Bhagwan Dada, once one of India’s richest actors, had to sell his 7 cars and sea-facing 25-room bungalow after his stardom finished.
Before the 1970s when most Bollywood actors became more aware and educated about investing their wealth, stories of rags to riches and then rags again were all too common. Several superstars of the yesteryears spent their final years in poverty. But none saw a contrast as stark as this one star from the 1940s and 50s, who was once one of the richest actors in the country but was then relegated to a dilapidated chawl in Mumbai.
The man was Bhagwan Dada, a mill labourer-turned-actor and director, who became a star with his low budget successes and unconventional dance moves. Born Bhagwan Aabaji Palav, the actor became Bhagwan Dada because that is what he was called in the wrestling community where he was active. In the 1930s, he followed in his father’s footsteps and began working in the textile mills of Bombay but often dreamt about being a filmstar. He eventually learnt filmmaking and began making low-budget films, often arrangng meals and designing costumes of the cast all himself. In 1938, he co-directed his first film Bahadur Kisan.
In the 1940s, Bhagwan Dada gained fame with a string of low budget successes and action films that made him popular in small towns. In 1942, he became a producer as well with Jagruti Productions. However, mainstream success still eluded him. In 1951, after Raj Kapoor advised him to make a social film, Bhagwan Dada made Albela, which emerged as one of the biggest hits of the year. His dance on Shola Jo Bhadke became a sensation. Bhagwan Dada continued to make blockbusters like Jhamela (1953) and Bhagam Bhag (1956). But from the late-1950s onwards, he could not replicate his success.
At the peak of his stardom, Bhagwan Dada lived in a 25-room seafacing bungalow in Juhu. He also had a fleet of seven luxury cars, one for each day of the week. At that point, he was one of India’s richest and hghest-paid actors, only behind superstars like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Dev Anand. From the 1960s onwards, Bhagwan Dada turned to character roles but work was limited. He eventually had to sell his cars and his house. Later in life, he began living in a chawl in Dadar. Bhagwan Dada died of a heart attack at the age of 89 in 2002. He had largely been forgotten by the film industry by then.
#Indias #richest #actors #cars #25room #bungalow #Indias #action #star #spent #final #years #chawl