Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs

Le chal ri saagar paar

Posted on: November 13, 2018

This article is written by Sadanand Kamath, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a contributor to this blog. This article is meant to be posted in If this article appears in sites like and etc then it is piracy of the copyright content of and is a punishable offence under the existing laws.

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Kikubhai Desai who was the producer-director of many successful stunt films during 1930s and early 40s, may not be known to most of the present generation movie buff or even immediate preceding generation. However, if it is revealed that he was the father of Manmohan Desai, the producer-director of many block buster films during 1960s through 1980s, some of the movie enthusiastic especially the movie fans of Manmohan Desai, may develop interest in knowing Kikubhai Desai.

I first came to know about Kikubhai Desai in one of the old issues of ‘Filmindia’ magazine about 5 years back as a producer/director of a stunt film( I have forgotten the name of the movie). While covering rare songs from films of 1930s and 40s during 2015, I came across the information that Kikubhai Desai was the father of Subhash and Manmohan Desai ! This revelation generated interest in me to know about him in detail. In my article posted in the Blog about 2 years back, I had made a brief mention about the filmy career of Kikubhai Desai. Thereafter, I lost track and did not pursue the subject further.

Recently, while flipping through the pages of January 1942 issue if ‘Filmindia’ magazine, I came across a small news about the sudden death of Kikubhai Desai on November 26, 1941 when he was giving finishing touches to his comedy film ‘Sheikh Chilli’ (1942). This reminded me of my unfinished work to get Kikubhai Desai’s life profile and his filmy career more vigorously than before.

Kikubhai B. Desai (1902-26/11/1941) was born in Sandalpur (now in Navsari district of Gujarat) in an Anavil Brahmin family. Not much is known about his educational background. In 1925, Kikubhai Desai joined as Manager in Jupiter Film Company which was soon taken over by Nanubhai Desai, (father of actress Bindu), one of the two founders of Sharda Pictures, the other being Bhogilal Dave.

However, Nanubhai Desai retired from the partnership in Sharda Pictures and decided to join hands with Ardeshir Irani to set up Sagar Films (Later renamed as Sagar Movietone). Due to some last minute disagreement, Nanubhai Desai withdrew from Sagar Films before it was set up and started Saroj Pictures (later renamed as Saroj Movietone in 1931). He made Kikubhai to handle the film distribution in Punjab and Bangalore branches for Saroj Pictures.

In 1929, Kikubhai visited Bangalore (Bengaluru) and met Haribhai Desai, the proprietor of Surya Film Company who was also his relative. At that time, Surya Films was making its first silent film ‘Raj Hriday’. Haribhai told him that if he has come to enjoy only the colourful world of film industry, he would be sent back home. If he was prepared to work hard and learn the nuances of the film making, he will put him in production department. So Kikubhai started his work from the production department.

When ‘Raj Hriday’ was completed, Kikubhai Desai was made in charge of publicity department. Although compared to production department, publicity department was not a high profile work at that time. Kikubhai felt that he would miss working among the hero-heroines of the films with lot of activities and fun on the set. However, in the absence of any other work opportunity, he reluctantly accepted the change of work. Kikubhai tried new way of publicity for ‘Raj Hriday’ (1929). He got printed a large quantity of attractive pamphlets of the films and got them dropped from the plane in Mumbai. Such publicity was done for the first time. Kikubhai’s novelty in the publicity of the film impressed Haribhai so much that he made him Manager of his Bombay (Mumbai) distribution office.

In Mumbai, Kikubhai’s novel way of publicity of ‘Raj Hriday’ had a positive impact on the film which became a hit. Producers from other banners started giving him contract for the publicity of their films. He did this work for about 2 years during which time he had earned sufficient income to establish his own film production company, Paramount Films and the Paramount Studio at Andheri East in 1931. The banner produced its first silent film, ‘Fauladi Pahelwan’ (1931). Jayant Desai directed the film with Chandrarao Kadam and Miss Nirmala in the lead. In all, Kikubhai produced 8 silent films during 1931-33.

‘Husn Ka Ghulam’ (1933) was Paramount’s first talkie film made under the banner of Saroj Movietone. Thereafter, he produced on an average 3 films every year. None of the online sources give complete list of the filmography of Kikubhai Desai. Manmohan Desai had once mentioned, among other things, that his father had produced/directed 31 talkies during 1931-41. With this vital information, I set upon preparing the filmography of Kikubhai Desai. It was not an easy task to prepare an exhaustive list of films produced by Kikubhai Desai. Sometime his name was mentioned as K B Desai or K Desai. He had also produced films under the banners of India Liberty Films/ Great India Films in addition to his main banner, Paramount Films. I had to rely on the posters/advertisements of the films for confirmations.

Following is the list of films produced by him some of which he directed:

Sr. No. Name of the film Director Banner
01 Husn Ka Ghulam (1933) J P Advani Paramount/Saroj
02 Baghdad Ka Chor (1934) D N Madhok Paramount
03 Hoor-E-Baghdad (1934) R N Vaidya Paramount
04 Chalta Purza (1934) R N Vaidya Paramount
05 Khooni Khanjar (1935) R N Vaidya /Kikubhai Desai Paramount
06 Jaadui Danda (1935) Dwarka Khosla Paramount
07 Tufaani Tamancha (1935) R N Vaidya Paramount
08 Burkhawaali (1936) Kikubhai Desai India Liberty
09 Laal Panja (1936) Kikubhai Desai Paramount
10 Farz-E-Ada(1936) A M Khan India Liberty
11 Bansari Baala (1936) A M Khan India Liberty
12 Guru Ghantal (1937) Kikubhai Desai India Liberty
13 Kaala Bhoot (1937) A M Khan India Liberty
14 Taranhaar (1937) Kikubhai Desai India Liberty
15 Sinhaldweep Ki Sundari (1937) Kikubhai Desai Indis Liberty
16 Alladdin aur Jaadui Chiraag (1938) Nanubhai Vakil India Liberty
17 Baanke Saanwaria (1938) Nanubhai Vakil India Liberty
18 Madhraat Ka Mehmaan (1938) Kikubhai Desai India Liberty
19 Madhu Bansari (1939) Kikubhai Desai Paramount
20 Sunehri Toli/Golden Gang (1939) Kikubhai Desai Paramount
21 Sansar Naiyya (1939) Nanubhai Vakil Paramount
22 Reshmi Saari (1940) G P Pawar Paramount
23 Golibaar (1940) Nanubhai Vakil Paramount
24 Sneh Bandhan (1940) J P Advani Great India
25 Aflatoon Aurat/ Amazon (1940) Kikubhai Desai Paramount
26 Akela (1941) Pessi Karani Great India
27 Mere Raja (1941) T S Mani Paramount
28 Circus Ki Sundari/Circus Queen (1941) Balwant Bhatt Paramount
29 Sheikh Chilli (1942) Kikubhai Desai Paramount

This list has been vetted by Harish Raghuvanshi ji, the Film Historian who added 4 films to this list making it 29 out of 31 mentioned by Manmohan Desai. The remaining 2 films may be the ones which were under production at the time of Kikubhai Desai’s death in 26/11/1941. Incidentally, for ‘Dashavatar’ (1951) produced under the banner of J K Films and directed by Jayant Desai, the name of Kikubhai Desai has been mentioned as producer. This may be one of the two unfinished films of Kikubhai Desai which may have been taken over by J K Films with new cast and crew.

From the titles of the films listed above, it is clear that Kikubhai Desai specialised in producing mainly stunt films. He seems to have shifted to producing romantic/social films like ‘Sneh Bandhan’ (1940), ‘Akela’ (1941) and a comedy film ‘Sheikh Chilli’ (1942).

I have noted from the star cast of the films produced under the banners of Paramount Films, India Liberty Films and Great India Films that Gohar Karnataki, Miss Pokhraj, Miss Moti, Shiraz, Gulab, Shankar Vazare, Navinchandra, Dalpat, Sardar Mansoor etc were the main actors. Damodar Sharma was the music director for as many as 23 films out of 29 films listed above.

As mentioned earlier, during the final touches to the film ‘Sheikh Chilli’ (1942) which was produced and directed by Kikubhai Desai, he collapsed and died of rupture in appendix on November 26, 1941 at the age of 39.

The sudden death of Kikubhai Desai created a void in his film production companies, Paramount Films and India Liberty Films/Great India Films. At the time of his death, besides ‘Sheikh Chilli’ (1942) which was at the editing stage, two more films were under initial stages of productions. All the works came to a standstill. His two sons, Subhash Desai and Manmohan Desai and a daughter were minors. With heavy liabilities and debts, Kikubhai’s wife decided to sell their big bungalow in Varsova with a fleet of cars and other assets of the film production companies except the Paramount Studio at Andheri (now Filmalaya Studio). She leased the Paramount Studio to Shiraz Ali Hakim on a monthly rental of Rs.500/- for the sustenance of the family. After selling the bungalow, the entire family shifted to Khetwadi in South Mumbai.

‘Circus Ki Sundari’ aka ‘Circus Queen’ (1941) was released on November 28, 1941 (2 days after the sudden death of Kikubhai Desai, the producer of the film) in Mumbai at Super Talkies. The film was directed by Balwant Bhatt. The star cast included Miss Moti, Jal Merchant, Gulab, S L Puri, Bose, Dhulia, A. Karim, Agha, Rekha etc.

The film was shot inside a real circus with its complete paraphernalia of artists and the wild animals. Probably, it was for the first time in India that a film was shot in the actual lions and tigers cages of a circus. Miss Moti must be a courageous girl do the shooting in the midst of lions and tigers. The story of the film runs more or less on the same lines which has been used in many stunt films of that time.

There is a weak King (S L Puri) who has a popular younger brother-prince named Pratap (Jal Merchant). There is a good prime minister and a wicked woman called Shyama Devi (Gulab) who lives with the King. Lastly, there is a gang of ruffians to complete the ingredients for a stunt film.

A circus is camped in the King’s capital in which an artist named Sundari (Miss Moti) acts with wild animals including lions and tigers. King is impressed with Sundari and wants her to be his mistress. He assigns this task to his henchmen. It so happens that Prince Pratap, King’s brother accidentally meets Sundari and they fall in love.

Now comes a third angle in the guise of Shyamla Devi who though lives with the King but likes to flirt with Prince Pratap. She hatches a plot to overthrow the King but on each occasion, the wise prime minister frustrates her efforts. So it is a three-way war for the supremacy – the King and his henchmen for bringing Sundari for him, Prince Pratap and Sundari to turn their love into a marriage and Shymala Devi and her ruffians to overthrow the King. All the three groups work simultaneously to achieve their respective goals. The end result is that Shyamla Devi dies in a large pot of burning oil. prince Pratap gets Sundari with the blessings of the King. The prime minister becomes victorious. [Paraphrased from the review of the film published in January 1942 issue of ‘Film India’ magazine].

The film had 10 songs which were written by P L Santoshi and A Karim. But the division of the songs between the two lyricists is not known. All the songs were set to music by Khan Mastana.

I present the first among 10 songs ‘le chal ri saagar par naiyya’ from the film ‘Circus Ki Sundari’ (1941). The song is sung by actor-singer Miss Moti.

With this song, ‘Circus Ki Sundari/Circus Queen’ (1941) makes a debut in the Blog.

1. I am grateful to Harish Raghuvanshi ji for providing me with the material on the early life and filmy career of Kikubhai Desai. He also sent me the scanned copies of the 3 pages from the Gujarati book ‘Sapna Na Saudagar’ written by Vitthal Pandya. He also helped me in updating the list of talky films produced/directed by Kikubhai Desai.

2. ‘Manmohan Desai’s Enchantment of the Mind’ by Connie Haham. Some pages were available online through Google Books in which Manmohan Desai talked about his father and their early days in Khetwadi (South Mumbai).

3. ‘The Advent of Sound in Indian Cinema’ by Virchand Dharamsey – published in the ‘Journal of the Moving Image’ as a research article (Pages 22 to 49).

Audio Clip:

Song-Le chal ri saagar paar (Circus Queen)(1941) Singer-Miss Moti, MD-Khan Mastana


le chal ri saagar paar
le chal ri saagar paar
saagar paar sunhari duniya
saagar paar sunhari duniya
rehti sada bahaar
roop jawaani raaja raani
roop jawaani raaja raani
mil gaayen malhaar
mil gaayen malhaar
le chal re saagar paar

chalna haule haule
chalna haule haule
beech bhanwar na dole
chalna haule haule
chalna haule haule
beech bhanwar na dole
sang na khewanhaar
sang na khewanhaar
le chal ri saagar paar
le chal ri saagar paar
le chal ri saagar paar


2 Responses to "Le chal ri saagar paar"

Thanks for this informative article on Kikubhai.


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