indian cinema heritage foundation

Gauhar Karnataki

  • Born: 1908 (Belagi, Hubli, Karnataka)
  • Died: 1964
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Hussain Khan
  • Spouse: Bal Gandharva , Chaphekar

Gauhar Karnataki, now a forgotten name in film history, was a prominent artiste in the Hindi cinema industry during the 1930s. She was born in 1908 to the tabla player Hussain Khan in Belagi, Hubli, Karnataka.  One of her sisters was the renowned singer Amirbai Karnataki.

She hailed from a family immersed in the performing arts. She was trained in classical music under the guidance of Nilkanth Panchakshari Buwa. Gauhar Karnataki was fluent in Marathi as a result of growing up near the borders of Maharasthra which benefitted her career immensely. The sisters were members of Vanivilas Natak Mandali, a drama company. 

Chaphekar, the Marathi artist, showed the way to Bombay films for the sisters. Gauhar soon started appearing in Marathi and Hindi films as an actor, while singing and composing for some of them occasionally.  She sang over a hundred songs, many of them were Marathi natyageets and bhajans.  Unfortunately, there are very limited surviving records and information of her songs. She was credited as either Gauhar Karnataki or Gauhar from Bijapur in the issues of Hindi Film Geet Kosh. In 1938, she joined Bal Gandharva’s Natak Mandali. She acted alongside Fearless Nadia in Chabuk Sawaar (1937). Some of her prominent films are Raas Vilas (1932), Sohni Mahiwal (1933), Pyar Ki Maar (1935), Graduate (1936), and Hawai Khatola (1946). 

On the personal front, Chaphekar was her companion for a while after she moved to Bombay. She had a daughter Ashamma from this relationship. Later, she shared a close relationship with Bal Gandharva and after his wife’s death in 1940, the two tied the knot in 1951. She passed away in 1964.