Producer, film distributor, exhibitor and film equipment supplier, Darshan Sabharwal was born on 8 August 1933 to ace solicitor Dewan Sardarilal Sabharwal, who was credited for winning the famous Dilip Kumar vs. Madhubala case on behalf of B R Chopra and Dilip Kumar for the film Naya Daur (1957). Dewan Sardarilal Sabharwal also produced the first Pakistani feature film Teri Yaad (1948) starring Nasir Khan, brother of actor Dilip Kumar. After remaining active in Lahore, the then hub of the film industry, Sabharwal migrated to India in 1955.
Initially, Darshan produced films like Gul Bahar (1954), Son of Alibaba (1955), Tatar Ka Chor (1955), Ustad (1957) and Naya Sansar (1959). In 1964 he produced action-fantasy film Samson (1964), directed by his father-in-law, Nanabhai Bhatt, which ran commercially well, making Dara Singh and Mumtaz top commercial stars.
In 1966, he took the brave decision to make a romantic-suspense-thriller, Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi in black-and-white, during a time when colour films were becoming the norm in Indian cinema. The film was released two years after Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) and transformed Sharmila Tagore from a shy-teenager to a courtesan from the Magadh-Era, who supposedly returns to life to claim her love. The film, which was directed by Brij, co-starred Biswajit who played a character very similar to the one in Bees Saal Baad (1962), of a man drawn towards his doom by a sonorous tune. The music of Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi continued to haunt with its chart-topping tracks.
He debuted as a director with the crime-thriller Kahin Din Kahin Raat (1968), produced under his production house Shri Krishna Films, starring Biswajit and Sapana in the leading roles. Unfortunately, the film failed at the box office.
From the 1970s onwards, Darshan became an active film distributor and distributed over 400 feature films in India at that time. These films also include over two dozen films starring Amitabh Bachchan, when the actor was at the peak of his career including his star-making film Zanjeer (1973). The 1978 release film Karmayogi was presented under Darshan’s name.
Darshan also supplied the first Arriflex 35 III Cinemascope camera for Rahul Rawail’s Betaab (1983), a film that launched Sunny Deol as an actor.
Darshan married Sheela Bhatt, daughter of director Nanabhai Bhatt. They have two sons, Dharmesh Darshan and Sunil, who are popular filmmakers, who have befittingly continued the legacy of his father. Darshan passed away on 31 December 2011 at age of 78 years.
A cinema hall in Gwalior was named after him and his exemplary contribution to Indian cinema.