Balraj Sahani – the elegant character actor of bollywood.
Balraj Sahani is one of the most gifted character actors of bollywood films of 50s, 60s and 70s. He performance used to be absolutely natural, without mannerisms. He was sublime in his performance in Do Bigha Zameen, where he portrayed the character of a villager who had come from his village and settled in Kolkata and earned his livelihood by rickshaw-pulling. It was a classic film of Bimal Roy and Balraj Sahani expressed the different emotions of the peasant in style.
In Seema, he played the role of superintendent of a home which cured women suffering fro mental disease. Nutan, who was depressed due to family disturbances was admitted there, and Balraj Sahani taught her to be positive in life and make life meaningful. He gave very quality lips in the songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan which included “tu pyar ka sagar hai” sung by Manna Dey and “kahan ja rahe ho” sung by Rafi.
In Kabuliwala, he played the same role which was plyed by Chabi Biswas in the Bengali film, which was baased on the classic literature of Tagore involving an Afghan father who left his country and came to Kolkata to sell mewa, pesta, etc. He loved the daughter of a bengali middle-class family, which reminded him about his own daughter in Kabul. He got involved in a violent affair and was imprisoned for life. When he came out of prison, hee entered the house of the Bengali family and saw the little girl named Mini getting married. The savings that was available with the father of Mini was given to Balraj Sahani so that he can return back to Kabul. Tagore had portrayed that the love of a father towards his daughter is uniform across the world. Balraj Sahani brought out the emotions very well. Manna Dey’s song “ai mere pyare watan” composed by Salil Choudhury was well appreciated by filmlovers.
Balraj Sahani’s other notable films include Lajwanti, Waqt, Izzat, etc. In Waqt, he played the role of the father of Raj Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Shashi Kapoor, who were lost during an earthquake with their mother and he spent his entire life in search of the children whom he met at the end of the film. He even acted in a negative character in Dharmender’s Izzat. For more than 30 years he maintained a respectable image in bollywood films and his film should be restored for new generations to learn the art of realistic, natural performance.
By: CR Chatterji.