Stay tuned to our new posts and updates! Click to join us on WhatsApp L&C-Whatsapp & Telegram telegram Channel
ISSN 2231 - 699X | A Publication on Cinema & Allied Art Forms
Support LnC-Silhouette. Great reading for everyone, supported by readers. SUPPORT
L&C-Silhouette Subscribe
The L&C-Silhouette Basket
L&C-Silhouette Basket
A hand-picked basket of cherries from the world of most talked about books and popular posts on creative literature, reviews and interviews, movies and music, critiques and retrospectives ...
to enjoy, ponder, wonder & relish!

Nazir Hussain, the INA and the Long March of Kadam Kadam

June 11, 2024 | By

Nazir Hussain’s experiences with the INA were immense inspiration for his friends — and it formed the basis of Nabendu Ghosh’s last novel, Kadam Kadam.

Ratnottama Sengupta traces the long march of history — India’s and its cinema — that started with Nazir Hussain joining the INA in Singapore, ran through the Red Fort, New Theatres, Bombay Talkies, and closed with Kadam Kadam.

Nazir Hussain

Nazir Hussain (Pic: SMM Ausaja Archives)

On August 18, 1945 Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, revered leader of the anti-British Provisional Government of Free India, was presumed to have died following an air crash off Taipei. The same year, his home state of Bengal had seen the emergence of a legendary filmmaker, Bimal Roy, with the release of his very first film, Udayer Pathey. Three years later New Theatres chose the same director to direct Pehla Aadmi, a love story set against Netaji’s Indian National Army (INA) and its war in North Eastern India, ending with the film’s hero breathing his last after planting the Indian tricolour in Manipur.

In Pehla Aadmi the character of Balraj Vij, the hero’s father, was enacted by the writer of the story, Nazir Hussain. Because he himself was, not long before this, a member of the INA in Singapore. He was born on May 15, 1922 in Ghazipur, a city close to Banaras in Uttar Pradesh. His father Shahabzada Khan was a guard with the Railways. So he grew up in Lucknow, and then he too joined the railways as a fireman. But, within months, he joined the British Army. Why? The reason is not clearly known to me but I do know that before long he was sent to Singapore in the Malaysian Peninsula.

Kadam kadam badhaye jaa… March, march on…

World War II was on then, and as the South East Asian theatre of the Pacific War Singapore, being the foremost British military base and economic port in South East Asia, was of great importance in Britain’s defence strategy.

The British Lt General Arthur Ernest Percival, OBE, commanded an 85,000-strong Allied troop in Singapore, which far outnumbered the Japanese troops that attacked, leading to the Battle of Singapore from February 8 to 15 of 1942. The Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita had advanced with only 30,000 men along the Malayan Peninsula. He entered through the Johor Strait and attacked the weakest part of the island defence – the forested area which the British least expected to be breached.

With few defence positions, little reserves and continuous bombing of their water supplies by Japanese aircrafts, Percival capitulated. Following his unconditional surrender 80,000 British, Indian, Australian and local troops were taken Prisoner of War by the Japanese. Among them was Nazir Chacha – as we children would call him in later years. By then India had been celebrating Independence Day for years – and Nazir Hussain was privileged to hold a Freedom Fighter’s Pass that entitled him to freely travel through India by the railways, as long as he lived!

— xxx —

Subhas Chandra Bose and Rashbehari Bose

Subhas Chandra Bose and Rash Behari Bose in Singapore (Pic: Facebook)

The loss of Singapore shattered Britain’s illusion of permanence and reduced the prestige of the British Empire in the region. The Allies too started seeing European empires in Asia as unsustainable. So, until their final defeat at the end of WWII, the Japanese held Singapore. But about 40,000 men, mostly conscripted Indian soldiers, joined the pro-Independence Indian National Army (INA) formed by Rash Behari Bose with help from the Japanese. Soon, under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose, INA formed the provisional government, Azad Hind, that set in place its own currency, court and civil code. While Port Blair was identified as its provisional capital, Singapore continued to be the Capital in Exile.

A majority of the erstwhile Japanese POWs now donned his uniform to fight the Commonwealth forces in the Burma Front in order to secure India’s freedom from Britain. The INA had its first major engagement in the Battle of Imphal. Under the command of the Japanese Fifteenth Army it even breached the British defences in Kohima even though the British-Indian Army soldiers attacked the INA soldiers as ‘traitors’.  This gave a greater impetus to the ongoing struggle for freedom within India. However, subjected to the Allied air dominance, and outbreak of diseases, the forces suffered a catastrophic defeat and had to retreat – but not before a battalion of the Bose brigade managed to take Mowdook, a village just inside the Indian border, and plant the INA flag on the Indian soil…

— xxx —

Prior to that. In the January of 1945. The birthday of their supreme leader would be celebrated by the members of INA across a week. On this occasion Nazir Hussain wrote a play, titled Balidaan/ Sacrifice. It was to be acted out by members of the platoon. That evening Subhas Chandra could not hold back his tears.

Cut to 1947.

This was a year after the British Indian Army court martialled the INA officers Lieutenant Colonel Prem Kumar Sehgal, Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, and General Shah Nawaz Khan. The trial was held in Delhi’s Red Fort, where the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar had been tried for the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ of 1857 – on the same charges of ‘treason against the King-Emperor’. These charges had been labelled by the Raj that must have felt seriously threatened by INA, but the trial changed the perception of Netaji’s men: those who were painted as ‘traitors’ now came to be regarded as ‘liberators’. Most of the 30,000 soldiers had been set free after cashiering and forfeiture of pay and allowance. And the INA memorial to its fallen soldiers in Singapore had been demolished, under orders from Lord Louis Mountbatten, head of the South East Asia Command.

The trial of INA officers

The trial of INA officers (Pic:: Twitter)


Khushi ke geet gaaye jaa… With a song on your lips…

Now, since the former INA members found themselves at a loose end, Nazir Hussain once again turned to acting in plays. In one such play, Sipahi ka Sapna/ A Soldier’s Dream he was spotted by Birendra Nath Sircar, the founder of New Theatres. The Calcutta based production house which had adapted the technical innovations of Hollywood and Europe to turn the studio into an institution synonymous with the state of the art and artistic good taste in cinema.

B N Sircar

B N Sircar


Netaji Bhawan, Elgin Road, Kolkata (Pic: ThejeshGN / Wikimedia CCA 2.5)

At that point in time BN Sircar was taken up with the thought of paying a celluloid tribute to Netaji who had been his next door neighbour on Elgin Road in Calcutta. In fact, the bonding between the two families went much beyond being good neighbours. Like Subhas Chandra’s father Janakinath Bose, BN Sircar’s father Sir Nripendra Nath was an eminent lawyer: he was a Law Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council who went on to become the Advocate General of undivided Bengal (1934-39).

Sir NN owned multiple properties on Elgin Road, and Janakinath lived close by, in Woodburn Road. When his family grew – to boast six daughters and eight sons – he approached Sir NN to let his family stay in one of the houses – 38/1 Elgin Road – while he built his own house next door, on 38/2. This is the house we know as Netaji Bhavan today.

The bonding percolated to the next generation. Subhas’s brother Sarat Bose, being in the same profession, would address Sir NN as Guruji. And in 1932, when New Theatres built its second movie hall, New Cinema at Dharamtalla, it was inaugurated by Subhas Chandra.

Not surprising that, when Netaji was declared dead, BN Sircar wanted to pay him a tribute. And Nazir was the right man at the right time. Mr Sircar introduced Nazir Hussain to Bimal Roy.

Nazir Hussain in Pehla Aadmi

Nazir Hussain playing Balraj Vij, the hero’s father, in Pehla Aadmi

The erstwhile soldier couldn’t believe his luck. An offer for his story to be filmed, by the nationally celebrated New Theatres, under the direction of the renowned Bimal Roy! Would he be up to the task? To instil confidence in him, the director asked him to pen the dialogues and also to play a central character in the film. When Pehla Aadmi released in 1950, Indian Cinema got a writer who excelled as an actor. He was so impressed with his emotional scenes that he came to feature in nearly 500 character roles and then went on to become the Father of Bhojpuri Cinema.

— xxx —

On 6th February, 1951, in response to legendary actor Ashok Kumar’s call to direct Maa for Bombay Talkies, another landmark institution of Indian cinema, Bimal Roy boarded a train for Bombay. With him was his team that included screenplay writer Nabendu Ghosh, editor Hrishikesh Mukherjee, assistant director Asit Sen, actor Paul Mahendra.

Asit Sen, Nabendu Ghosh and Nazir Hussain

Asit Sen, Nabendu Ghosh and Nazir Hussain (Pic: Rare photo from family collections of Ratnottama Sengupta)

Nazir Hussain too was not left out. He was to play father once more, to the hero essayed by Bharat Bhushan, with Leela Chitnis as his wife. So successful was the portrayal that, for several decades thereafter he would be seen on the Hindi screen as a father — of either the lead actor or of the heroine.

The persona of father fitted him so well that, though he simultaneously played Balraj Sahni’s rickshaw puller ‘guru’ in Do Bigha Zamin, and the trusted family retainer in Devdas, Nazir Chacha again played father – to Sadhna – in Parakh, all directed by Bimal Roy. And finally when the curtain fell on his life he had played father to almost every heroine of the 1950s and 1960s – be of a poor family or born to wealth!

— xxx —

Bombay Talkies, the movie studio founded by Himanshu Rai in 1934, was in the north western suburb of Malad. Within the studio compound was ‘Devika Rani Bungalow’ in which lived Bimal Roy with his wife Manobina and two daughters, Rinki and Tatu. At a stone’s throw was a two-storeyed building, Van Vihar, where camped Bimal Roy’s ‘extended family’: his team members Nabendu, Asit, Paul and Hrishi ‘Thakurpo’ (brothers-in-law).  They were on the ground floor and on the upper floor lived Ashok Kumar’s first cousin, music director Arun Mukherjee with his wife Mary and daughters Benu and Ratna. In the times to follow Van Vihar continued to house two ‘Bimal Roy’ families: Asit Sen on the ground floor and Nazir Hussain on the upper storey.

Nazir Hussain and Kishore Kumar

Nazir Hussain and Kishore Kumar in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Musafir

But an unexpected shortage in the coffers of Bombay Talkies spelt a delay in the making of Maa. And as the shooting kept receding, everyone started feeling the pinch on their pockets. Ensued a spell of struggle for the entire team. During those days, beset with an uncertain future and dwindling savings, all the team members would cheer up one another with stories of their struggles and how they overcame adversities.

“Trouble?!” Nabendu would say, “how can this trouble me when I have lived through the 1946 riots where we had to jump from the terrace to escape daggers, seek shelter in the Medical College compound and go to sleep under the open skies with no food in our bellies!” Out of these experiences had emerged his classic novel, Phears Lane, and other timeless stories. And Nazir Chacha? He would recount stories of his trials in Malaysia, his days in Japanese captivity, and the life-changing appearance of Netaji on his horizon.

Nazir Hussain’s experiences with INA were a source of great courage for them all. But his ‘Nabenduda’ would listen to him with deep attention and, from time to time, he would take notes. He had started writing even while in school and, as a college student, was published in Bengal’s popular magazines. When Daak Diye Jaai, set against the Quit India movement of 1942, got published, it carved a permanent place for him in Bengali literature. The novel’s anti-British tenor had marked him as a “seditious writer” in the eyes of the Imperialist rulers, and led to his resignation from two government jobs in Patna, before coming to Kolkata to live by the pen. Immensely inspired by Nazir’s stories, the patriotic writer promised his actor friend that he would shape the memoirs as a novel.

Bimal Roy Ranjan Tabassum Rinki Roy (Baap Beti)

Bimal Roy with Ranjan, Tabassum, the actors of Baap Beti and Rinki Roy (Pic: Ratnottama Sengupta)

Meanwhile, before work could resume on Maa, Bimal Roy got an offer to direct Baap Beti, from a story by Nabendu, for producer SH Munshi; and Parineeta, based on the Sarat Chandra classic, produced by Ashok Kumar. Soon he floated Bimal Roy Productions with Do Bigha Zamin. His team was bolstered by the presence of cinematographers Kamal Bose and Dilip Gupta, music composer Salil Chowdhury, art director Sudhendu Bose… Every inmate of Van Vihar was involved in various capacities and there was no looking back for any of them.

Yeh zindagi hai qaum ki… Life belongs to the Land…

and they made classics Nabendu Ghosh

Nabendu Ghosh speaking about Bimal Roy and his films in And They Made Classics…

Nabendu was his Bimalda’s pen soldier, scripting all the films that turned him into a legend. Starting with Maa, going on to Baap Beti, Parineeta, Biraj Bahu, Devdas, Yahudi, their crescendo rose to a finale with Sujata and Bandini.

Alongside, he was sought out by the most eminent directors of the time to write for them. This galaxy comprised of names like Phani Majumdar, Vijay Bhatt, Gyan Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Satyen Bose, Raj Khosla, Sushil Majumdar, Lekh Tandon, Asit Sen, Shakti Samanta, Mohan Segal, Basu Bhattacharya, and of course Hrishikesh Mukherjee. This resulted in the creation of Baadbaan, Shatranj, Insaan Jaag Utha, Aar Paar, Lal Patthar, Sharafat, Teesri Kasam, Abhimaan. Multiple titles that made the Bombay-based film industry the most robust after Hollywood (resulting in the coining of the term Bollywood).

Nazir Hussain featured prominently in Bimal Roy’s films. He played Brutus in Yahudi, rickshaw puller in Do Bigha Zameen, the family retainer in Devdas, the hero’s father in Maa, and the heroine’s father in Parakh. Except Parakh, Nabendu Ghosh was also worked in these films with Roy.

Do Bigha Zameen Balraj Sahani Nazir Hussain Nabendu Ghosh

In Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen: (Left) Nazir Hussain, Balraj Sahani, Master Rattan and Rajlakshmi Devi
(Right) Nabendu Ghosh in a cameo with Rajlakshmi Devi

When, at the untimely age of 56, Bimal Roy succumbed to cancer, Nabendu joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) as a guest lecturer. Simultaneously he was invited to preside over the script committee of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). He thus proved instrumental in flagging off the career of many a torchbearer of the next generation filmmakers like Kumar Shahani, Vikas Desai, Hariharan, Girish Kasaravalli, Syed Mirza, Ketan Mehta, Kundan Shah, Ravi Ojha. Eventually, with Trishagni, he himself wore the mantle of director.

— xxx —

Nazir Hussain

Nazir Hussain (Pic: Facebook)

On the other hand, at an award ceremony Nazir met the then President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad. In the course of their conversation when the President learnt of his Ghazipur roots, he said, “You still speak flawless Bhojpuri. Why don’t you make a film in that language?” Perhaps he was thinking of the vast number of expatriates working as coolie in the British colonies far away from India.

The words made a deep impression on Nazir Saheb. So in 1962, at the cost of Rs 5 lakh, was made Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo/ Mother Ganges, I Bow to You. Based on a story scripted by Nazir Hussain, it featured Kumkum and Aseem Kumar. The songs from the film, written by Shailendra, set to music by Chitragupt and rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi were on every lips – even in Mumbai.

The story highlighting the issue of widow remarriage proved so successful that Nazir Chacha took on the mantle of a producer. The next release was Hamaar Sansar/ My World. Producing films in a language spoken mostly in Eastern UP and Bihar wasn’t as simple as it sounds. “It is easy to make a Hindi film,” he would say. “Often they are a hotchpotch. You get away with the sprinkling of night clubs and miniskirts. If you make a film in Bhojpuri language, it must have the flavour of the soil. Fidelity to the routines of households. Rituals of every festival observed in the region.” And he understood that entertainment could only be the sugar coating here, “social reform has to be the core purpose of these films which would be viewed even by those toiling away in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Mauritius, Surinam,” he would repeat.

Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo record label

Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo record label (Pic: Discogs)

In 1979 came Balam Pardesia/ My Beloved Migrant and spelt the beginning of Bhojpuri films as an industry. But the films that Nazir Hussain produced were quite distinct from the formulaic social drama that was routine then and also from the entertainers that became the mainstay of the subsequent 2000-crore, 100-films per annum entertainment industry. Initiated into films by a maestro like Bimal Roy, the actor-writer-director too focused attention towards social inequity, dowry system, exploitation of farmers, and corrupt industrialists. Did he empathise with the sufferers in the course of enacting a poor family retainer, a troubled rickshaw puller, or the father of a bride who has to cough up a hefty dowry?

sahib bibi aur ghulam

Guru Dutt, Nazir Hussain and Waheeda Rehman in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam

Tu qaum pe lutaye jaa… Lay it down for the land…

Years went by. In 1966 Bimal Roy passed away, prematurely. It was a matter of time before the inevitable rule of nature claimed even the champions mentored by him. Paul Mahendra, Ritwik Ghatak (1976), Salil Chowdhury (1995), Kamal Bose (1995), Dilip Gupta (1999), Basu Bhattacharya (1997), Sudhendu Roy (1999), Asit Sen (2001), and Nazir Hussain (2002) travelled into eternity.  Hrishikesh Mukherjee too breathed his last after winning the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour for cinema in India.

Only Nabendu Ghosh remained, writing till the ripe age of 90. And, to do that he shifted back to Kolkata, along with his spotless white dhoti-kurtas and the yellow-with-time pages on which he had jotted the stories heard from Nazir Hussain. For, though the paper had turned brittle, the writer’s resolve to salute the soldiers of INA and their commitment to Subhas Chandra Bose remained as firm as it was when he had heard about Netaji’s death in 1945.

The only ones to stay on in Malad were Nazir’s son Mumtaz and Asit Sen’s son Abhijit in Van Vihar – and Nabendu’s son Subhankar in Pushpa Colony on the other side of the railway lines.

— xxx —

Precisely 62 years later, in August 2007, Nabendu completed his autobiography Eka Naukar Jatri/ Journey of a Lonesome Boat. But his churning of past memories did not end with that. He searched for every bit of paper on which he had jotted down some incident from the narrative of Nazir Bhai and sat down to fulfil that promise to himself. Two months later he handed me a file, written on which was the title, Kadam Kadam. Two weeks later he was hospitalised, never to recover. However, when he breathed his last on December 15, 2007, he felt freer that he had succeeded in posting the flag of India’s march towards freedom – much like Pehla Aadmi.

Kadam kadam - a book by Nabendu Ghosh on INA

Kadam Kadam is a novel written in Bengali by Nabendu Ghosh based on Nazir Hussain’s experiences in the INA under Netaji’s leadership, waging the war for India’s freedom. The book’s cover carries a photo of the marching INA soldiers

(The views expressed are personal) 

More Must Read in Silhouette

Apni Kahaani Chhod Ja: Leave a Story That Will Be Retold

‘Bimalda Spread Happiness’ – Jagdeep on Bimal Roy

Nabendu Ghosh: The Master of Screen Writing

Of Incomplete Tales: My Friendship with Guru Dutt (Parts 1 & 2)


Creative Writing

Whether you are new or veteran, you are important. Please contribute with your articles on cinema, we are looking forward for an association. Send your writings to

A National Award winner for her Writings on Cinema, Ratnottama Sengupta is a natural writer with keen understanding of Cinema and Visual Art. A Journalist since 1978, she has been with The Times of India, The Telegraph, Screen and been the Editor of the online magazine Daughter of writer Nabendu Ghosh, she writes extensively on Cinema and on Art. She has contributed to Encyclopedia Britannica on Hindi Films, and has to her credit many titles including on Plastic Arts. Ratnottama has curated 'Little Languages Film Festival' in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata; 'Prosenjit: A Retrospective', Delhi; 'Bimal Roy Centenary', Goa, Kolkata; 'Bengali Cinema After Rituparno', Delhi; and initiated the 'Hyderabad Bengali Films Festival'. * She has been on IFFI Steering Committee; National and International Award juries; with CBFC; and on NFDC Script Committee. She scripted Mukul, a short film on Nabendu (2009). She debuts as director with And They Made Classics.
All Posts of Ratnottama Sengupta

Hope you enjoyed reading…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting our creative, informative and analytical posts than ever before. And yes, we are firmly set on the path we chose when we started… our twin magazines Learning and Creativity and Silhouette Magazine (LnC-Silhouette) will be accessible to all, across the world.

We are editorially independent, not funded, supported or influenced by investors or agencies. We try to keep our content easily readable in an undisturbed interface, not swamped by advertisements and pop-ups. Our mission is to provide a platform you can call your own creative outlet and everyone from renowned authors and critics to budding bloggers, artists, teen writers and kids love to build their own space here and share with the world.

When readers like you contribute, big or small, it goes directly into funding our initiative. Your support helps us to keep striving towards making our content better. And yes, we need to build on this year after year. Support LnC-Silhouette with a little amount – and it only takes a minute. Thank you

Support LnC-Silhouette

2 thoughts on “Nazir Hussain, the INA and the Long March of Kadam Kadam

  • Silhouette Magazine

    Some comments received on Facebook on this article:

    Arnab Ganguly: Reminds of Pehla Aadmi

    Antara Nanda Mondal: Beautifully written Di! Truly unforgettable slice of history ❤

    Reena Dasgupta: Such a fascinating slice of history, Uttama. Loved reading your so well- written article.👏👏

    Kadambari Kaul: A very enlightening read , of men of courage, character and commitment, who despite the challenges of their time, remained wedded to their ideals. Recall, watching your film ‘And They Made Classics’ – yes, they did!

    Sohini Roychowdhury Dasgupta: Such a brilliant read , could only be you Ratna di ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Rashmi Lamba: So well written as always!!! You have such wonderful insights and an amazing repertoire of recorded memories❣️

    Uma Nair: Brilliant perfect combination of history and nostalgia…woh kya din the mere huzoor

    Jawhar Sircar: Loved if. Lots of things I didn’t know.

    Shireen Bomy Elavia: Ratnottama you are so blessed to have known such great personalities! And we are blessed to have you as a friend and sharing your wonderful experiences through your writing!More power to your pen dear😘😘😘

    Romita Bose Sircar: It’s an extremely well researched and comprehensive article written by you where one gets to know so many historical facts about Netaji’s Indian National Army (INA) as well as Nazir Hussain who was an active member of the INA and the important role they played during the Second World War.Later Nazir Hussain joined films and shared a wonderful bonding with stalwarts like Bimal Roy,Nabendu Ghosh and others.This article is truly a delight for the readers where you have reliven history through your wonderful piece!🙏👏💐

    Ratnottama Sengupta: Romita Bose Sircar my thanks to you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing details that provide an insight into the making of Pehla Aadmi…

    Vivek Sengupta: Beautiful. Steeped in information. Manna from heaven for an information junkie like me. Eminently suitable for turning into a book. Kore phailo

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Silhouette Magazine publishes articles, reviews, critiques and interviews and other cinema-related works, artworks, photographs and other publishable material contributed by writers and critics as a friendly gesture. The opinions shared by the writers and critics are their personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Silhouette Magazine. Images on Silhouette Magazine are posted for the sole purpose of academic interest and to illuminate the text. The images and screen shots are the copyright of their original owners. Silhouette Magazine strives to provide attribution wherever possible. Images used in the posts have been procured from the contributors themselves, public forums, social networking sites, publicity releases, YouTube, Pixabay and Creative Commons. Please inform us if any of the images used here are copyrighted, we will pull those images down.