indian cinema heritage foundation

Chand Burke

  • Born: 2 February 1932 (Punjab Province of British India)
  • Died: 28 December 2008
  • Spouse: Niranjan (divorced), Sundar Singh Bhavnani
  • Children: Tonya, Jagjit Singh Bhavnani
  • Grand Children: Ranveer Singh (actor, grandson)

A successful character actress in Hindi and Punjabi films, Chand Burke (also spelt Burque) is known for films such as Basant Bahar (1956), Adalat (1958), Sohni Mahiwal (1958), and Kahin Din Kahin Raat (1968). She had made her debut in Maheshwari Productions' Kahan Gaye (1946). Thereafter, she appeared in a number of films made in Lahore, and was widely known as ‘The Dancing Lily of the Punjab’, on account of her dancing talent. She is the paternal grandmother of popular Hindi film star Ranveer Singh

A Christian by birth, Chand Burke was born on 2 February 1932 in the Punjab Province of British India (in what is modern-day Pakistan). The youngest of her 12 siblings, she was bright at both studies and performing. She was the only one in her family who chose to enter films; one of her brothers - Samuel Martin Burke would become an Indian Civil Services officer and a diplomat, and also author a number of books on foreign policy.

She made her debut in films in 1946, with the mystery genre film Kahan Gaye. Directed by Niranjan, it also starred Geeta Bali.

Known for her dancing skills, she would go on to play secondary roles in films such as Dukhiyari (1948) directed by D K Ratan and the drama film Parda (1949). Her career was severely impacted by the country’s Partition, and her subsequent migration to Bombay. 

She reportedly went into complete oblivion after Hamari Manzil, which released in 1949. Raj Kapoor is credited with enabling her comeback, by selecting her to play a key role in his production Boot Polish (1954). Directed by Prakash Arora and written by Bhanu Pratap, the film revolved around a pre-teen brother and sister, abandoned by their father, and to be taken care of by an abusive prostitute aunt. They survive life in a squatters’ camp, aided by a friendly cripple, by learning to shine shoes instead of begging. The film’s cast comprised Kumari Naaz, Ratan Kumar, and David Abraham, with Chand Burke playing the cruel aunt. Raj Kapoor reportedly chose Burke over 200 other contestants on the strength of her screen-test. 

She would go on to act in several films through the 1950s and 1960s, including Shahi Chor (1955), Dushman (1957), Pardesi Dhola (1959), Rangeela Raja (1960), Ghar Ki Laj (1960), Apne Huye Paraye (1964), Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain (1965), Mera Bhai Mera Dushman (1967), and Pardesan (1969).

Basant Bahar which she acted in, in 1956, was a romantic drama directed by Raja Nawathe and written by Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ta. Ra. Subba Rao. It starred Bharat Bhushan, Nimmi and Kumkum, with Chand Burke playing Leelabai. This musical had nine outstanding songs, with lyrics written by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri; and music composition by Shankar-Jaikishan.

Her Adalat (1958) was a drama film directed by Kalidas, starring Pradeep Kumar, Nargis and Pran in lead roles. The film was especially known for its meaningful, touching ghazal-type songs and melodious music composed by Madan Mohan

Sohni Mahiwal, which she featured in, in 1958, was a historical romance directed by Raja Nawathe, and starring Bharat Bhushan and Nimmi. Based on the tragic tale of the legendary star-crossed lovers, it revolved around Ijjat Beg who comes to India with his caravan and settles in a town. Here, he falls in love with Sohni, who owns a shop selling metal pots. 

In Kahin Din Kahin Raat (1968), she played the scientist assistant to Pran Nath (Pran), in the action-crime thriller directed by Darshan Sabharwal. Starring Biswajeet and Sapana, the film revolved around a CID inspector who infiltrates a gang of smugglers to uncover their operation but finds that his ex-girlfriend is now a member of the gang.

On the personal front, Chand Burke was married to writer-director Niranjan. She obtained a judicial separation by mutual consent from him in 1954. She went on to marry a businessman, Sundar Singh Bhavnani. She had two children with him, daughter Tonya and son, Jagjit. Jagjit Singh Bhavnani is the father of current leading actor, Ranveer Singh.

Chand Burke passed away on 28 December 2008. 



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