati and My Sister too. Talking of cut-off point I have also seen Laal Haveli (1944), starring Surendra and Noorjehan, on DD. Those were the days! I remember I had copied some of these (if not the entire films, at least their songs) on VHS tape, which became bad after some time. I might have converted them on CDs. They may be of very poor quality, I have to rummage through my stuff. Seeing such keen interest of you and other people, I seriously believe something should be done about it. I have been trying to locate any New Theatres contact. My resolve has got stronger, and I think I should be able to do something about it. We will keep in touch.

9 Richard S. June 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm

AK, thank you for the kind words regarding my blog! And I’m glad that Dustedoff and I have made you think of doing some more New Theatres articles. I am looking forward to those!

Regarding Mera Naam Joker, I’ve seen you say in two places that the third part was the poorest in the picture, but I have to disagree. Actually, for me the least interesting or effective part was the second part, with the Russian trapeze ballerina. And I am not the only one who has said this, as I recall a comments section not too long ago at Dustedoff’s where someone else said the same thing, that the second part was the most forgettable.

Meanwhile, the third part was very memorable to me, especially because of the excellent music and dancing. Re. the dancing, it almost goes without saying, because it was Padmini. She was delightful in “Kahein Daag Na Lag Jaye” (and Raj wasn’t bad in this one either), wonderful in “Kate Na Kate Reina” (though for some reason, that doesn’t appear on all the DVD versions) and very good in the bharatanatyam dance (maybe not quite as great as in some of her bharatanatyam from the ’50s but still far better than most). IMO, the music throughout this part is excellent also, containing some of the best vocals by Asha Bhosle (as well as memorable Mukesh and nice Rafi).

I know that in another post, you complained that the characters here weren’t as likable or innocent as in the prior parts, but I think the characters were portrayed well nonetheless. And there was a nice touch of humor here, too – at one point, Padmini is quite funny playing the woman who’s become drunk on stardom.

But anyway, of course, we don’t have to agree on everything 🙂 … (BTW, can I assume you liked Lal Haveli? The song clips from that are so good… I often wish I could have had exposure to DD in the past also.)

10 AK June 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm

@Richard S
You might have also seen that I found the second part most lyrical and moving! Let us agree to differ.

I have sent you a mail.

11 Subodh Agrawal June 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm

AK, my interest in old Hindi film music more or less begins with the 50s; with a few notable exceptions – Saigal, Punkaj Mallick and the occasional gem like ‘Beena Madhur Madhur’ of Saraswati Rane. I have enjoyed playing the songs posted by you here, and I now intend to explore this era more thoroughly.

Listening to Uma Devi’s songs makes me wonder why the film industry chose to waste her as Tun Tun!

12 AK June 4, 2011 at 11:08 pm

@Subodh Agrawal
Once you get into 1930s and 40s, take it from me it overtakes you. Apart from the New Theatres, songs coming from 1936 onwards from Bomabay by Anil Biswas (sung by Surendra), and Saraswati Devi-RC Pal for Bombay Talkies, even those sung by Ashok Kumar, Devika Rani (Main ban ki chidiya ban ke ban ban etc) are too good.

By the way Uma Shashi of New Theatres was diferent from Uma Devi (Tun Tun).

13 a c tuli July 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Uma Shashi and Umadevi are two different entities of course, but what is common between them is that both of them were singers. Umashahi sang the duet, ‘Prem nagar mein basaoon gi ghar…’ with KL Saigal in ‘Chandidas’ (1934). She sang another memorable song with Pankaj Mullick and Saigal in ‘Dhartimata’ (1938), and the song was, ‘Duniya rung rangeelee baba duniya rang rangeelee’. Interestingly, in the film it was KC Dey who sang this song along with Umashahi and Saigal, but for the gramophone record that was commercially released, it was Pankaj Mullick who sang the lines sung by KC Dey in the film. Pankaj Mullick was also the music director of ‘Dhartimata’ produced by New Theatres.

14 AK July 31, 2011 at 12:56 am

@a c tuli
Since the recording for gramophone companies was done separately, often the film and the audio versions would differ – sometimes with the same singer. There are more cases of the type you have cited when the record was made in a different voice than the person who sang in the film. For example, we all know Andhe ki lathi tu hi hai from Dhoop Chhaon (1935) as KL Saigal’s song, but in the film it was acted and sung by KC Dey. Later, I remember in some Bombay Talkies film the song in the film was in Ashok Kumar’s voice, but record was in Arun Kumar’s voice. Much later, in Aadmi (1968) Kaisi haseen raat mohabbat ki rat hai was first recorded in Rafi and Talat’s voices. But by that time Manoj Kumar had some hits with Mahendra Kapoor, and he got his version re-recorded in Mahendra Kapoor’s voices, and Rafi-Mahendra Kapoor version was used in the film. Rafi-Talat version record had already been released in the market and it became quite popular.

15 a c tuli August 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

The film song that you are referring to probably relates to ‘Kismet’ (1943). The song was a duet, ‘Dheere dheere aa re badal dheere aa…’ that Ashok Kumar sang with Amirbai Karnataki in the film, but when the song came to be recorded for commercial release, Anil Biswas, the music director of ‘Kismet’, asked Arun Kumar to sing it. By the way, Arun Kumar was the cousin of Ashok Kumar. But the Ashok Kumar-sung song is also available in music shops.

16 AK August 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm

@a c tuli
That is of course one of them. I do not remember if there are more such Ashok Kumar-Arun Kumar combos. While on this, I should also mention I am a great fan of Ashok Kumar songs sung by him, though he himself was very self-deprecating about his own singing abilities, in a number of interviews on Doordarshan. Left to me, I would not have re-done his songs in Arun Kumar’s voice.

17 a c tuli August 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

I too like a few selected songs of Ashok Kumar, such as ‘Na jane kidhar aaj meri nau chali re’ (Jhoola), ‘Chal chal re naujawan’ (Bandhan), ‘Dheere dheere ja re badal’ (Kismet) and the duet, ‘Mere jeevan ke path….’ with Devikarani in ‘Naya Sansar’ and a few others, but the fact of the matter is that he sang songs in films of the 30s when the technique for background singing was not available. He had a very limited range of voice. About Ashok Kumar’s singing, Anil Biswas once said, ‘The only song that he sang without going off-key was ‘Dheere dheere ja re badal’ (Kismet). By the way, Ashok Kumar was a great admirer of K L Saigal. He had a shop of musical instruments in Calcutta where Saigal once came to buy some instrument. He requested the great singer to sing for him a song, but Saigal was in a hurry at that time and so promised to regale him with his music some other time. And the song that Ashok Kumar had Saigal to sing then was the non-film ghazal,
‘Ab kya bataoon mein tere milne se kya mila, irfan-e-gham hua mujhe dil ka pata mila…’

18 Arunkumar Deshmukh October 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm

AK ji,
I went thru the interesting comments of mr Tuli and others about songs from new Theatres.
Firstly,the Kismet song,’Dheere dheere aa re…’ sung in the film by Ashok kr. and on the gramophone record by Arun kumar….
Anil Bishwas wanted to record it also in Ashok kr.’s voice,but those days he had become so busy that he had no time to come for recordings at all.Arun kumar mukherjee,a cousin of Ashok Kr.’s voice had an uncanny resemblence to Ashok Kr.’s voice and hence Anilda decided to record this song in his voice.That is how even today many people cannot distinguish between those 2 voices in the songs.
In 1931,when the first talkie came to India with Aalam Ara,movie activities were in full swing in the Eastern india-more than Lahore or Bombay.The film industry in south too was not so much that time.
In Lahore and Bombay,for various reasons,Hindustani language(a mix of Urdu and Hindi,sprinkled with local words) was dominant in Films,dialogues and songs.Most of the people involved in film line had a knowledge of Urdu in Lahore and bombay,so prevalent lingo was Hindustani.
Very cleverly,the film people in Calcutta used almost pure Hindi language,which has a resemblance with Sanskrit,and hence was understandable and acceptable in south ,east or the central india like UP or MP areas.
Instead of Pyar,Muhabbat or Ishq,words like Prem and Preet were identifiable with southern languages and this helped the Calcutta films.In the 30s and 40s,till 1947,all films produced in Calcutta had a good market not only in the East but also in North,Central,west and south India.Its music was very popular in south.Names like Saigal,P.Mullick,Uma shashi,Kanan Devi etc were popular there.
After 1947,when south and west Indian industry became stronger and the eastern industry weaker the picture changed.

19 AK October 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

@Arunkumar Deshmukh
New Theatres songs are such are such a class apart that sometimes I feel sad that era is gone forever.

20 Sunil Trivedi May 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Street Singer cd available.No idea @ DVD.Also I a fortnight ago learnt,NT has sold rights of its all available movies to Angelvideo,Kolkata(Calcutta) after Mr.Dilip Sirkar’s demice.At present they make only Bengoli movies’ cd/dvds but in future may start Hindi as well.Street Singer is one of the movies available with NT,so ALL THE BEST!However I got many of NT movies’ VCDs with me.

21 kaushik patel June 30, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thanks, for bringing my lost world. I am 82 and since 1936 our family members were interested in new theater and other filmsand since then I was deeply interested in film songs. I can still visulise Doctor, Hospital, Achut kanya, vidyapati, tansen,etc and can resite many songs.I lost interest from 1970 onwards.Well I am not only thankful but oblidged.God bless.

22 AK July 1, 2012 at 10:10 am

Welcome Sir. I am sure you would get time to go through other articles on this blog. You would find that most of the material I put belongs to an era to which you would personally relate.

23 Vinay Kulkarni August 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Here are 2 rare Gems from R.C.Boral in Lata’s voice. Both songs are available on youtube

Na to din rahe mere 1953 Dard-E-Dil -R.C.Boral Lata

Sapne hue saache 1953- Shree Chaitanya mahaprabhu- R.C.Boral Lata

24 AK August 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Thanks for introducing us to these songs. RC Boral’s best are of his New Theatres era of Calcuta. He did try in Bombay the prevalent style of music with mainstream singers, but somehow could not break into the big league of Naushad, Shankar Jaikishan, C Ramchandra and SD Burman.

25 jignesh kotadia March 19, 2013 at 1:56 am

hahaha…listen this hilarious english tone version of ‘premi premnagar me jaaye’ (aadmi,1939)..really no one can stop laughing

26 jignesh kotadia March 19, 2013 at 1:57 am
27 AK March 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Very nice song Jignesh. As you would have noticed from the title, it was about ‘Prem’ songs of New Theatres. I can’t think of ‘Prem’ songs from Bombay of 30s and 40s which are equally moving. If you come across such songs, I would appreciate if you mail me their links.

28 jignesh kotadia March 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm

i know akji, this theme is based on new theatre. But the ‘prem’ song from mumbai is so funny hence i cudnt hold myself to post it.

29 N Venkataraman July 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Today is B N Sirkar’s 113th Birth anniversary. I decided to visit your post, ‘New Theatres’ romance with Prem’. I have mentioned earlier that due to combination of factors I could not visit many of your earlier posts, which I would like to. So I thought why not visit this post today and what better way to celebrate in isolation B N Sirkar’s birthday.

First a few lines about Late Birendra Nath Sirkar. He was born on Monday the 5th July 1901at Bhagalpur. He was the second among eight sons of Sir Nripendra Nath Sirkar. He was a Civil Engineer from London. After his return from London in 1927, he had started a civil engineering firm in partnership with P N Ray, who was also an engineer from Glasgow.

In the meantime B N Sirkar had developed cursory interest towards the business of films. Soon he had the opportunity to meet a gentleman by the name of Haren Ghosh. The year was 1930. Haren Ghosh was producing a silent movie “Buker Bojha’. Midway through the production Haren Ghosh faced financial problems and was finding it difficult to complete the movie. Haren Ghosh was known to P N Ray and on his suggestion Haren Ghosh met B N Sirkar. After a long discussion B N Sirkar decided to join him as a co-producer. The film was released at Purna Cinema on 1st November 1930. Although B N Sirkar had become a co-producer, he did not initially detach himself from his original profession, Civil Engineering. P N Ray was closely associated with Himangsu Roy’s film production unit. B N Sirkar started seriously studying various books on film production. After discussing with his friend Pramatha Nath Ray, he started his own film producing company, International Film Craft. Concurrently he started work on establishing his studio at Tollygunge. After facing lot of obstacles including legal problems, he finally launched his new film company, New Theatres on 10th February 1931. In the meantime he had produced two silent films ‘Chor Kanta’ and ‘Chasaar Meye’ under International Film Craft banner. That is how it all started. From a civil engineer he became a film producer. With this write-up I pay my humble tribute to Birendra Nath Sirkar on his 113th Birth anniversary.

Enjoyed the post and the songs. Vintage songs hold a special charm and the songs are really overwhelming. After reading the write-up and listening to the songs, I was transported to the 30’s and 40’s, totally engrossed in Prem and Preeti and yet to get out of the hangover. All the songs were simply gems from the New Theatre’s workshop. You have rightly said,
‘Songs are generally identified with the singer and the music director. But the New Theatres team of KL Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Pahadi Sanyal, Uma Shashi, RC Boral and Timir Baran etc created such transcendental tunes in film after film in the 1930s and 40s that I view their songs as belonging to the New Theatres School’.

But let us not forget the lyricist who too were part of the team and created some immortal verses in simple Hindi, comprehensible to the listeners all over India. We should remember that most of the films from Lahore and Bombay were in Hindusthani or Urdu. That was one of the reasons for New Theatres’ success and popularity especially for Pravasi Dakshinis like me. You have mentioned the name of some of the lyricist.

Let me try to fill up the other missing lyricist name. I think the lyrics for Chandidas was written by Agha Hashr Kashmiri. Pandit Sudarshan was the lyricist for Dhoop Chaon. The lyrics for Wapas were written by Akhtar Chugtai, Pandit Bhusan and Zakir Hussain. The lyric for the song posted by you, I believe, was by Zakir Hussain. Most probably the lyrics for the songs from Anath Ashram and President were by Kidar Sharma.

I remember contacting Angel Video and found to my dismay that none of the Hindi Films are available. Only 11 Bengali films are available. If you found any alternative source please let me know.

Hope I could visit the remaining posts soon. Thank You.

30 arvindersharma July 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Venkataraman Ji,
Let me tell you that you will not be celebrating Sh. B N Sirkar’s birthday in isolation as long as we all , the family of SoY, who greatly admire and salute such personalities, are there.

I would like to thank you for providing such knowledgeable information about a personality, a legend, who was amongst the pioneers of Indian cinema.

Let us all join you in wishing him a happy birthday.

31 N Venkataraman July 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Nice to hear that from you Sharmaji. I mentioned this with a heavy heart. Even in Calcutta, leave aside his 113th birth anniversary, even his centenary year was not celebrated.

32 AK July 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Venkataramanji, Sharmaji
Thanks a lot to both of you. I am a great admirer of NT and BN Sircar, and I have mentioned more than once that they represented the Gold Standard of music in the early stages of our cinema. I have covered their songs in a number of posts: Pankaj Mullick, Asit Baran and KC Dey. It is so sad that most of their masterpieces are lost forever.

After this post I was toying with the idea of writing on Bombay’s romance with ‘Prem’. I could have compiled the songs, but I was not getting the same feeling.

I had the privilege of meeting his son Dilip Sircar once long ago before SoY. Later, when I wanted to renew the contact, he was gone too. They do still have the company in the legal sense to look after their legacy. I have visited them, but I was not too impressed.

Thanks a lot for providing all the information. I too join in paying my tribute to the great man.

33 mumbaikar8 July 6, 2014 at 3:18 am

Venkataraman ji,
Thanks for all the information.
I am totally ignorant about music of 30’s and early to mid 40’s.
I cannot talk about it at all.
I join you all in paying tribute.
Thanks once again.

34 N Venkataraman July 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

AK ji,
Yes do acknowledge that you have mentioned more than once the contribution of NT and its associates. I have visited your posts on Asit Baran and K C Dey. I had the good fortune of getting associated with SoY from September 2012. And I have not missed a single post since then. I have visited many of your earlier posts, there are some more to be visited.

My point was that the Bengali film Industry in particular totally ignored B N Sirkars’ centenary year and his contributions.

In fact you should thank Akji for this post. He had expressed his admiration for NT and B N Sirkar more than once and besides Akji, I think, only Richard S and Arunji had written about the songs of 30s and 40’s.

35 mumbaikar8 July 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I am sure I am senior to Vemkatramanji age wise but because of the knowledge of music he possesses and his demeanor he commands so much respect I have to obey his instructions:)

Here I am thanking you for presenting us with, New Theatres’ romance with Prem, loved them all ( though I must admit I had to muster up lot of patience to go through 10 of them at a time) at least half of them were new to me.

I am with you on the same page for Asit Baran and Pankaj Mullik.
Your prem for New Theatres is obvious.

I fail to understand how you can compare what New Theatres said in 1937 to ishq kamina in 2002 yeh to zyadati hai:)

I agree with Mr Bachchan with epithet Bollywood I think Hindi film industry has many creative minds to come out with something better than Bollywood.

36 AK July 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm

So you are not thanking me on your own. 🙂

The reference to Ishq kameena was just to show how far we have travelled or how low we have gone on Prem.

37 Ardhendu Mukherjee July 5, 2015 at 10:25 am

New Theatre foundation Birendra Nath Sarcar’s birthday 5th July 1901

38 Dr. Ved Vrat Alok November 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

A dedicated effort and deserves all praise! Salute to the composers and the compilers of this collection! May you all be blessed!

39 AK November 22, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Dr Ved Vrat Alok,
Welcome to SoY and thanks a lot for your very kind words.

40 arvindersharma June 4, 2017 at 5:05 am

Our dear friend Sudhir Kapur Ji has made a monumental find a couple of days before, with the acquisition of the film print of New Theatre’s 1935 production Karwaan e Hayat.
Like most of the other films related to this period, the film was supposed to be lost forever.
But his unrelenting passion for searching everything related to our great history of music and especially the rarest of songs and films has yielded this discovery of a very fine print of the film.
Atutsongaday has a great article by Sudhir Ji describing the journey of this follow up, to which I’ve been fortunate enough to be privy.
Here’s one of the unlike songs of the film, by K L Saigal, Pahadi Sanyal and a female singer, composed by Mihir Bhattacharjee from the film.
My congratulations to Sudhir Ji for the great find

41 arvindersharma June 4, 2017 at 5:06 am

The female singer is Ratan Bai, a lapse of memory on my part

42 AK June 4, 2017 at 5:15 am

It is indeed a great find. Four songs of the film were already in public domain and very popular. This one shows an unlikely side of Saigal. Now hopefully remaining songs would also surface.

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