Gandhi, Nehru, Ansari, Zafar, Malviya, Sarojini & Azad in Film Theatres ?
How immensely were the nationalist leaders of Congress popular among Indians in general and Muslims in particular?
What if I tell you that the sessions of Indian National Congress were filmed and showcased at cinema theatres like mainstream films of that time? Yes, you read it correctly. During the Indian freedom struggle, sessions of Congress were shown at theatres with advertisements like other mainstream films.
It should be kept in mind that those were the pre television times and people could not watch their leaders in motion through any other medium but cinema. The fact that Urdu newspapers like Zameendar, edited by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, carried the advertisements to these shows bear the testimony of popularity which the Congress leaders had among the Urdu reading Muslim. Zameendar was believed to be the newspaper mostly read by Muslims in Punjab.
One such advertisement in Zameendar carried a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi with the heading – “Watch the majestic show of Karachi National Congress in Lahore”. The advertisement mentions that Pearl theatre, Star cinema and Royal cinema would show the film at 6 pm and 9:30 pm on 3 April, 1931.
The advertisement also mentions the ‘star attractions’. The attractions which could not be missed were – “Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Doctor Ansari Sahab, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Syed Abbas Tayyabji, Sarojini Naidu, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, and others. Procession of lady volunteers core, Red Shirt volunteers, crowd around Mahatma’s car, and procession of 25 March. Khadi production, Tilak Bazar, Gandhi Hospital, camps of delegates, national flag and other such events will be shown.”
The advertisement also boasts, “Look, Congress is hardly over and nationalists have arranged its show at theatres”.