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  • Writer's pictureEshan Sharma

Bhagwan Dada: The 'Albela' of Hindi Cinema

Many actors came on screen, saw some success, and were forgotten with time, but very few had a charisma of their own, one such actor was Bhagwan Dada, unfortunately, he is also forgotten with the coming of the Era of Superstars. Considered to be Hindi Cinema’s First Dance Super Star, Bhagwan Dada was born as Bhagwan Abhaji Palav in Amravati in 1913. His style of dancing was unique, which inspired actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, and Govinda. His signature dance moves soon became a sensation in his times. He entered Hindi Cinema in the era of Silent Films. His first film of notable significance was called Criminal. His most notable work in which is acted also still remains Albela. The songs of the film, like "Shola jo bhadke" and “Bholi Surat Dil ke Khote” are still remembered. Albela was a huge hit at that time.

He started as a laborer who had dreamt of Cinema all his life. His hard work and dedication to the filmmaking process led him to make his own films. His first co-directed film was Bahadur Kisan which was released in 1938. From 1938 to 1949 he directed a string of low-budget stunt and action films that were popular with the working classes and established himself as a filmmaker.

When he was new to acting, during the shooting of Jung-E-Azadi, he was opposite Lalita Pawar, who was one of the leading actresses of the 1940s, in one of the scenes he had to slap her. Bhagwan Dada accidentally slapped her very hard, which resulted in facial paralysis and a burst left eye vein. She underwent three years of treatment later, after which she was left with a defective left eye; thus, she had to abandon lead roles, and switch to character roles, which won her much of her fame later in life. She went on to become one of the most known villains of Hindi Cinema.

The success of films like Criminal and Bahadur Kisan led Dada to the founding of Jagriti Productions in 1947. Under whose banner, he produced Albela on the advice from the ultimate Showman of Hindi Cinema, Raj Kapoor that he should try a social drama film, just for a change. And as they say, it turned out to be Dada’s biggest hit. Albela had films like Aan, Awara, and Anarkali running against it. After Albela, Bhagwan Dada became one of the richest directors in the industry at that time. The next film he made, was a disaster. He made the sequel of Albela, Jhamela. He could never recover the losses, but this could be considered to be the first experiment with the sequel style of filmmaking in the Hindi Cinema.

Bhagwan Dada dominated as a Dancing Super Star when the industry was filled with women dancers. He was adventurous, lost all his fortune towards the end of his career, but his name and style are still remembered. Bhagwan Das was arguably the first Indian filmmaker to have made a film, Vanamohini, with an elephant in a lead role; the first to have made a horror movie, Bhedi Bungla which was released in 1949 and among the first to have made comic-actor-being-the-hero narrative acceptable.

He is also known for gifting the Cinema, a genius like C. Ramchandra. He did some roles post-Albela, but none are worth mentioning. He had to sell his sea-facing bungalow with 25 rooms in Juhu along with his fleet of cars. The family moved to a two-room chawl in Dadar, where he died of a massive heart attack in 2002, at the age of 89. Still, his name in the annals of Indian cinema history remains unchallenged.


Image Credits:

Google Images, Quint.

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