indian cinema heritage foundation

M Zahoor

  • Real Name: Mohammad Zahoor Din

Zahoor was born in 1914 in Gujranwala, Punjab, in today’s Pakistan. His journey in Hindi cinema started with silent films. Before coming to cinema, he worked in theater with the Bhati Gate group. Zahoor was brother of Suraiya’s mother Mumtaz Begum. As per a few other archival sources, he is also mentioned as Suraiya’s paternal uncle. Suraiya moved to Bombay at the age of 4 and lived with Zahoor. On one of her summer vacations, Zahoor introduced Suraiya to Nanubhai Vakil on the set of his film Taj Mahal (1941). Vakil gave Suraiya an opportunity to play young Mumtaj in the film. Zahoor wrote the story of Mohan Sinha’s 1857 (1946) where Suraiya played the lead role alongside Surendra. This film is set in the revolt of 1857, where the princess of Rehmatpur, Tasnim (Suraiya) vows to resist the onslaught of East India Company. She is assisted by the prince of Delhi, Aslam (Surendra), who falls in love with her.

Zahoor was part of the Bhati Gate group of Lahore associated with theater and cinema. This was an informal association of artists in Lahore who worked in cinema and theater. A.R. Kardar was instrumental in bringing this group of artists from cinema and theater under the banner of United Players Corporation (later known as Playart Phototone). Zahoor worked for United Players Corporation and was an important figure in the Lahore film industry. Zahoor started working with A.R. Kardar in his silent films, Farebi Daaku (1931) and Khooni Katar (1931). He mainly acted in action films, often as a villain. In 1939, The Cine Herald mentioned “mechanism and fast driving” as his hobbies, which resonates with his penchant for action films.

His first talkie was Balwant Bhatt’s Actress (1934), produced under the banner of Prakash Pictures. Actress (1934) was also Balwant Bhatt’s first talkie with Prakash Pictures. Balwant Bhatt and Zahoor made two more action films, Tope ka Gola (1936), Hero No. 1 (1939). In Hero No. 1, Zahoor played the role of the sidekick of Mahendra, an anti-hero role played by Jayant

Zahoor’s association with Prakash Pictures went on for a significant number of films which included Shamsheer-e-Arab (1935), Tope ka Gola (1936), Challenge (1937), Khwab ki Duniya (1937), State Express (1938), Leather Face (1939), Hero No. 1 (1939), Bijli (1939), and Hukum ka Ekka (1939). Prakash Pictures were accomplished in making action films and Zahoor’s long term association with them established him as an action film artist.

State Express was directed by the successful action film director, Vijay Bhatt. This film featured the famous stunt and adventure film actor Sardar Akhtar. It also got popularity for featuring a performing gorilla, which was a first of the kind element in Indian cinema. In Leather face, also directed by Vijay Bhatt, Zahoor played the role of the warlord chief of an oppressive state. Mehtab played the role of his sister, Ila, who falls in love with Samar, played by P. Jairaj. Samar fights the chief wearing a face mask, accompanied by a band of adventurers, his faithful dog, and a horse. In Hukum Ka Ekka by Shanti J. Dave, Zahoor plays the role of villain regent who plans to assassinate Prince Ranjit. In this film, Zahoor acted alongside the famous actor Pramila.

Outside Prakash Picture, he acted in Alladin Laila (1941) directed by A.M. Khan and S. Shafqat’s Director (1947), produced under the banner of Mohan Pictures and Dawn Films respectively.

There is hardly any record of his life and works post the partition of India. He seemed to have moved to Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947. Zahoor remains one of the prominent actors of the early action films.


The Cine Herald, 1939 Annual edition.

Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Paul Willemen, eds. Encyclopedia of Indian cinema. Routledge, 2014.

Patel, Bhaichand. Bollywood's Top 20: Superstars of Indian Cinema. India: Penguin Books Limited, 2012.

  • Filmography (2)