His Life: From Rags to Riches to Rags
- Year 1913 – Born in Mumbai.
- Year 1938 – Co-directed his first film Bahadur Kisan.
- Year 1941 – Made a Tamil film Vana Mohini.
- Year 1947 – Opened Jagriti Studios in Chembur, Mumbai.
- Year 1951 – Made super-hit film Albela.
- Year 2002 – Died due to a heart attack.
- Year 2016 – A Marathi biographic film Ekk Albela was made on his life.
Bhagwan Dada was a Maharashtra born Bollywood actor and director, best known for his acting and dancing in the film Albela (1951). He was neither good-looking nor young yet he had a charisma, which fascinated the people he met.
He was born on August 1, 1913 in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra and was named Bhagwan Abhaji Palav. Bhagwan Dada’s father was a textile mill worker. He spent most of his childhood near the labor areas of Parel and Dadar in a very poor condition. He was always obsessed with the films and became an admirer of silent films. He started worshiping Master Vithal who was the star of that time. He used to imitate the stunts of his hero. After fourth standard, he had to leave studies due to financial problems and started doing odd jobs. He joined a gym and built muscles after that.
Bhagwan Dada was fond of Chevrolet cars and had the opportunity to taste the luxury during his peak years. He used to own a fleet of seven cars. Bhagwan Dada has a daughter and a son (who works as a sound recordist). He rose to fame and went bankrupt. His personal life has been very tragic. During the later years of his life, he received many honors and many awards like Shanta Hublikar Award for the lifetime contribution to cinema and a souvenir from the state culture Minister, Mr. Pramod Navalkar.
Due to his love for wrestling, he bagged a role in the silent film Criminal. In the year 1938, he co-directed his first film Bahadur Kisan with Pawar. After that, he directed a bunch of low budget movies for some time. He also made a Tamil film Vana Mohini in 1941. In 1942, he decided to try his hands on producing films and so he opened Jagriti Studios in Chembur in 1947. Raj Kapoor used to regularly visit his studio and became a good friend with him. He suggested Bhagwan Dada to give up muscular roles and try his hands on social films.
The advice worked and Bhagwan Dada made Albela starring Geeta Bali, both the film and the song Shola jo bhadke became iconic. With the same formula, he tried to create magic in his next film Jhamela (1953), but this time the movie flopped miserably. After that, he gave another flop film Sehme Hue Sapne. Bhagwan Dada started the film Hanste Rehna with Kishore Kumar, but halfway through Kumar backed out of the film and the project had to be shelved. Bhagwan Dada had to go through bankruptcy as he had invested all his money in the movie. He had to sell his luxurious Juhu Bungalow and his collection of cars and moved to a chawl in Dadar.
After failing in movie making, he had to live an ordinary life. He didn’t got any lead roles in the films. He started accepting any roles he could. Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje and Chori Chori are the only memorable work of his struggling period. All his friends in the film industry left him at the time of need apart from C. Ramchandra, Om Prakash, and lyricist Rajinder Krishan, who used to visit him in his chawl. On February 4, 2002, he died in his chawl due to a massive heart attack. In 2016, a Marathi biography film Ekk Albela was made on his life starring Mangesh Desai and Vidya Balan.