Balraj Sahni's Story: Worked With Gandhi, Daughter Died In 'Sasural', Went To Jail, A Marxist Death

Here's a look into the life story of legendary Indian actor and 'sad genius', Balraj Sahni, who is considered as one of the greatest actors in Indian cinema, if not the greatest.


By Rishabh Naudiyal Last Updated:


Balraj Sahni's Story: Worked With Gandhi, Daughter Died In 'Sasural', Went To Jail, A Marxist Death

Balraj Sahni is one of the greatest actors in the history of Indian cinema. As per many film critics, the iconic actor is right up there at the top with legendary actor, Dilip Kumar. However, there's a large section of cinema enthusiasts, who think that Balraj Sahni was even better than Dilip Kumar, and it was the former's political ideologies that overshadowed his genius acting skills. While the comparison is open for a never-ending debate, there is no denying the fact that Balraj Sahni is the name that comes into everyone's mind when we talk about legendary Indian actors, who set the bar of acting to an unprecedented mark.

Balraj Sahni's story: Businessman who worked with Mahatma Gandhi and became one of India's greatest actors

Balraj Sahni was born on May 1, 1913, into a wealthy family in Rawalpindi, Punjab, British India. As per multiple reports, he belonged to a business family and had no connections to the world of cinema. Balraj Sahni completed his education at a series of prestigious schools and institutions like Government College Lahore, Gordon College, and Visva-Bharati University. Once he was done with his education, Balraj Sahni joined his family business in Rawalpindi.

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Some years after joining his family business, Balraj Sahni got married to Damayanti Sahni on December 6, 1936. Soon after his marriage, he started feeling a disconnect with his family business and collaborated with Mahatma Gandhi for some time. On Mahatma Gandhi's suggestion, Balraj went to London and joined BBC Hindi. After working with the esteemed company for some time, Balraj Sahni returned to India and shifted to Mumbai with his wife, Damayanti Sahni, in order to pursue their shared passion for acting.

After struggling to get roles in the beginning, it was in 1946, when Balraj Sahni made his acting debut in Hindi cinema with the film, Insaaf. However, it was the film, Dharti Ke Lal with which he tasted a pinch of stardom for the very first time. In the following years, Balraj Sahni proved the mettle of his acting skills in films like Do Bigha Zameen, Neelkamal, Do Raaste, Ek Phool Do Maali, Chhoti Bahen, Kabuliwala, Waqt, and Garam Hawa.

Balraj Sahni's wife, Damayanti Sahni died during the shooting of her film

Balraj Sahni's wife, Damayanti Sahni was also an actress, and she made her acting debut with the film, Door Chale. However, she passed away in 1947, when she was shooting for one of her films.

Damayanti's death shocked Balraj Sahni to the core, and just when he thought that he had suffered the biggest loss of his life, another tragedy was standing upon his door. After the demise of his wife, Balraj Sahni's daughter, Shabnam Sahni passed away in her in-law's house. Even to this very day, the reason behind her demise is unknown to the general public.

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Balraj Sahni wanted no pandits or shlokas to be recited at his funeral and died with his Marxist philosophy

The sudden deaths of his wife and daughter were too much for Balraj Sahni, due to which he had developed a heart disease. Unfortunately, on April 13, 1973, the legendary actor passed away at the age of 59 due to a heart attack. Not everyone is aware of the fact that Balraj Sahni was a Marxist, who took the idea of Marxism to his death.

As per a report in ABP Live, the legendary actor had already instructed his family not to bring any pandit to recite shlokas at his funeral and instead put a red flag abreast his mortal remains. For the unversed, the red flag symbolises left-wing politics that includes socialism, communism, Marxism, labour movement, and anarchism.

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Balraj Sahni used to act in films while in jail; here's how!

An interesting anecdote about Balraj Sahni that speaks volumes about his love for acting and his stature in Hindi cinema is from the time when he was in jail. Balraj Sahni was an active member of the Indian Progressive Theatre Association back in 1946 when he was arrested by the police and sent behind bars due to their revolutionary ideas.

However, despite being in jail, Balraj Sahni used to act in movies at the request of film producers. The actor used to go back to jail after completing his film's shooting, which was indeed something that was not so common back then and even today.

Even after so many decades of his demise, we have not seen an actor of Balraj Sahni's stature in Indian cinema. Back in November 2015, veteran lyricist, Javed Akhtar asked everyone to keep Balraj Sahni aside, as there's no actor, who can match his standard. The statement is no surprise, as it is a well-known fact that Balraj Sahni is one of the greatest actors in the history of Indian cinema, who inspired so many modern superstars of Indian cinema.

What are your thoughts on Balraj Sahni's illustrious acting career and tragic personal life? Let us know.

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