The first Bhagat Singh film ever made

On the freedom fighter's 90th death anniversary today (23 March), we take a look at India's first feature on the martyr.

Prem Adib as Bhagat Singh

Sonal Pandya

Seven films in Hindi cinema have focused on the legendary revolutionary, Bhagat Singh. Three of them released in 2000 with Sonu Sood, Bobby Deol and Ajay Devgn acting as competing versions of Singh. While actors such as Manoj Kumar and even Shammi Kapoor essayed the role of Bhagat Singh in the 1960s, many have forgotten the first ever film made on him, Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh, which released in 1954.

Written and directed by Jagdish Gautama, Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh was conceived by the filmmakers as an attempt "to represent as truly as possible the story of S. Bhagatsingh and his times within the limitation of presenting such a historical theme on the screen." Made 23 years after his death and only seven years after India's independence, Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh was naturally a box-office success at the time as the first feature to bring to life the heroic freedom fighter.

A still from Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh

Prem Adib, best known for playing Ram in Vijay Bhatt's Bharat Milap (1942) and Ram Rajya (1946), took on the title role of Bhagat Singh. His co-stars in the film were Smriti Biswas, Jairaj, Ashita Mazumdar, Cuckoo, Johny Walker and singer-actor Amirbai Karnataki. Interestingly, the film was co-produced by Fatehchand U Ramsay, father of the Ramsay brothers, the forces behind such horror films as Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972), Purana Mandir (1984) and Bandh Darwaza (1990).

Director Jagdish Gautama preferred making films with larger-than-life characters like Jhansi ki Rani and Tipu Sultan. He later made a feature of Chandrasekhar Azad in 1963.