The Goddess of Hollywood, Ava Gardner (December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990), was in Lahore in 1955 to shoot for the film Bhawani Junction (1956), which had Stewart Granger as the man opposite her.
She stayed at the Falettis Hotel which is inseparable from the history of British India and its many favours to Lahore. An Italian named Mr Falettis established the hotel in 1880.
As Lahore’s landmark hotel, it is located at 24 Egerton Road, in close proximity to the Punjab Provincial Assembly Building and other major attractions of the city. The Governor’s House and Lawrence Gardens are not far from the hotel.
It went into decline but has again been revived. I was recently there with my very dear friends Major (retd) Syed Ejaz and Major (retd) Agha Humayun Amin Pavo Cavalry.
Director of Operations Irshad B. Anjum Sahib who is a good friend of both Syed Ejaz and Agha Humayun Amin was very kind to let us inside the suite where Ava Gardner stayed. We took some pictures including from the bedroom where she slept. Closer than we could not come to her – alas.
She had eyes which could intoxicate and mesmerize. I always felt that when I saw her films.
Bhawani Junction was based on a novel by John Masters, an Englishman who served in India and later became a famous author of fictional and historical-biographical books.
In the scenes shot at the famous Lahore Railway Station thousands of Lahoris took part in the different scenes as extras. Most of them just wanted to look at Ava Gardner.
Alas in 1955 I was too young, just eight, so I never saw her in real life but my friend Najum Latif Sahib became a good friend of her when she settled in London.
Other famous people who stayed at Flatties were Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Justice Cornelius (for 13 years), Marlon Brando and a famous character of Sialkot-Lahore Lord Malhi.
Irshad B. Anjum Sahib, Mr Zubair and other staff were very courteous and they did not let us pay for the tea and cake. It was on the house. Thanks to this most wonderful Falettis’ management which has turned around the hotel and it is once again a very attractive place to visit.
That is the true spirit of Lahore and its fascinating citizens.
(Photos were posted by Ishtiaq Ahmed on his Facebook)
The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor GC University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has written a number of books and won many awards, he can be reached on email@example.com