Born in Lyallpur in 1921, Harnam Singh Rawail (H. S. Rawail) came to Mumbai as a teenager with the dream of making movies and no money in his pocket. Rawail soon moved to Kolkata where he wrote several scripts before moving onto direction.
Rawail marked his directorial debut in Bollywood with Dorangia Daku in 1940. The movie unfortunately didn’t click at the box-office.
Rawail’s films Shukriya (1944) and Zid (1945) had failed to create any impact on the audience. Jhoothi Kasmein (1948) and Do Baatein (1949) were failures too. It was only in 1949, when he tasted success with Patanga. The movie was quite popular during that time. Rawail started getting recognised in the industry.
In 1951, Rawail had two flops with Sagai and Jawani Ki Aag, both failing to create an impact on the audience. Madhubala-starrer Saqi (1952), Shagufa (1953), Lehren (1953), Mastana (1954), Teerandaz (1955) and Pocket Maar (1956) had also failed to gather success. Rawail came back after three years with Shararat (1959), starring Raaj Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Meena Kumari, besides others. It had some nice comedy sequences, but still couldn’t gain much attention from the public. In 1961, Rawail had two releases. Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, starring the evergreen Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, was a big flop. Kanch Ki Gudiya, starring Manoj Kumar as the main lead, had also failed to gather a big box-office collection. Mere Mehboob (1963), starring Rajendra Kumar and Sadhana, was a big musical blockbuster. That was the turning point in Rawail’s career. It is known to be one of the best romantic films ever made in Bollywood. Sunghursh (1968), starring Dilip Kumar and Sanjeev Kumar besides others, was a good film, but was a below average earner at the box-office. Rawail then produced and directed Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971), featuring Rajesh Khanna and Leena Chandravarkar. The film depicted the Muslim culture well, but was a resounding flop. It did have some great music though. Laila Majnu (1976) was written and directed by Rawail. The film, starring Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta Kaur in lead roles, became a huge blockbuster. The Muslim social Deedar-E-Yaar (1982), produced by the film's hero Jeetendra and directed by Rawail, was a remake of sorts of Mere Mehboob. The film scripted by H. S. Rawail's son, Rahul Rawail, was one of the biggest box office disasters in the history of Indian cinema, wiping out the senior Rawail's career as a film-maker.
Rahul Rawail paid his father's best work a compliment when he titled one of his films "Jeevan Ek Sangharsh" in 1990.