indian cinema heritage foundation

Anwar Hussain

  • Real Name: Anwar Hussain
  • Born: 11 November 1925 (Kolkata)
  • Died: 02 January 1988 (Mumbai)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Jaddanbai , Ustad Irshad Meer Khan
  • Children: Nasir Hussain

Gifted with a strong voice and a clear diction, Anwar Hussain had no difficulty securing a job at the All India Radio. He was quite enjoying his work there when, impressed by his voice, the producer-director A.R. Kardar offered him the opportunity to become a film hero—and so Anwar Hussain became a leading actor in Hindi cinema. 

Anwar Hussain was born on 11 November, 1925, in Calcutta. Prior to India’s independence, Anwar’s mother, the famous singer Jaddanbai, already had a firm hold in Mumbai’s emerging film industry. Jaddanbai was a highly skilled individual who not only sang in, but also acted in, wrote for, made and directed films. With such a legacy, Anwar himself was not new to the silver screen, having already appeared as a child actor in some of his mother’s films. 

A.R. Kardar cast Anwar in the film Sanjog (1943), in which the actress Mehtab played the role of the heroine. Anwar continued to play the lead in two subsequent films produced by A.R. Kardar: Jeevan (1944) and Pahele Aap (1944).All three of these films were hits and became jubilees once they were exhibited, but times were changing. Handsome actors with delicate features such as Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor were rapidly gaining in popularity. Other actors with fine features like Bharat Bhushan and Guru Dutt had also entered the fray. Anwar Hussain’s booming voice and strong physique could not maintain his popularity against this onslaught. Following a few films in which he was cast as the hero, the offers for roles stopped trickling in.  

When his friends invited him to Bhopal, he moved there in search of a stable livelihood. He tried his hand at businesses selling ghee, fruits, or textiles, but came up against losses each time. At the time, Anwar’s elder brother Akhtar Hussain was preparing to direct his first film, Romeo & Juliet (1947). He asked Anwar to return to Mumbai and offered him a key role in the film. Incidentally, Anwar’s sister Nargis played the heroine in the film, while the actor Sapru was cast as the male lead. 

Anwar continued his journey as an actor with roles in Jhamela (1953), Footpath (1953) and Yahudi (1953). During this time, he also left his indelible mark on Indian cinema with his skilled portrayal of certain characters. It is impossible to forget him as the driver Gafur from Guide (1965), the daku in Nanha Farishta (1969), Captain Mahendra in Hamraaz (1967), or in Asli-Naqli (1962), impeccably playing Dev Anand’s poor friend Mohan. He received accolades for his performance in the film Shehar Aur Sapna (1963).. 

Anwar’s dedication to his work did not diminish even in the last stretch of his life. Affected by paralysis, the left side of his body was completely immobilized. Despite this, he continued to go for the shooting of films he had already signed in his wheelchair, accompanied by an attendant. His nephew Sanjay Dutt’s debut film Rocky (1981) was also Anwar’s last. Anwar Hussain passed away on 2 January, 1988. 

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