indian cinema heritage foundation

Ashalata Biswas

  • Real Name: Mehrunissa
  • Born: 17 September, 1916 (Bhuj, British India)
  • Died: 26 May, 1992
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Spouse: Anil Biswas
  • Children: Utpal Biswas , Shikha Vohra
  • Grand Children: Paromita Vohra

A graceful actress and a dynamic personality, Ashalata Biswas carried out her roles as an actress and a producer with equal ease. One of the few women in the industry who successfully took up the mantle of producer, she was also a popular heroine and second lead in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Ashalata was born Mehrunissa on 17 September 1916 in Bhuj. She was the youngest of five siblings. Her mother became a widow at a very early age and seeing little economic opportunity in Bhuj, shifted to Bombay. 

Very little is known about the circumstances that led to Ashalata joining films. One interesting fact is that she was classmates with Shobhana Samarth. Her daughter Shikha Vohra has opined that she might have found work in cinema on Shobhana Samarth’s recommendation. It is most likely that she found work in films to better her family’s financial conditions. Both Shobhana Samarth and Ashalata Biswas made their respective film debuts in 1935. Ashalata signed a contract with Shakti Movietone for three films, Sati Toral, Aazadi and Sajeev Murti (all 1935). She took on the screen name Ashalata with these films. 

Success followed quickly, and she played the second lead in Mehboob Khan’s Devdas inspired hit Manmohan (1936). Two years later, she played the lead in the fantasy film Jwala. She was the lead opposite Prithviraj Kapoor in Deepak (1940). She later appeared in major studio productions like Char Ankhen (1944) and Swarna Bhoomi (1944). She also became one of the few actresses featured in the Lux ads at the time.

She married music composer Anil Biswas and later formed the production banner Variety Films with him. Together they produced films like Ladli (1949), Lajawab (1950) and Hamdard (1953). Anil and Ashalata Biswas separated in 1954.

Even after her retirement she remained a vigorously active person, be it cooking or taking swimming lessons. Her son Utpal Biswas was part of the Amar-Utpal duo who composed music for films like Shahenshah (1988) and Main Azaad Hoon (1989). Her granddaughter Paromita Vohra is a well-known independent filmmaker and columnist. 

Ashalata Biswas passed away on 26 May 1992. 


Image Courtesy:

Cinestaan, (Accessed May 26, 2020)

Cineplot, (Accessed May 26, 2020)

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