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Dhaka Nawab Family and Film

Edited by Anas Khwaja

Backgound & Movie shows in Ahsan Manzil

* Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah and Nawab Khwaja Salimullah were great admirers of art and
culture. Both were members of the Calcutta based Photographic Society of India during
1888-89 & 1890-1896. Under their patronage photography flourished in Dhaka. (1)

* In the spring of April 1898 Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah invited the visiting
Cinematograph Company from Calcutta to Ahsan Manzil. The family members and the
elite of the city were present at the show. (2)

* The first Bengali organization for producing and exhibiting films was the Royal
Bioscope Company , established in 1898 in Calcutta by Hira Lal Sen (1866-1917). Sens’s
grandfather Gukul Krishna Sen Munshi of Zindabahar lane was a close friend of Nawab
Abdul Ghani. (1813-1896). (3)

* On the 16th and 22nd March of 1911 Royal Bioscope Company exhibited shows at Ahsan
Manzil. Nawab Salimullah arranged these shows in honor of Khwaja Yusuf Jaan who
earlier had been bestowed the Nawab title. Two more shows at the residences of K. Abdul
Alim and Khwaja Azizullah were arranged on the 24th and 25th respectively. Starting June
5, 1916 for couple of days Nawabzada Khwaja Atikullah had also premiered movies at his
Dilkhusha residence. (4)

* Under the initiative of the Madan Theatre Company the first Indian Bangla silent
movie Biswa Mangal was released November 8, 1919. Priya Nath Ganguli, the famous
director-producer of a later period, was the man behind the screen. Priya Nath was the
son of Chandra Kumar Ganguly, the manager of the DHAKA NAWAB ESTATE, (5)

Footnotes:1.Anupam Hayat, 2.Dhaka Prokash 1926 Feb 1899, 3.Anupam Hayat, 4.Diary
of Khwaja Moudud, 5.Anupam Hayat

Sukumari –The first short film of Bangladesh

At that beginning of the 20th century Calcutta was the bastion of film production with full
facilities of artists, technicians and studios. Dhaka was lacking all these facilities. The
first film-making process in Bangladesh started under the financial help and patronage of
the Dhaka Nawab family. In 1927-28, a group of young men of the Dhaka Nawab family
stepped forward .As a test case the young boys produced a short film named 'Sukumari'
(The good girl).
A shot from Sukumari

Sukumari was directed by Ambuj Prasanna Gupta, a high profiled dramatist and an
instructor in physical education of Jagannath College.

Nawabzada Nasarullah played the hero role. Interestingly at that time it was impossible to
find an actress. A young man, Syed Abdus Sobhan was chosen to play the heroine.

Shooting was done in Dilkusha Garden. Khawja Azad, a graduate from Aligarh
University and Khwaja Ajmal, a noted sportsman, who studied photography, rolled the
camera.

Others who helped to make this movie were Professor Andalib Sadani of Dhaka
University, Syed Abdus Sobhan, Kazi Jalaluddin and others.

Their movie was completed by 1928-29.The test was successful. When completed this
was a silent movie of four reels. Unfortunately the copy of the film was never available
for public screening. But there were a few private screenings.

The print of 'Sukumari' is lost forgood. Only one priceless still photo (with hero Khwaja
Nasarullah and heroine Syed Abdus Sobhan) is in the treasury of the Bangladesh Film
Archive.

The Last Kiss –The first full length silent feature film of Bangladesh

After the success of Sukumari, the young men of the Nawab family went for a bigger
venture. They set up Dhaka East Bengal Cinematograph Society and produced a full-
length silent movie titled The Last Kiss.

Khawja Ajmal played the role opposite to heroine Lolita (as per Anupam Hayat). Khwaja
Nasarullah was the hero initially and was replaced by Kazi Jalaluddin and Khwaja Ajmal
later on (as per Dr.Md Alamgir). The central character (leader of the gang) was played by
noted artist Shailen Roy (Tona Babu). Other cast and crew members were Khwaja Adel,
Khwaja Akmal, Khwaja Shahed, Khwaja Nasarullah and Syed Saheb E Alam.

The actresses were Lolita alias Buri (heroine), Charu Bala, Deba Bala alias Devi and
Harimati. The first three of these artists were drawn from the brothels of the old Dhaka
while Harimati was a famous Baiji.

Lolita-a scene from The last Kiss

The shooting of the film started from Octobar 1929, Shootings took place in the vicinity
of Dilkusha, Motijheel, Paribagh and Azimpur. The camera was handled by Khwaja
Azad. Assistant cameraman was Khwaja Ajmal and Khwaja Zahir.

The director of the movie Ambuj Gupta himself composed the Bengali and the English
subtitles of the film. Andalib Shadani of the Dhaka University composed the Urdu
subtitles. Printing and processing works were done in Calcutta. The total cost of the
movie is estimated 12,000 rupees.

In 1931, The Last Kiss was released in the Mukul cinema hall (now Azad). Distinguished
historian Dr Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, professor of Dhaka University, inaugurated the
premier show of the film. The movie played on different theaters for several weeks. Then
the film was taken for greater distribution in Calcutta. Finally the print was taken by
Aurora Film Company and was lost in their possession.

.
K.M.Azad K.M.Ajmal K.M.Adel K.Nasarullah

K.M.Shahed Syed Saheb E Alam Khwaja Zahir

Comments by Dhaka Nawab Family members about the movie “The Last Kiss”

Sayeed Shahabuddin says ,


I have vivid recollection of the filming of "The Last Kiss", as some scenes were filmed at
Bait-ul-Amn, where we lived. Uncle Azad was operating the camera and large square
cardboards, covered with silver paper, were used as reflectors in sun light. Then we saw
the film. A whole row of Mukul Cinema was occupied by us, children, to the best of my
recollection - my sisters Tahera and Bilquis; Najma, Anwar and Hamid; Mashooque;
Shahenshah; Effat and Shafique, Fayaz and I - if I have missed anyone it is due to fading
memory. One absentee was my three-year old brother, Shahed, who was too young to be
with us, but old enough to take a prominent part in the film as a child actor. He and
Tuntun, daughter of Rai Bahadur Satendra Nath Banerjee, if I remember correctly, were
the characters around whom the film was based.

There was a scene where Kaloo Chacha (Sahib-e-Alam), father of Fayaz Alam, an
excellent horseman, kidnapped the child Shahed and rode away with him in his horse. My
mother felt it was too dangerous, and did not allow Shahed to be picked up on to a
galloping horse. Therefore, a doll or something was used for this scene.

Imagine our childishness. When this scene came on, all of us watching the film,
whispered to one another "Don't say, it is not Shahed."

So much for a sail down memory lane.

With best wishes and blessings,


Sayeed Shahabuddin

Amr Quadir says,


K.M.Ajmal was the hero in the film, his brother K.M. Adel was the doctor, and my
mother's Mamu - Nawabzada Khwaja Nasarullah played the part of the police
commissioner in The Last Kiss...
My mother remembers seeing clips of the film as a young girl, while living in Dhaka.
Allah Hafiz.
Best Regards,
Amr Quadir

Other Link: http://www.upperstall.com/Bengali/bengalihistory1.html