14 June 1920: Bharat Bhushan, Indian actor, was born

Bharat Bhushan, a Hindi film actor known for his sensitive portrayals of musicians and poets in several films of the 1950s and 1960s, was born on 14 June 1920 in Meerut(in present-day Uttar Pradesh).

After his mother’s death when he was two years old, he was brought up in Aligarh.

An interest in acting took him later to Calcutta and Bombay. Bhushan made his debut in a supporting role in the 1941 film Chitralekha, which also starred Meena Kumari.

In the next decade he found limited success in films like Suhaag Raat (1948), where he is the object of affection of two women; Aankhen (1950), where he plays a sacrificial lover; and the 1952 Maa, the first Bombay Talkies film of director Bimal Roy. A melodrama, Maa also starred Leela Chitnis and Shyama.

In 1952 came the landmark film Baiju Bawra with Bharat Bhushan in the lead — and it brought him instant fame. The film was loosely based on the story of Baiju Bawra who, as legend goes, was the son of a musician and believed that Tansen, the great musician at emperor Akbar’s court, was responsible for the death of his father. A musician himself, Baiju Bawra’s aim in life is to avenge his father’s death. He eventually challenges Tansen to a musical duel.

Writing about the importance of Baiju Bawra and Bhushan’s role in Indian cinema, Shaikh Ayaz wrote in Open magazine in April 2012: “Before Ranbir Kapoor became a symbol of the archetypical artiste slaving to his craft at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, it was Bharat Bhushan who, as it happened, set the precedent 60 years ago….Bharat Bhushan was earmarked for the role of Baiju because he had the face of a tragic musician, an image that refused to leave him all his life, driving him to reprise the same kind of role over and over again.”

Bhushan played the role of the legendary 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib in the 1954 film by the same name. The film, also starring the singer-actress Suraiya, won the National Film award for best film and Bhushan began to be identified as an actor best suited to play the role of a musician. In the next five years he acted in films like Shabaab, Kavi Kalidas, Pardesi, Champakali, Samrat Chandragupt and Barsaat Ki Raat.

However, in the 1960s he was already a fading star — though he continued to act in bit roles till as late as 1990.

Bhushan married Sharadha, the daughter of a landlord from Lucknow. After her death in the 1960s, he married Ratna, who was paired opposite him in Barsaat Ki Raat. When Bharat Bhushan died on 27 January 1992 he was reportedly in a dire financial state.

Looking back at the life and work of Bharat Bhushan, the film critic Dinesh Raheja wrote in rediff.com in April 2003: “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. 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.”


Also on this day:

1955 — Kirron Kher, Indian theatre and film actress and Bharatiya Janata Party MP, was born

1960 — Shekhar Suman, Indian film actor and television personality, was born 

1967 — Kumar Mangalam Birla, Indian industrialist and chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, was born 

1968 — Raj Thackeray, founder and president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, was born

2010 — Manohar Malgonkar, Indian author of fiction and nonfiction, passed away  

2011 — Asad Ali Khan, Indian classical musician and rudra veena maestro, passed away

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