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Who is...Pandit Sudarshan?


A versatile Hindi novelist on par with the great Munshi Premchand, Pandit Sudarshan was a part of Indian cinema during the early 30s. Here's a look at the writer who shaped some classic studio-era films and enhanced the role of literature in Hindi cinema.

Shriram Iyengar

For readers, and aspiring writers, in the Hindi language, Munshi Premchand remains the ever present North star. However, despite his fame and his immaculate ability to translate every day life into engaging stories, Premchand never managed to make an impact on to the most effective medium of storytelling- cinema. His one attempt at screenwriting, 'Mazdoor' in 1938, would be scrapped and lost forever. In the same time, another famous novelist was making inroads through the Indian film industry. His name was Badrinath Sharma.

Born in 1896, in Sialkot, Badrinath Sharma was the son of a rich zamindar. Having completed his BA in literature, he started writing for an Urdu journal “Hazaar Dastaan'. Taking up the pen name, Pandit Sudarshan, he scripted several short stories and novels that would translate the intrigues and sorrows of Indian villages for audiences around the country. His short story, Haar ki Jeet, speaks about the struggles of a farmer trying to protect his horse from a greedy dacoit. But life as a writer was not easy. Struggling to make ends meet, he moved to Calcutta in search of a new horizon. The era of the talkies had just begun. Indian cinema was entering one of its most glorious dawns. It was under these circumstances that Pandit Sudarshan took up writing for films.

His debut film was as big as it could be. A multi starrer mythological drama, 'Ramayan' was directed by Master Nagardass Nayak and starred Prithviraj Kapoor, Dadabhai Sarkari and Indubala. Soon, he was being courted by some of the biggest studios of the time. His second film was a wonderful social drama named 'Kunwari ya Vidhwa'. Having found his metier as a screenplay writer, Pandit Sudarshan moved to New Theatres. It would mark the second stage of his evolution in film writing.

In 1935, New Theatres produced their first playback film 'Dhoop Chhaon'. It would prove to be the brightest feather in the writer's cap. Apart from the screenplay, Pandit Sudarshan also composed the lyrics to all 10 songs in the film. Some of them, like this marvellous 'Teri gathri me laga chor musafir jaag zara' went on to become classics.

 

Success always breeds envy. Stifled in the jealous atmosphere that followed him around New Theatres, Pandit Sudarshan relocated to Mumbai. It was here that he met people of similar wavelengths like KC Dey, Khemchand Prakash, Pyarelal Santoshi. The great Sohrab Modi, the owner of Minerva Movietone, was so taken by the writer's skills that he hired him to work on the story, screenplay, and dialogues of the magical 'Sikandar'. Starring Modi himself as the valorous Porus and the roman Prithviraj Kapoor as Alexander the Great, the film would be one of the most popular epics of the age. The stature and presence of Sohrab Modi and Prithviraj Kapoor added to the gravitas of Sudarshan's dialogues. The success of the film led Pandit Sudarshan to new heights of success. He would script films like 'Phir Milenge' (1934), 'Prithvi Vallabh'(1943), 'Pattharon Ka Saudagar' (1944), 'Jaltarang' (1949) among many others.

A writer of lofty ambitions, his success in cinema did not stop Pandit Sudarshan from following his literary dreams. By 1950, he started writing for books and journals. His stories like 'Atthanni ka chor', 'Cycle ki sawaari', 'Sach ka Sauda' marked a transformation from his rural themes to more urban problems. One of the many fans of his writings was Mahatma Gandhi.

His death in 1967 marked the end of a glorious era in Indian cinema. A part of Indian cinema during its childhood years, Pandit Sudarshan's was among the many literary nurses who nurtured this medium into the giant it is today.