The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government of Pakistan has set the legal process rolling to buy the ancestral houses of two Indian film legendary actors and friends Dilip Kumar and the late Raj Kapoor, in Peshawar.
The KP government has enacted a necessary section of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 of the state, which authourises the government to take possession of both the houses on emergency basis.
The amount will soon be released to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Peshawar for payment to the landowners.
The price of Dilip Kumar’s four unit (101 square metre) house has been fixed at $50,517 while that of Raj Kapoor’s six unit house (151.75 square metre) at $94,061 by the Archeological Department of Pakistan.
According to the Pakistani newspaper The Daily Jung, for a long time, the owners were not willing to sell these houses as the government was not willing to pay the market prices. Their objections were that the prime location properties have been severely undervalued.
The owner of Kumar’s ancestral house has demanded Rs250 million for the property and the owner of the ancestral house in Peshawar of Raj Kapoor demanded Rs2 billion.
The KP government claimed that the owners were demanding exorbitantly higher prices and blackmailing the authorities due to the importance of these premises.
Kapoor’s ancestral home, known as Kapoor Haveli, is located in the fabled Qissa Khwani Bazaar. It was built between 1918 and 1922 by the legendary actor’s father Prithvi Raj Kapoor. The senior Kapoor, considered a pioneer of Indian film and theatre world and whose family has continued to entertain global audiences through cinema, stayed in this home. It is there that the actor Prithviraj’s son Raj Kapoor, who became India’s youngest and most successful actor-director, was born.
These buildings , which are in shambles, were declared a national heritage by the provincial government of KP last year.
In the past, the owners of the two buildings have made several attempts to demolish them for constructing commercial malls in view of their prime location. Fortunately, this was stropped as the archaeology department wanted to preserve them, keeping in view their historic importance.
The two homes are right near the 2,000-year-old Qissa Khwani Bazaar (or Market of Storytellers). The bazaar once served as a camping ground for the caravans of travelling merchants.
“Sometimes professional storytellers held court here, telling tales for the entertainment of the travellers. This is our cultural heritage and we take pride in preserving it. We are very proud that Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor were from Peshawar,” Abdul Samad, director of archaeology and museums in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had told the Pakistani media last year.
Kumar was born as Yusuf Khan to Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Ayesha Begum in Peshawar’s Khudadad area. The house is a five-minute walk away from Prithviraj Kapoor’s house. According to the actor Kumar, his family of fruit merchants moved to Bombay [now Mumbai] seeking medical care under the surgeon Dr. V. L. Parmar for Kumar’s elder brother Ayub Khan, who had been injured in a horse riding accident.
The family’s business and personal travails ultimately led Khan to step in to help his father. One such trip took him to Nainital where the movie’s production house Bombay Talkies owner, Devika Rani, accompanied by the master director Amiya Chakraborty, ran into the handsome boy and the rest is history.
Incidentally Kumar and Raj Kapoor, two great actors in the Indian film industry, first and last appeared together in the film ‘Andaaz’ in 1949.
Last year, when news broke about making Kumar’s house a museum, his actress-wife Saira Banu took to Twitter to thank the KP government. “I wish the provincial government success in its efforts and sincerely hope that this time the dream comes true. Mashallah. My heart fills up with joy each time I receive the same news about the ancestral home of Yusuf Saheb in Peshawar in North West Frontier province which the provincial government has been repeatedly trying to turn into a monument for posterity,” she tweeted.
Present day Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan also has links to the area, but his family home, which is still in use, has not suffered the same decline. His cousin Maqsood Ahmad told Pakistan newspaper Dawn that Shah Rukh’s father, Taj Mohammad Khan, and his brother Ghulam Mohammad Gama, were staunch supporters of the Indian political party, the Congress. The India and Pakistan partition in 1947 saw Taj Mohammad leaving the latter country. His brother Gama was imprisoned for seven years.
Today, Peshawar stands with stories of these Bollywood icons and their families being passed down generations.