Bharat Bhushan may have never been a swashbuckling hero, but he
was just right as the sensitive, suffering poet-musician in
several hit musicals in the fifties and sixties, writes Dinesh
Born on 14
June 1920 in to a Baniya family at Meerut, Uttar
Raibahadur Motilal, was the government pleader of Meerut.
His mother died when he was two years old.
brother was film producer R. Chandra, who owned the
Ideal Studio at Lucknow.
left for Aligarh to stay with their grandfather after
their mother’s death.
He did his
studies and took a graduate degree from Aligarh.
he took to acting against his father’s wishes. He first
went to Calcutta to join cinema and later established
himself in Bombay.
Bharat Bhushan in 1952, Baiju Bawra that made him a
star, after a decade of trying to make it big.
It is difficult to
imagine any other actor in Bhushan roles (Baiju Bawra, Mirza
Ghalib, Basant Bahar, Kavi Kalidas, Barsaat Ki Raat and Sangeet
Samraat Tansen), where he portrayed an artiste who was at odds
with a cruel world but still retained a song on his lips.
Bhushan’s films were
often extravagant tragedies.
offscreen life also underwent many upheavals wherein he lost his
wife, stardom and faced diminishing fame and fortune.
Stardom knocked on
Bharat Bhushan’s door only after he had struggled for over a
He began his career
in his early twenties, with a supporting role in the
controversial Chitralekha (1941).
But director Kidar
Sharma and heroine Mehtab got most of the attention for the
Bhushan had to wait
till the end of the decade for Sharma’s Suhaag Raat (1948) to
pull his career out of the basement.
After the young and
genial Bhushan had successfully played the bone of contention
between two strong women, Geeta Bali and Begum Para, in Suhaag
Raat, he was signed for several medium-budget films.
Bharat Bhushan and Madhubala in a still from Barsaat Ki
The most notable of
these were Devendra Goel’s directorial debut Aankhen (1950),
where Bhushan plays a martyr and sacrifices his love for Nalini
Jaywant when he realises his brother is also in love with her;
and Bimal Roy’s first Bombay Talkies film, Maa (1952).
At this stage,
veteran filmmaker Vijay Bhatt was casting for his ambitious
project, Baiju Bawra (1952).
shrugged off star names like Dilip Kumar and Nargis and insisted
on relative newcomers.
Baiju Bawra became a
golden jubilee hit and established two new stars: Meena Kumari
and Bharat Bhushan.
Bhushan’s image as an actor of ‘note.’
In Baiju Bawra,
Bhushan played a gifted but obsessed musician propelled by twin
compulsions - a desire to extract revenge on court musician
Tansen, which he achieves through his music and a deep love for
his village sweetheart Gauri.
In an age of heroes
with slicked back hair, Bhushan’s unruly mop and simple
demeanour caught the attention of women in the audience; his
ability to convey anguish went down well with the masses.
much help from Naushad’s classical raga-based artistry and
Mohammad Rafi’s vocals as he became the screen face of evergreen
numbers like O duniya ke rakhwale, Man tadpat Hari darshan ko
aaj and Tu Ganga ki mauj.
1954 Filmfare Awards: Bollywood actor David receives the
Best Supporting Actor award; Meena Kumari, the Best Actress
award for her brilliant performance in ‘Parineeta’; Bharat
Bhushan got the Best Actor award for his role in ‘Shri Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu’ and Usha Kiron the Best Supporting Actress award.
Riding the crest of
success, the star-director team of Baiju Bawra collaborated once
again for Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1953), for which Bhushan
bagged the Filmfare Best Actor Award.
Sohrab Modi’s Mirza
Ghalib (1954) saw Bhushan playing a poet (the eponymous Ghalib)
whose wife and lover were played by Nigar Sultana and Suraiya
respectively; in Basant Bahar (1956), he played a singer once
intended to rival Baiju Bawra.
It had the same
initials and was a musical success, with songs like Duniya na
bhaye mohe, Bhay bhajana vandana sun and Sur na saje picturised
One of the
second-tier stars of the 1950s, after the Raj Kapoor-Dilip
Kumar-Dev Anand triumvirate, Bhushan’s list of leading ladies
included Meena Kumari, Nargis and Nutan.
pairing with Madhubala began with his cameo in the Madhubala-centric
Gateway Of India, escalated with the success of the musical,
Phagun, and reached its peak with Barsaat Ki Raat.
extremely convincing as he wooed her with such Sahir Ludhianvi
gems as Mere sheron se bhi tum mujhko haseen lagti ho (You look
more beautiful than my couplets to me).
Baiju Bawra (1952) gave Bharat Bhushan instant stardom
and legendary status along with Mohammad Rafi, Meena Kumari and
He married into a
prominent family in Meerut, Zamindar Raibahadur Budha Prakash’s
They had two
daughters, Anuradha and Aparijitha.
polio-associated complications. Sharadha died of labour
complications after delivering their second child in the early
1960s, soon after the film Barsaat Ki Raat.
In 1967, he married
actress Ratna, his co-star in the movie Barsaat Ki Raat.
Bhushan was willing
to work with a variety of directors like K A Abbas (Gyarah
Hazaar Ladkiyaan) and director-composer S N Tripathi (Bhushan
played the music-obsessed protagonist in his Rani Roopmati, Kavi
Kalidas and Sangeet Samraat Tansen, which yielded a rich haul of
The 1960s began well
for Bhushan with Barsaat Ki Raat and the ensemble hit, Ghunghat
(opposite Bina Rai), but there were several younger heroes on
the scene now.
In 1964, his
ambitious colour starrers like Jahan Ara (opposite Mala Sinha)
and Dooj Ka Chand (opposite B Saroja Devi) failed to break the
Bhushan’s career was
clearly on the wane.
His stint as the
older man began on a hopeful note with Rajshri’s Taqdeer (1967),
but the film failed to recreate the Dosti (Sushil Kumar, Sanjay
Khan, Sujit Kumar) magic for its producers.
Nasir Hussain’s Pyar
Ka Mausam (1969) had a decent role for Bhushan as the estranged
father of protagonist Shashi Kapoor.
Realising his acting
days were drawing to a close, Bhushan planned to direct a film
with Manoj Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in the late 1960s, but the
project fell through.
The 1970s were not
kind to Bhushan -it was a pathos-laden comment on the transient
nature of fame to see a star of his stature reduced to doing bit
roles in inconsequential films.
Bharat Bhushan owned
bungalows in Bandra, Bombay and other areas.
He was an avid
reader and boasted of his collection of books, which he often
had to sell off like his cars and bungalows in the bad times.
His is a classic
riches to rags story where the actor lost almost all his wealth,
so much so that he started living in a chawl.
He died when he
managed to finally get rid of his financial crisis, on January