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Balraj Sahni : The inspiration behind Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan

April 13, 2016 11:35:22 AM IST
By Mansoor Khan, Glamsham Editorial
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“Balraj Sahni is the greatest actor ever born,” believes Star of the Millennium, Amitabh Bachchan. Similarly Aamir Khan assets, “if I can do just 10 per cent of the kind of acting Balraj Sahni used to do,  it will be an achievement.” Further film lyrist Javed Akhtar avers, “Though today acting standards have enhanced, the irony is that no actor is as brilliant as Dilip Kumar, Bajraj Sahni or Amitabh Bachchan.”


What is surprising is that while the crème de la crème celebrities' of Bollywood sing glory of the histrionics of Balraj Sahni, the tragedy is that the legendary actor remains an unsung!

Glamsham.Com remembers the extraordinary talent on his 43rd death anniversary and enlightens the readers why Balraj Sahni is regarded as an actor par excellence and is the favorite of the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan

Beginning his career from stage at Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), the greatest forte of Balraj Sahni was his discovery of ‘Neo-Realistic' performance in Indian cinema. Prior to him, acting in Indian Cinema was theatrical and lacked realism. But Balraj Sahni introduced the art of ‘Natural Performance' i.e. he went into the skin of the character and literally ‘lived' the character on the screen.

Remember the illiterate farmer Shambu Mahato of Bimal Roy's classic movie DO BHIGA ZAMEEN, who in his bid to save his farmland from the landlord clutches, moves to Kolkata city and earns money as rickshaw-puller.
Here it is important to enlighten the readers that Balraj Sahni was highly educated with a degree in English and Hindi Literature and was a professor at Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan. He even served at BBC-London's Radio station. Thus he possessed an imperial personality.

However when Bimal Roy asked him to play the rickshaw-puller in DO BHIGA ZAMEEN, Sahni dropped all his snobbishness of an intellectual and lived among the rickshaw-puller in Kolkata to learn the nuances and their little traits which made him immortal on the silver screen.

Actor Parikshit Sahni, son of Balraj Sahni, in an interview informed, “For the film DO BHIGA ZAMEEN, my father had actually pulled the rickshaw on the streets of Kolkatta. Being an unfamiliar face, many people mistook him as real rickshaw-puller and my father actually drove them to gain the experience!”

Balraj Sahni's performance in DO BHIGA ZAMEEN (1953) thus brought a revolution in Indian Cinema and many actors of that era began adopting his style of acting. In fact thespian Dilip Kumar, who used to marvel Hollywood actor Marlon Brando, was left flabbergasted at Balraj Sahni's bewitching performance in DO BHIGA ZAMEEN. He was so inspired by Sahni's realism that for his next film DEVDAS (1955), Dilip Kumar pumped all his energies to be as realistic as Sahni!!!

Though unlike Dilip Kumar, Balraj Sahni never achieved the star status but he ruled Bollywood from the 50 to 70' playing central protagonist. Be it the adorable Pathan (KABULIWALA) or an idealist Muslim fighting lone battle to stay in India (GARAM HAWA) or the romantic husband wooing his wife with the song Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen… (WAQT) Balraj Sahni added a touch of realism in every role he portrayed. 

Being associated with great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, Balraj Sahni never developed the starry tantrums of Bollywood; instead he was more close to the poor and the underprivileged.

His reputation in the film industry was so spotless that when Amitabh Bachchan, disappointed by the taunts and scoffs of the film industry returned to Delhi after few failures in Bollywood, his father recommended him to adopt Balraj Sahni's mode of living, who was in the film industry and yet outside it. Amitabh Bachchan, followed and succeeded. 

Legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy called Balraj Sahni as a ‘Communalist Artist', who devoted his talent for the society and not for the glare of fame and money. As a result he was the darling of both the film folks and the society.

On 13 April 1973, when Sahni breathe his last, besides friends and relatives there were hoards of poor people and even street urchins paying their last homage to their departed savior!

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