Samundari of Prithviraj Kapoor

Ramanjit Singh


In this old interview by Lutfullah Khan, the pioneer of Indian cinema Prithviraj Kapoor talks about his life in Samundari, Lyallpur and Peshawar. I have never heard anyone speak so eloquently about their life in pre-partition Punjab and the Frontier as he does in this interview.


From 17:55 onwards, Prithviraj Kapoor relives those days.


I heard it multiple times and was able to figure out most of it. The way he talks, his use of each word is so measured and impactful and the way he articulates his thoughts is just incredible.


English translation cannot do justice to his divine use of Urdu.


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My memories of Samundari, Lyallpur and Peshawar bring the same level of joy just like when youngsters scramble to watch a glimpse of their famous actor visiting their town. What a commotion it creates. Like a color or black and white movie being projected on a screen. Just like when a wedding procession reaches a village, all the young and old women in their colorful garb are eager to see the bride. Now this caravan of memories is coming so fast, I don't know which one I should bring first and which one last.


As the time passes by ... I was born on November 3, 1906 in Peshawar. I was 3 when my mother passed away. My father was in the Police and used to travel a lot (aaj yahan kal wahan).

My grandfather who retired as a tehsildar brought us to Samundari, tehsil of Lyallpur when Frontier and Punjab was one. He had a big role in establishing this tehsil. He received 150 acres of land when he retired.


Everyone in the tehsil and surrounding areas used to call my grandfather as father and my grandmother as mother.


Samundari... when you remember its dusty air, one would feel as if someone has mixed sugar in your mouth

Samundari... where every woman became my mother, every boy my brother, and every girl my sister

Samundari... where every man, whether he was Hindu, Muslim or Sikh became my chacha ya tau (paternal uncles)

Samundari... where Ibrahim's son Habib and darji's son Labh Singh became my best friends

Samundari... where the two canals originating from the north looked like as if Jamuna and Ganga are originating from Lord Shiva's abode, our one foot was in Ganga and the other in Jamuna


During summer holidays in college, I would visit Samundari and play kabaddi and wrestling with my friends. Habib by then had become a good wrestler with a strong and a beautiful physique. We would play in Lal Singh's akhara (play ground). In Peshawar, I was good in hockey and football. In Samundari, I would get sword fighting (gutka) lessons from Roop Chand and Buta Singh. Entire village would go and watch the kabaddi and wrestling matches. Habib and I were captains of our own teams. During the kabaddi match, I used to duel with Habib, and after the game, when the drum rolls stopped playing, Habib would come over and ask me if I'm hurt. He will say 'Prithvi are you hurt' and I would respond by saying 'No Habib, not that much'. And I would ask the same "Habib, are you hurt". People would come and hug us, praise us for our great friendship. One gets hurt and the pain is felt by his friend, this is called friendship, bravo!


Samundari also had a school, District Board Anglo Vernacular Middle School. I studied there from class 1 till class 8th. And in this school, which was a boys only school, I was fortunate to have met my teacher and guru Lala Narayan Das Dua, who introduced me to drama and acting. In those early days, I used to take part in Ramayana and other stage dramas. These stage dramas used to last 8 nights during the Dusshera festival. We used to go to different villages around Samundari and people used to come and see our dramas. First I was doing small roles and then I started playing the role of Lakshman. I also directed and acted in Nazir Akbarabadi's Harishchandra. Basically my acting career started from this school.


Lala Narayan Das Dua was a teacher of mathematics and english. Everyone in Samundari used to call him Guru ji. He was from the village Isa Khel near darya Sindh (Indus river).


He had a beautiful voice, as if he had a divine light (nur), a gleaming face, his voice was such that as if the goddess of music (saraswati) resided in him. He used to call his students with affection as saieen, mitha, jeevey. He was also very strict if he found any student misbehaving. He was a great speaker (siri guftar).


Narayan Das Dua used to sing this song...

Saanu naam wattna da

Assan hai yaar pardesi


I still remember this song. To this day his voice echoes in my ears.


(At this stage of his speech, Prithviraj Kapoor seems to be immersed in his memory of his teacher and he slowly whispers the song again)


Saanu naam wattna da Assan hai yaar pardesi


His face comes in front of my eyes to give his blessings. Before makeup, before I go to the stage, I humbly bow my head and pay my respect (parnam, salaam) to my Guru ji.


In Edwards college Peshawar, we had a professor of English Jai Dayal (Jai Dayal Singh). He introduced me to modern theatre. Now after retirement he lives in a village in Kangra valley, about 2 miles from Kangra's Panchrukhi station. His house is situated in such a way that it reminds me of my house in Peshawar. The back of the house are the Dhauladhar hills covered in snow, and in the front you can see the garden where I have cultivated every plant with my own hands.


Sometimes seeing me quiet, the professor would ask "Are you missing Peshawar?" and I would hesitantly say "Yes". My house in Peshawar, where my father and grandfather grew up, was a six storey house. From the sixth floor you could see the Bala Hisar fort on one side and on the other, far away, you could see the mountains of Dara Khyber. Professor would than ask, "Can you sing that couplet (sheyr) you had written about in memory of Peshawar" and I would sing it slowly in my bad (beysuri) voice


(here the voice recording is not clear but this is what I could make out)


Tadap raha hoon mein neen dey tahe re be par (could be dairey be par)

Tadap raha hoon mein neen dey tahe re be par

Chaman sey door hoon beghana aibhaar hoon mein


(He says the last line with such force and heavy tone that it will take your breath away)


After taking a deep breath, the professor would say "what a great city Peshawar was, what great people it had, wherever they would meet they would ask how is the city, any news about the city? Whether they are in Bombay or Calcutta, London or Paris, they will ask how the city is doing, as if there was no other city in the world other than Peshawar that really mattered, rest were all villages... what New York, what Tokyo, what London or Paris".


I remember the city like the waves of an ocean taking me far away to that six storey house. In that house when I was 17, I got married, and when I was 18, in the first year of BA, "Raju" Raj Kapoor was born. My friends and professors, Bakshi, Phailad Singh, Rashid, Zameer, Arjun Singh, Professor Ashmat, Jai Dayal, my Principal, loved him so much. In hockey or tennis ground, when the servant would bring Raju, wow what a beautiful scene it used to be... now the time is passing by... I should end here. Khuda hafiz and lots of love, my best wishes.


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Lutfullah Khan was an author, collector, archivist, and hobbyist from Pakistan. He was best known for his rare collection of voice recordings of renowned artists, poets, writers and other eminent individuals from Pakistan and South Asia

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Article in Hindustan Times on Prithviraj Kapoor's sister Shanta Kapoor talking about her family's life in Samundari (also spelled as Samundri)

https://www.hindustantimes.com/entertainment/flashback-at-90-a-kapoor-daughter-recalls-family-s-filmy-journey-from-peshawar-to-the-pinnacle/story-7Nxt7k4U9le8VfAZWNIm9L.html


Professor Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed has written a beautiful article about Kapoor family's connection with Samundari, Punjab.

https://www.thefridaytimes.com/missing-samundri-in-bollywood/

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