Labor of love

It’s Labor Day here in the US and Canada, and let me tell you something: I have really labored for you guys. I recently got my hands on a very fragile and worn copy of Baburao and Sushila Rani Patel’s 1952 book called “Stars of the Indian Screen.” It features 36 actors and actresses, with a short biography of each accompanied by a gorgeous colored plate like the ones above. And though the book is credited as written by Sushila Rani Patel and edited by Baburao, the bios have Baburao’s trademark snark all over them, by which I mean they are awesome.

Some highlights:

Nutan has substantial talent for acting but we would like her to add at least ten pounds more to her personality and come to the screen again a bright, well-upholstered beauty.

Santoshi is [Rehana’s] favorite director though she usually does her best whenever she has to appear before the camera.

[Meena Shorey] was married to Zahur Raja in 1941, to Al Nasir in 1943 and at present she is Mrs. Roop K. Shorey. Let us hope her little canoe of life has found its last port at last…She cannot resist sweets and chocolates and you see them all over her in terms of weight. She is fond of buying clothes and jewellery but rarely uses them.

Suraiya is inclined to be on the buxsome [sic] side. Some of her fans wish that she was more streamlined.

[Shekhar] sees English and Indian pictures to inspire him. Inspiration from the latter is however doubtful.

[Yakub] is good at lifting fountain pens from friends’ pockets though he never signs even a cheque.

Though people in the film industry often joke about Ashok’s absent-mindedness, the shrewd Bengali is never reported to have left behind a wad of currency notes though he had once left behind his wife sitting under a tree and driven away.

[On Dev Anand] A good boy that but a bit girlish!

[Pran] is certainly no villain as far as his wife is concerned, even though he forgets to return home several nights. But then film artistes have to work during night-shifts also.

There is so much more, of course, and being that this is so very rare (and also falling apart) I scanned each and every page (all 75 of them!) for posterity, and am sharing the result here with you. Enjoy this look at Indian cinema history—complete with oodles and oodles of eye candy.

Stars of the Indian Screen 1952

86 Comments to “Labor of love”

  1. OMG : That is lovely. Can’t thank you enough. :)

  2. You and don’t gives us anything?
    We can really not complain!
    You have given us so many moments of laughter through your blog and your personality!
    Thank you for this new gift!
    You are a darling!

  3. Just opened it and saw DURGA KHOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Awesome is a too tame word for this!

  4. Superb…thanks for sharing

  5. Thank you!

  6. An absolute gem! Thank you so much!

  7. Hello Memsaab,

    Thanks a lot for all your hard work.
    Since last few days, I have been visiting this blog half-expecting to find an obit post on A.K. Hangal. I guess he was one of the most uncelebrated character actors.

    Is something like that on cards?


  8. This is too marvelous for words! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

    PS. The snark is certainly there, but clearly Baburao only picked people he was fond of to feature in the book. :-D

  9. One word: AWESOME!!!
    Two words: THANK YOU!!!
    Three words: I LOVE YOU!!!
    Four words: YOU ARE THE BEST!!!

    What a fascinating book this is with its nuggets about actors of that time. I’ve just finished reading it from cover to cover, reading every single line. SO much fun!!!

    Indeed there is Baburao’s snark to be seen in places – and overall the type of language used, even if not snarky, made me smile.

    A few interesting lines to add to the ones you’ve mentioned:
    – Madhubala: But her greatest expression will come when she leaves innocence behind and crosses the frontiers of maidenhood.
    – Nirupa: Nirupa has an extremely sympathetic type of face that reacts beautifully in tragic situations. (Had there been a chapter on Nazir Hussain, we could have comfortably substituted Nirupa for Nazir Hussain :-)).
    – Geeta Bali: One passion of her life, besides acting, is driving cars and she has 4 of them and another one is chewing cardamom. I really thought one of her cars is chewing cardamom! :-)

    Thanks SO MUCH, Greta, for this labor of love. Scanning these 75 pages for the benefit of all of us. Must have been a lot of effort – but this is now available to the whole world for posterity and
    I am sure I speak for everybody here when I say we really really appreciate it.

  10. fantastic stuff memsaab. cant thank you enough for it. btw ak hangal’s autobiography is the most boring bollywood book I have read till date (and IIRC it is not more than 150 pages thick)

    • I don’t remember it being boring, although it isn’t too long which may have helped. But I thought it was quite interesting, maybe because such autobiographies are so rare :)

  11. Hi,
    Thank you for all your hard work, very impressive and the colored plates are awesome.
    The only person I didn’t recognize was Nutun, looked more like Mala Sinha.
    You are supposed to rest on Labor Day eh!

  12. thank you for the ‘labor’ it shows. The love, too!!!

  13. Wow! Thank you, Greta. This is a treat, indeed! :-)

  14. Memsaab, U are fabulous!…I can only repeat everything said by Raja. We all really appreciate the effort u’ve put in, and now it’s out there for posterity.

  15. I can only repeat what everyone else has said: awesome! And thank you so much for sharing!

  16. This is fabulous!! Thanks a lot for this post and like everyone appreciate your efforts.

  17. Memsaab,
    Do you have Baburao Patel’s review of Aadmi(1939) in your collection of his writings. K.A. Abbas seems to have written a review too, but I am not sure where it appeared. Thanks.

  18. Awesome.I remember we had that book at home when I was a child,and I used to spend hours looking at it and poring over it.Watching Indian films and reading about film stars used to be my favourite hobby from ever since I can remember.In fact I still tell everyone that I learned to read by reading movie magazines,way before I started school,and by the way I was admitted directly into the second grade.So thanks a lot for reviving ancient memories.

    • Oh that is cool :) I have found books as an adult which were the exact same editions as books which I still vividly remembered from childhood, and it is so much fun to relive those memories. Makes me happy to help you do the same.

  19. THANK YOU!!! I’m speechless with awe!!

  20. This is awesome!! Thanks!!!

  21. I need to go where you got this. So I can go there with a trolley! Cannot thankyou enough for sharing this rare little gem with us, I would have been too scared to even scan it! I have loved your blog for so long & now I love it even more! Please let me in on where you picked this up! Thankyou.

    • There is no “there” there…it was mailed to me by an acquaintance who gets his hands on old memorabilia somehow. I buy things from him on occasion, and he included this as a gift which was very very thoughtful indeed. I thought it was only fitting that I share it with all of you too :)

  22. Thank you for making this available!.A wonderful job. Will this be available in any digital library projects?
    Thanks so much,
    Karen D

  23. Thank you for sharing! :) Much fun was had.

  24. Memsaab,
    I found the gist of the reviews in two books “Bollywood Cinema” Temples of desire” by Vijay Mishra and “Wanted Cultured Ladies Only…” by Neepa Majumdar. I remember reading Film India in the late fifties. It was fun, we did not take him seriously and thought he was a bit of goonda ( an impression oconfirmed to some extent by Habib Tanwar’s article From the above description of his review, it seems that he was quite a serious critic, at least off and on and from other descriptions a larger than life figure. Sushila Rani Patel Seems to be still around
    One of the articles says that he was in charge of another film magazine ‘Caravan’ and gave Sadat Manto a job there.
    Spent too much time googling, all because somebody said Aadmi was Shantaram’s best film.

  25. Adding my “thanks” to the chorus Greta! it was good recognise Sajan whom i knew as the crippled helpless crying father of Hema Malini in Johnny Mera Naam esp in that song “babul pyaare ……..”.

  26. Your are wonderful Memsaab

  27. This was such a treat. Thank you so much!

  28. Memsaab ji,
    No words to thank you enough for this true labour of Love.
    The details on kishore Sahu,Shyam,Gope,Yaqub,David,Jeevan,Ramola were of interest as these are not that commonly found.
    Really,people like you have been contributing to film history,lumpsum and with enthusiasm.This alone entitles for A BIG THANK YOU.
    May your tribe grow !
    -Arunkumar deshmukh

  29. I love the scent of old books! Alas my sense of smell is not what it was. I was capable of disliking a book if I did not like its smell :) Baburao in fact was more restrained than usual (I guess the collaboration effort reined him in a bit). I have to do scanning occasionally at office – and I can understand the trouble you must have taken to gently pry off each page and place them properly on the glass for scan (all 75 of them indeed!). Mucho Gracias for your labour of love. My office or whatever has disabled my ability to post comments on your site – hence my forced silence for a long while.

    Remembering Neil Armstrong (I should say he alone did for America’s charisma more than anyone else – definitely for me) – I came across a sci-fi of your fav Dara Singh – A Trip to the Moon! Appears to be a Flash Gordon type of stuff. It’s available on youtube but I think is not subtitled. Have you seen it?

    • I’ve seen most of it, but without subtitles it’s pretty incoherent :) Or maybe I just wasn’t giving it its due attention…it is pretty funny to see Dara as an astronaut!

      I love the smell of books too, even old and moldy ones like this one. The pages were already mostly separate (there’s not really any spine left) but I’m glad you appreciate how boring and time-consuming the scanning was, ha ha.

  30. Fabulous, Memsaab. You are a really hard worker. How very, very, very nice of you.

  31. This magazine makes us, or at least me, realise how much we know of the film history — probably not even 10% and how much has survived, maybe not even 10% of movies made pre-1960s. Great effort Greta to keep us enlightened.

    • I know, it breaks my heart—and there’s STILL nothing much being done to preserve any of it. We can only try to prevent all of it disappearing, one movie and source of information at a time :)

  32. @Memsaab – Thanks a lot! Truly a labor of love! I enjoyed reading this.
    However, it seems that Baburao is not as scathing here as he is usually known to be.

  33. Thanks Greta for this fabulous find, what a treasure-trove! And I’m of course referring as much to your work as to Patel’s. I have been star-gazing so badly that my eyes hurt. It was great reading about this 1952 perspective, when some of the later well-known movies were not yet made. I enjoyed the art which the authors displayed, to try and vary their set formula of one page essay, one page photo. I was wondering at the criteria for the choice of the “stars” quoted : do you have a clue?
    One fun remark on Dilip Kumar’s sisters left me wide-eyed: “…most of whom are, of course, overweight.” Or is it really meant to be funny? :-) !!
    I’ve decided to tell my readers about your gift to us all, woo-hoo!!

  34. Lovely reading. Thank you memsaab, I suspect this little bit of film lore will be much quoted and read : )

    (Some of the movies are familiar … some seem to have disappeared ? Though released under different titles would be more accurate, I suspect).

    • Sadly, I suspect “disappeared” is more accurate. There was and still is such indifference to preserving films that I am sure countless numbers of them are gone forever.

  35. It took me quite some time before I was finally able to download the file. Going throough it, I felt that the details contained in the book may have been commomn knowledge at that time and very few people may have bought this book then. The book was quite costly by the standards of those days. Forget 1952, books costing this much were considered quite costly even in 1970s.

    Having said that, the details contained in the book are now invaluable since these information have now become scarce. It is quite clear that the book has actually been written by Baburao Patel. The tone of the language is unusually friendly and tame, But then this book was published in 1952 and by that time most people discussed in the book had yet to become the celebrities that they subsequently became.

    Scanning the book and sharing this with us is a labour of love no doubt. And we appreciate it no end. But for you I would not have known about the existence of this book. Now I can almost visualise the personalities of these people as they were those days.

    • I am happy that he included Shyam, even though he had already passed away. It was fun indeed to read those details…I’m glad it was worth the time spent downloading! (I did my best to minimize the file size!) :)

  36. Hi I couldn’t send a private message so here goes. I have a tumblr blog called Vintage Saree Blouse and I would love to feature the picture of Ramola from the pdf (what a hoot the whole book was! and yes so lovely to see Shyam). I always reference my sources and I will ensure that the photo includes your website. I loved her blouse – its rare for me to find a picture with that interlacing at the neck!

    Long time silent reader of your blog and love it.

    PS: If you ever find a pic of Renuka Devi (Khurshid Mirza) do feature. I am still on the hunt…plus her life story is so interesting.

  37. Thank you, memsaab!

    The site is

    It has a bit of fashion and also a bit of history. I try and stick to blouses because they are often particular to a time in history but good pics are hard to come by. Do feel to browse – I have yet to set up a side bar so navigation is basically scrolling :-(

    • It’s a wonderful blog Anu, finally had time to look at it a bit—I love parsi ghara sarees and it’s lovely to see the history and fashion all mixed up together :) LOVELY.

  38. This is A-MAZING! Thank you so much for taking so much trouble.
    I’ve just started to read the PDF. Loved the profile of Kamini Kaushal

  39. Thank you memsaab.

    The garas do look lovely – I see you own an original!

  40. Awesome!
    Very generous of you to put it out in public domain.
    Thanks a lot.

  41. Holy heavens this is amazing ! Thankyou so very much.

  42. That’s truly priceless! No enough words to say thank you!
    Please keep on posting old magazines’ scans, more interviews, blasts from the past, etc.

    • “filmindia” cradles ‘Filmfare’ !
      Baburao Patel is responsible for ‘Filmfare’.
      Mr.J.C.Jain asserted that, “Baburao Patel has been a pioneer in Film Journalism. He had complete knowledge about the Film Industry and commanded its Destiny for a long period. He was loved by his friends & dreaded by his opponents. His writings in his magazine, “filmindia” and later called “Mother India” were full of wit, humor & satire.
      When I came to Bombay in 1950,and took charge of the Times of India Group of Publications,I used to see Baburao in his utter glory with film people around him, some asking for his blessings and others for his support.
      It was, in fact, he who prompted me to start ‘Filmfare’ to set new trends in film journalism. I wish Baburao Patel many more years of healthy and happy life.”
      Mr. J. C. Jain, was the then General Manager of The Times of India Group Publications,and later, the Publisher of the “Star & Style” magazine. Mr J.C.Jain wrote in “Mother India”,Platinum Jubilee issue, December 1979

  43. Are vah! Kamal ho. Thank you for your hard work.

  44. I would love to have such a book. Thanks for the information… so interesting!

  45. Quoting from memory, I had heard that Baburao Patel was once soundly thrashed by Shanta Apte in his office for uncharitable comments he made about her in his magazine. Also it seems his real surname was ‘Patil’.
    Could someone confirm the above.

  46. What a gem. Thanks for uploading the book.

  47. Very nice post. You will enjoy watching Anurag Kashyap’s latest film Bombay Velvet which has a homage to the media wars between Blitz and Current during the 60s.

  48. Hey Memsaab! Hope you are well!!! Wish I had noticed your trip to India a couple of years ago – I would have definitely insisted and helped you meet Mrs Sushila Rani Patel and at least visit their home, “Girnar” in Pali Hill. Just so you know, Dr Sushila Rani is very much alive (though hard of hearing and very old), has a music college, and every year has a memorial function on April 4th to celebrate her amazing husband on his memorial day/birthday (I keep getting confused – I will check the invite when I receive it this year). She also has a ton of memorabilia all piled up and arranged in her home. The Girnar bungalow which was Baburao Patel’s famous residence is bang opposite Krishnarraj, the Kapoor home. While an ugly block of apartment and buildings crowd the once spectacular lawns and gardens, the main house itself is still very much there. Dr Sushila lets out the ground floor for Yoga and other classes etc while continuing to reside in the upper portion – the portion is literally unchanged with even Mr Patel’s chair and desk, and even portraits etc in the same place. Most are protected by dust covers and lace etc – but it is like a grand old art deco apartment. I had the pleasure and was thrilled to visit with her a couple of years ago after a few years of the families having lost touch! Extremely devoted to her husband, she tries in her own frail manner to keep his memories alive. Next time I am in Mumbai, I want to tell her about you and ask if she can spare any memorabilia or get scans of material for you…. not promising anything tho!

    • Sushila Rani passed away in 2014, sadly. She did live a very full life. I hope all her memorabilia etc. has gone to people who will preserve it. I would have very much loved to meet her.

  49. Exciting Stuff!! Agree with most positive commenters and fans above. True gem. Fan of your blog!!

  50. Hi all ,this collectible book ” STAR OF THE INDIAN SCREEN ” By Sushila Rani B.Patel ,present in my collection for sell ,if interested please mail me

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