Theatre in Lahore 1910-1918

Agha Hashar
Agha Hashar

The drama ability of Agha Hashar had rocked the creative scene in India. Agha Hashar was staging his plays in great cities of India and making large amounts of money. His dramas were proverbial on the lips of Hindustan. The Agha Hashar Company was dominating Calcutta. Master Hussain Baksh son of an architect mimar of Lahore joined the Agha Hashar Company as Stage artist of the background scenes. His paintings were Master strokes and it was reputed that he used to earn Rs 5000 per month, a phenomenal amount for those times. The theater craze was with the boys of Lahore.

Din Muhammed Katib and M.R.
Din Muhammed Katib and M.R.

M.A. Rahman Chughtai was fascinated with dramas. One day the Head Master of the Railway Technical School, Mr Chatterjee, bigoted Hindu of that time, thrashed him, and the young Chughtai rebelled against the injustice. With few friends from the Mohalla Chabuk Sawaran, they ran away to Karachi, to enlist in a drama company for writing dramas. A relative was sent by Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar the father to bring him back. When Chughtai came back, his father died in 1913. The three younger brothers were isolated by the eldest one the step brother Muhammed Hussain, and opened a fire wood shop (TAL in local terms) inside Yakki Gate Lahore. The two brothers Abdullah and Abdur Raheem used to sell the firewood while Chughtai on a charpai at the back of the shop, used to write dramas. The news of the dramas reached Punjab Bible Society in Lahore, and Chughtai volunteered an URDU version of the play THE BEHEADING OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST known as QATAL YOUHANA. It was staged at a theater in Bhatti Gate, Lahore. It is reputed that soon after the play stated, the audience rebelled and started breaking the chairs in total disgust. In any case the Bible Society published the drama in book form.

Hussain Baksh Musawar Agha Hashar Theatre
Hussain Baksh Musawar Agha Hashar Theatre

We visited the house of famous dramatist Mrs Najmuddin on Sanda road and requested a copy. She told us that she had given her copy to Hijab Imtiaz Ali Taj. The esteemed lady had put it in her garage and was not able to locate it. A drama lost for the present time. This episode in the life of M.A. Rahman Chughtai is hardly known and is worthy of being recorded. Later Chughtai started photography and finally painting and there the legend grew into a phenomena all its own.

One thing is certain here. The drama book calligraphed by Din Muhammed Katib has a child like illustration on it related to SILVER KING of Agha Hashar. It has a sign in the corner saying ‘M R’. The illustration is related to a series of dramas published in Lahore around 1908-1915, and this is the SCHOOL period of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. There is every reason to believe that this illustration is also by M.A. Rahman Chughtai as a school child, and that matter is a matter of record too. THE FIRST DUST-COVER ON RECORD OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI.


  1. Thank you for such an interesting information. I wish that you find the script of AR Chughtai’s first theatrical writing for archival benefit, at least. I have enjoyed this article.

  2. Din Muhammed Katib also working in the Wazeer Khan mosque and very near to M. A. Rahman Chughtai. In fact the Tughra of MARC on his writing form was designed by M.A. Rahman Chughtai and written by Din Muhammed Katib, perhaps the greatest calligrapher of Lahore at that time.

  3. Hi,
    I came across this page when searching for some information on Artist Hussain Bakhsh of Lahore..am from Chennai, Tamil Nadu doing some research on Tamil theatre of 20th century..Hussain Bakhsh was apparently associated with Cunniah, a legendary drama producer who specialised in mythological themes in first the two decades of the 20th century and was being paid a monthly salary of Rs 2000! Am trying to gather more information on Hussain Bakhsh and this collaboration..could you please let me know of any information in this regard? Thanks in advance!

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