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Punjab, Pakistan

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Balraj Sahni


Balraj Sahni (born Yudhishthir Sahni; 1 May 1913 – 13 April 1973) was an Indian film and stage actor, who is best known for Dharti Ke Lal (1946), Do Bigha Zameen (1953), Chhoti Bahen (1959), Kabuliwala (1961) and Garam Hawa (1973). He was the brother of Bhisham Sahni, a noted Hindi writer, playwright, and actor.


Balraj Sahni with his wife Damayanti, 1936.Balraj Sahni, Rattan Kumar and Nana Palsikar in Do Bigha Zamin (1953).


Sahni was born on 1 May 1913 in Rawalpindi, Punjab, British India. He studied at Government College (Lahore) and Gordon College. After completing his master's degree in English Literature from Lahore, he went back to Rawalpindi and joined his family business. He also held a bachelor's degree in Hindi. Soon after, he married Damayanti Sahni.


In the late 1930s, Sahni and his wife left Rawalpindi to join Tagore's Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan in Bengal as an English and Hindi teacher. It is here that their son, Parikshit Sahni was born, when his wife Damayanti was earning her bachelor's degree. He also collaborated with Mahatma Gandhi for a year in 1938. The next year, Sahni, with Gandhi's blessings, went to England to join the BBC-London's Hindi service as a radio announcer. He returned to India in 1943, and his wife died in 1947 at age 26. In 1951, he remarried, to writer Santosh Chandhok; they remained married until his death in 1973. While at the BBC, Sahni worked alongside George Orwell.


Sahni was always interested in acting, and started his acting career with the plays of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). Incidentally, his wife Damayanti became well-known as an IPTA actress much before Sahni made a name for himself in films. He started his film career in Bombay with the film Insaaf (1946), followed by Dharti Ke Lal directed by KA Abbas in 1946, Damayanti's first film, Door Chalein in 1946, and other films. But it was in 1953, with Bimal Roy's classic Do Bigha Zamin, that his true strength as an actor was first recognized. The film won an international prize at the Cannes Film Festival.


He followed it up with an encore in the 1961 classic Kabuliwala penned by Tagore.

Sahni's wife Damayanti, who was the heroine of his 1947 film Gudia, died at a young age that same year. Two years later, he married his first cousin, Santosh Chandhok, later known as an author and television writer.


He acted opposite heroines such as Padmini, Nutan, Meena Kumari, Vyjayanthimala, and Nargis in films such as Bindya, Seema (1955), Sone Ki Chidiya (1958), Sutta Bazaar (1959), Bhabhi Ki Chudiyaan (1961), Kathputli (1957), Lajwanti (1958) and Ghar Sansaar (1958). His character roles in films such as Neelkamal, Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani, Do Raaste, and Ek Phool Do Mali were well received. However, he is perhaps best remembered by the current generation for his picturization of the legendary song "Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen" from the movie Waqt (1965). Sahni appeared opposite Achala Sachdev in the number.


He also starred in the classic Punjabi film Nanak Dukhiya Sub Sansar (1970) as well as the critically acclaimed Satluj De Kande.

Known for

Seema as Ashok 'Babuji'