indian cinema heritage foundation

Kanwal Nayyar

Art Direction

Art director and producer Kanwal Nayyar is known for films such as House No. 44 (1955), Dulha Dulhan (1964), Punar Milan (1964), Adhi Raat Ke Baad (1965) and Professor X (1966). Active during the 1950s and 1960s, he often worked with filmmaker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. Among the films he has to his credit as art director are Rahi (1953), Adhikar (1954), Munna (1954), Sheeshe Ki Diwaar (1954), Albeli (1955), and Trunk Call (1960). He is also credited as the producer of Trunk Call. 

Rahi, one of the earliest films he worked on in 1953, was a drama genre film written and directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. It starred Dev Anand, Nalini Jaywant, and Balraj Sahni. It followed the life of Ramesh who, after leaving British Army, joins a tea plantation as a supervisor. Here, he is required to harass Indians. However, gradually his heart changes and he falls in love with a local girl and revolts against his British employer.

In 1954, he art-directed Adhikar, a romantic comedy film that starred Kishore Kumar and Usha Kiran in lead roles. It was the seventh highest-grossing film of the year. Directed by Mohan Segal, it revolved around a widower with a child who faces challenges after he re-marries without telling his second wife about his first marriage and child.

The year also saw the release of Munna (1954), written and directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, with art direction by Nayyar. With a star cast comprising David Abraham, Sulochana Chatterjee, and Jagdeep, it revolved around a couple who wants to adopt a child from an orphanage, but he escapes. His mother looks for him and the two keep missing each other.

Sheeshe Ki Diwar, which also released in 1954, saw him art-direct this K A Abbas directorial starring Manmohan Krishna, Ruby Mayer, and Rajan

The 1955 film House No. 44 which he art-directed, was a crime drama directed by M K Burman, and written by Vishwamitter Adil. It starred Dev Anand, Kalpana Kartik, and K N Singh. The story revolved around Ashok, a petty thief working under a notorious gangster named Sunder. When Ashok comes across a dead body of a watchman, he reports this matter to the police, much to the anger of some of Sunder's men. Ashok then meets Nimmo, and both fall in love with each other. Nimmo convinces Ashok to give up his life of crime, and start afresh. Ashok agrees, but then when he has not managed to find a meal for two or three days, he realises that it is not easy to be an honest man. His former associates will not let him live very long, nor will they trust their secrets with him as long as he is alive.

In 1955, he also art-directed the comedy romance Albeli, directed by Devendra Goel and starring Pradeep Kumar, Geeta Bali and Om Prakash

Trunk Call, which he art-directed and also produced in 1960, starred Abhi Bhattacharya, Rajan Haksar, and Helen. A thriller directed by Balraj Mehta, it revolved around the murder of one of Calcutta’s wealthiest men – Seth Kapurchand, a robbery and his missing secretary. 

The Ravinda Dave directorial Dulha Dulhan, for which he provided art direction in 1964, had a star cast comprising Raj Kapoor and Sadhana Shivdasani.  The film, written by Dhruva Chatterjee with dialogue by Inder Raj, told the story of Chanda, who lives a wealthy lifestyle in Jaipur along with her father, Thakur Dharam Singh, and mother. Since she is of marriageable age, her father wants her to marry a wealthy male of his choice; however, she dislikes him. At home, arguments ensue and her father slaps her. She falls down and passes out. When she regains her senses, she finds herself in a hospital in Bombay with her father at her bedside. Informing her that she was unconscious for three days, he apologises and promises never to pressurise her to get married. She forgives him and they return home. A few days later she has a visitor, an Akashvani singer by the name of Raj Kumar, who claims to be her husband. He addresses her by the name Rekha, and wants her to accompany him back to Bombay where he lives in a chawl along with a small-time actor, Bansi. The film explores this mysterious turn of events in Chanda’s life. 

Nayyar’s art direction was seen in the drama film Punar Milan (1964), directed by Ravindra Dave, and starring Balraj Sahni, Ameeta, and Jagdeep. Based on the theme of untouchability prevalent in society, the film revolved around Dr Mohan, who hails from an upper-caste Brahman family. He is of marriageable age, and is in love with Shobhna Bakshi. They plan to get married soon. During the wedding, someone raises a question about Mohan’s caste. When Mohan is repeatedly questioned about whether this is true, he replies that he does belong to a lower caste - the untouchables. Everyone is shocked, and the marriage is cancelled, leaving Mohan's family to wonder why he claims to be an untouchable person.

Adhi Raat Ke Baad, which he art-directed in 1965, was directed by Nanabhai Bhatt. It revolved around a man, formerly known as Mr X, who goes on the run from the police after he is a suspect in the killing of the wealthy father of his lover. It starred Ashok Kumar, Ragini, and Sailesh Kumar

In 1966, he went on to provide art direction for Professor X, directed by Rajesh Nanda. A science fiction genre film, its story revolved around the scientific research of a doctor whose thirst for the hidden secrets of science and nature is unquenchable. It starred Bela Bose, Vijaya Choudhury, and Hiralal