Dewan Atmanand Sharar

Blog / Jan 29, 2015

Dewan Sharar at Work

1899 – 1969

Film and stage actor, writer of English novels, short stories, stage and radio plays, “Eastern Adviser”to British-Gaumont films in London and Urdu poet. He also contributed prominently to Indian cinema as a producer, character actor and a story and dialogue writer. Born in Multan, Dewan Sharar came from a family that had served as Dewans or Ministers in Indian princely states. After graduating from Punjab’s prestigious Government College, Lahore, he established an impressive repertory company in 1919 and presented several Hindustani plays and mushairasin various urban centres. In 1929, he set up a film-producing and distribution company and began to edit Shabistan,reputedly the first Urdu cinema paper in India.

In 1933, Dewan Sharar moved to London for the completion and launch of Himansu Rai’s Indo-British film, Karma (1933) ofwhich he was the storywriter. It was completed in England by Indian & British Film Productions with J.L. Freer Hunt as the director and Thorold Dickinson as editor. Sharar also produced and acted in Nagin ki Rani, the Hindustani version of Karma. While in London, many of his English short stories on Indian life appeared in mainstream newspapers in the UK and overseas. A major London publishing firm, George G. Harrap & Co., published two of his English works: The Gong of Shiva(1935) and Hindu Fairy Tales(1936). His short stories were also published as part of an anthology which included contributions from other famous contemporary writers. He also contributed a number of English radio plays for the BBC.

Devan Sharar’s Hindu Fairy Tales

After returning to India in 1939 just before World War II, he worked for All India Radio Bombay and Delhi. He then joined filmmaker, V. Shantaram and adapted Kalidasa’s Sanskrit classic, Shakuntala for the silver screen in Hindustani. The film was a runaway success and the Sharar-Shantaram combine lasted over a decade winning laurels for both Sharar and Shantaram’s banner, Rajkamal Kalamandir.

Dewan Sharar with some friends

In 1943, Ishaara (1943), a film based on Sharar’s English novel The Gong of Shiva catapulted actor Prithviraj Kapoor to stardom. Besides becoming an important pillar of popular Indian cinema, he also started Dewan Sharar Publications in 1963. His descendants include famous Bombay-based Indian film actor Akash Khurana and Nagpur-based businessman turned playwright and theatre actor Vikash Khurana.

The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project – A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)

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