SACF South Asian Cinema in UK


Niranjan Pal –A Forgotten Legend (2011)

A Film by Lalit Mohan Joshi
Commentary –Shyam Benegal
Music – Pandit Vishwa Prakash
Duration – 30 Minutes
Producer- Heritage Lottery Fund with SACF

SACF’s documentary by Lalit Mohan Joshi, ‘Niranjan Pal – A Forgotten Legend’, explores the life, career and contribution of an Indian revolutionary turned playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker Niranjan Pal.  India’s veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal has provided the commentary for the film. Research for the film was led by Social Historian and SACF’s Chief Researcher, Dr Kusum Pant Joshi with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  A group of film heritage volunteer trainees also contributed  to the making of this documentary.  Music for the film was composed and directed on a quasi-voluntary basis by Pandit Vishwa Prakash and his troupe of young London-based artists.

The film traces the impact on Niranjan Pal of his father, Bipin Chandra Pal’s political activism and the turbulent political situation created by Lord Curzon’s Partition of Bengal in 1905. It also deals with what led to Niranjan Pal’s sudden move to Britain in 1908. It takes viewers through Pal’s journey from a revolutionary Indian student in London when he moved with  radicals linked with India House in Highgate such as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Asaf Ali and Madanlal Dhingra, to his conversion into a successful English playwright whose plays were successfully  staged in London’s West End theatres. 

The film follows Pal’s entry into filmmaking with his friend Himansu Rai, when they made their famous trilogy of silent feature films on India with Indian and European collaboration: The Light of Asia (1925), Shiraz (1928) and A Throw of Dice (1929). It dwells on the travails of their making and screening  their first film: The Light of Asia that Pal had written in reaction to the ‘Orientalist’ depiction of India by western filmmakers. It also deals with Pal’s abrupt return to India with his English wife and baby son in 1929 when his career was about to take off in the UK. It concludes with an assessment of his contribution to Indian cinema and allied spheres from his heady Bombay Talkies days in the 1930s to the close of his career in the cine world in the 1950s.

East Meets West: Indo-British Cinematic Encounters

The documentary East meets West: Indo-British Cinematic Encounters (1930-1951) for the first time highlights the rich cinematic collaboration between Britain and India. It covers the era between the twilight years of the British Raj when Indians were struggling to free themselves from the shackles of British colonial rule, to the period just after India won freedom in 1947.

It throws light on a host of actors, novelists, story and scriptwriters, directors of feature and documentary films, producers, editors, lyricists, musicians, dancers, cinematographers and set designers. It includes South Asians [such as Merle Oberon, Sabu, Dewan Sharar], Britons and others who by working together, became linked with Indo-British cinema in UK. While some are well known, others are little known, unknown or have even been almost completely forgotten.

Interspersed with analysis of Indo-British films by some of UK’s leading experts on cinema, it takes viewers on a fascinating journey.  Among the films that will fall under their critical gaze are: Himansu Rai’s Karma (1933),the first Indian talkie completed and launched in London, Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) that gave a break to Anglo-Indian actress Merle Oberon and placed UK on the world’s film map, Korda’s The Elephant Boy (1937) that launched the career of another Indian, Sabu, Britain’s only child star, his Empire film The Drum and hisoriental films: The Thief of Bagdad and Black Narcissus that took Sabu to dizzy heights. It ends with Jean Renoir’s film adaptation of English novelist Rumer Godden’s The River (1951) thatled to the coming of India’s Satyajit Ray who placed India on the international film map.

On the way, viewers will be introduced to powerful ideas of Orientalism, imperialism, racial discrimination and biases against miscegenation and those of mixed race that influenced people and impacted on films of those times.

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


Beyond Partition - South Asian Cinema Foundation

Beyond Partition

Beyond PartitionA Hima Films production for South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF)
Duration: 1:05:16
Narration: George Arney
Music: Madan Gopal Singh
Script: Kusum Pant Joshi & Lalit Mohan Joshi
Executive Producer: Imo Singh
Producer & Director: Lalit Mohan Joshi

Beyond Partition (2006) reflects South Asian filmmakers’ take on the Partition of India (1947). Shot for over a year, this path-breaking documentary has taken into its ambit, relevant films that emerged not only from India, but also from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK.

A Lalit Mohan Joshi film, Beyond Partition explores the trauma of Partition and how it impacted on filmmakers from the Indian subcontinent. Renowned filmmakers, Gulzar and Govind Nihalani reflect on the communal violence they witnessed. Cinema veteran M.S. Sathyu and celebrated script writer Shama Zaidi question the very idea behind the division, while Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar focuses on some other powerful forces that generated the demand for Pakistan.

Views on Beyond Partition

" 'Beyond Partition' has a quiet tone, even a compassionate look, even though the film material dealing with the communal divide and Partition has an inevitably brutal texture… Here is a well-cultured film, timely too, for now and for the future."
- Prof. Satish Bahadur


“It is a dispassionate view – important, if we have to shed the burden of bitterness that people in both nations have carried since Independence.”
- Shyam Benegal


“It is an important work, and certainly lays the foundation for a deeper study on how Partition affected the portrayal of Muslims in Indian cinema”
- Deepa Gahlot in DNA Mumbai


“Lalit Mohan Joshi’s searing documentary ‘Beyond Partition’ examines the context and subtext of this trauma which, we, as a people, are grappling with some degree of objectivity only in the past few years.”
- Maithili Rao, Film Critic


“The film needs to be shown extensively in various national and international forums to generate discussions on the need for nations divided by colonial powers to come together and adjust themselves for a peaceful co-existence.”
- P.K.Nair, Film Archivist