Hindi cinema has its own peculiar characteristics that make it stand out from the rest of the world cinema. One striking feature is the inclusion of song and dance without which our films seem incomplete. If we have a close look at the last two decades in Bollywood, it has found dance sensations in actors like Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor and Tiger Shroff. However, the first actor-filmmaker who had created his own style of dancing was none other than late Bhagwan Dada. A legend who became the first dancing superstar of Indian cinema and today we are remembering him as it is his birth anniversary.
Born Bhagwan Abhaji Palav in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, Bhagwan Dada (as he popularly known) made his debut in the silent era with the film ‘Criminal’. He ventured into film direction with ‘Bahadur Kisan’ (as a co-director) in the year 1938. From 1938 to 1949, he went on to direct a string of low budget stunt and action films that made him popular among the audiences. But, the film that actually immortalised him, especially his dance, was the musical comedy ‘Albela’ (1951) that starred him along with Geeta Bali. Till today, the songs of the film composed by Late C Ramchandra make the crowd go hysterical every time they hear ‘Shola Jo Bhadke Dil Mera’ and ‘Bholi Soorat Dil Ke Khote’. Bhagwan Dada had become a dance sensation of his time. (Also Read: When Shashi Kapoor pulled Amitabh Bachchan back, from playing an ‘extra’)
But sadly, he couldn’t create similar magic with his projects like ‘Jhamela’ and ‘Labela’. Further, he suffered heavy losses while making ‘Hanste Rehna’, a project starring Kishore Kumar in the lead, which was eventually shelved later.
Bhagwan Dada continued to act in small roles in movies like ‘Sindbad the Sailor’, ‘Goonj’, ‘Chori Chori’, ‘Taraana’ etc. Although, he wasn’t successful and a bankable star, his dance moves continued to inspire actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty and Govinda. Even Big B had once confessed that with his extra long legs, he always found dancing difficult. “It was after I watched Bhagwan Dada dancing in that typical style of his, that I decided to dance like him,” said the megastar.
Unfortunately, after losing all his wealth, he ended up living in a chawl in Dadar, Mumbai. He stayed here till his demise. He left the world at the age of 89 after suffering a massive heart attack on February 4, 2002.
In the year 2016, a biopic titled ‘Ekk Albela’ was made on his life that starred actor Mangesh Desai playing the titular role and actress Vidya Balan as late Geeta Bali, Bhagwan’s co-star in ‘Albela’.
Bhagwan Dada’s legacy will stay with us forever and this day will be remembered for the birth of a talented entertainer who will live on forever with his work and especially for his unique style of acting and dancing.