indian cinema heritage foundation

"Teri Duniya Se Door Chale Hoke Majboor" - Mahipal

10 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Mahipal. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Apart from being famous for its forts and palaces and stories of great heroism and valor, the land of Rajasthan also attracts people for its rich cultural heritage. Hindi Cinema too has not remained untouched by its rich art and music. Since the advent of talkies, artists from Rajasthan have been an integral part of Hindi Cinema. Artists like Khemchand Prakash, Pandit Indra, Pandit Bharat Vyas, B.M. Vyas, Pandit Shivram, Jamal Sen, Basant Prakash, Mubarak Begum and many others have given immense contribution in the field of cinema. Among these was an actor named Mahipal, who created an identity of his own in the era of giants like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor & Dev Anand and became a super star in mythological and fantasy films.

During our meeting at his Marine Drive residence, Mahipal openly discussed about various aspects of his life. Mahipal Bhandari was born in a rich Oswal Jain household on 24th December 1919 in Jodhpur. He was just six years old when his mother passed away. Since his father's business was based in Kolkata, Mahipal was raised by his grandfather in their native city, Jodhpur. His grandfather had keen interest in painting and poetry; this influenced young Mahipal to a great extent. According to Mahipal, he first faced the stage when he was in his 4th grade. He had participated in a play called Abhimanyu and won the best actor for mono-acting. Later he actively participated in his school and collage cultural programs. 
 

Mahipal. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mahipal said “My mathematics professor and poet Harnam Dass Seth, observed my good hold over the language. He encouraged me and under his guidance I started writing poems. In 1937, I attended a Kavi Sammelan held in Udaypur. When I read my poem Jo Jag Ko Ann Pradan Kare written about the plight of farmers. Poet Pandit Sohanlal Dwivedi, who was present on stage hugged me in appreciation.
Mahipal said “My mathematics professor and poet Harnam Dass Seth, observed my good hold over the language. He encouraged me and under his guidance I started writing poems. In 1937, I attended a Kavi Sammelan held in Udaypur. When I read my poem Jo Jag Ko Ann Pradan Kare written about the plight of farmers. Poet Pandit Sohanlal Dwivedi, who was present on stage hugged me in appreciation. In 1990, the same poem was read by judge and then MP Gumanmal Lodha in the Parliament and has been included in the Parliamentary Records.”
 
Mahipal. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mahipal recalled that a huge crowd had turned out in front of G.P. Kapoor and Pessi Billimoria for auditions. Mahipal's childhood friend, Kailash took him to meet G.P. Kapoor, where Mahipal was chosen for the leading role while Kailash was chosen for a supporting role. Kailash was the elder brother of actor Om Shivpuri.
In the beginning of 1940s, G.P. Kapoor, music director for Minerva Movietone and Sohrab Modi's assistant Pessi Billimoria came to Jodhpur looking for new faces. The films producer Seth Anand Bihari Lal Khandelwal hailing from Lucknow was a close friend of G.P. Kapoor while Pessi Billimoria was the director. Mahipal recalled that a huge crowd had turned out in front of G.P. Kapoor and Pessi Billimoria for auditions. Mahipal's childhood friend, Kailash took him to meet G.P. Kapoor, where Mahipal was chosen for the leading role while Kailash was chosen for a supporting role. Kailash was the elder brother of actor Om Shivpuri.
 
Mahipal in Alibaba Aur 40 Chor. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
"All our relatives were against the idea of someone from the Bhandari clan singing and dancing onscreen but my grandfather was by my side."
Mahipal said, “In those days my BA result was just out. I was appointed by the film company at a monthly salary of Rs 125/-, which was a hefty amount then. I was very apprehensive when I informed my grandfather about the same but to my surprise he happily gave me permission to work in the film. All our relatives were against the idea of someone from the Bhandari clan singing and dancing onscreen but my grandfather was by my side. As per contract we first went to Lucknow where we rehearsed for a month and then the entire film unit reached Pune for the shoot. But due to some misunderstanding between G.P. Kapoor and Pessi Billimoria, G.P. Kapoor took the charge of direction. Even the leading lady was changed and now Anuradha stepped in the place of Swarnlata

For one of the scenes thousands of lamps were lit and total 56 manns of oil was burnt. Due to the increasing budget producer Seth Anand Bihari Lal Khandelwal was conveying his displeasure to G.P. Kapoor. I unnecessarily jumped in between and said, Radha required 9 manns of oil but here the heroine is Anuradha (reference: Hindi saying – na nau mann tel hoga na Radha nachegi).  As a result, Seth Anand Bihari Lal Khandelwals focus shifted from G.P. Kapoor to me and I had to face his wrath.”
 
Banwasi (1948). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mahipal faced difficult times on reaching Mumbai. Then one day he met director Chaturbhuj Doshi through writer Pandit Indra who gave him the role of Kamdev in his film Shankar Parvati.
This bilingual, released as Nazrana in Hindi and Nijrano in Marwadi in 1942 was a flop. As a result, Mahipal lost his job. He then decided to move to Mumbai. Mahipal faced difficult times on reaching Mumbai. Then one day he met director Chaturbhuj Doshi through writer Pandit Indra who gave him the role of Kamdev in his film Shankar Parvati. This film made under the banner of Ranjit Movietone was released in 1943. Mahipal was paid Rs 400/- for this role. Around the same time Mahipal met V. Shantaram who gave him a job in Rajkamal Kalamandir at a monthly salary of Rs. 100/-.

In the film Maali (1944) produced by Rajkamal Kalamandir, Mahipal not only played the part of Lord Vishnu but also wrote the title song Hum to bhole bhaale maali which was composed by Master Krishna Rao. During his tenure in Rajkamal Kalamandir he helped other actors with their Hindi diction, worked as an assistance to actress Nanda's father Master Vinayak and played the leading man in Andhon Ki Duniya (1947) and Banwasi (1948).
 
Aapki Sewa Me (1947). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
The film Aapki Sewa Me is also remembered for being Lata Mangeshkar’s first Hindi film as a playback singer. The thumri Paa lagoon kar jori re, written by Mahipal, composed by Datta Dawjekar and picturized on actress Rohini Bhate was Lata Mangeshkar’s first Hindi playback song.
Around the same time Mahipal wrote eight songs for Aapki Sewa Me (1947) made under the banner of Chandrama Pictures. The film Aapki Sewa Me is also remembered for being Lata Mangeshkar’s first Hindi film as a playback singer. The thumri Paa lagoon kar jori re, written by Mahipal, composed by Datta Dawjekar and picturized on actress Rohini Bhate was Lata Mangeshkar’s first Hindi playback song.

Mahipal said “When my salary did not increase even after working in the company for three and half years, I went ahead and signed two films Narasinh Avatar and Daulat made under Sohrab Modi’s banner Minerva Movietone and quit my job in Rajkamal Kalamandir. Madhubala was my leading lady in Daulat and both these films were released in 1949. The films did average business but I was left unemployed again. On the other side both my grandfather and father passed away within a year. My wife was staying in Jodhpur and it was not possible to bring her to Mumbai then, so I left her in the custody of my uncle and came back to Mumbai to find work.”
 
Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp (1952). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Suddenly one day producer-director Homi Wadia called Mahipal and signed him for the role of Lord Krishna in his next film Ganesh Mahima to be produced under his banner Basant Pictures. Meena Kumari was the leading lady.
Suddenly one day producer-director Homi Wadia called Mahipal and signed him for the role of Lord Krishna in his next film Shri Ganesh Mahima to be produced under his banner Basant Pictures. Meena Kumari was the leading lady. This film released in 1950 was a jubilee hit and helped Mahipal achieve star status in mythological films. The onscreen pair of Mahipal and Meena Kumari gave big hits like Hanuman Patal Vijay, Laxmi Narayan (both 1951) and Aladdin Aur Jadui Chiraag (1952) made under the banner of Basant Pictures. Thus, apart from mythologicals, Mahipal got busy with fantasy films as well.
 
Laxmi Narayan (1951). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mahipal said, “My mythological films in East Asian Countries like Cambodia, Java-Sumatra and my fantasy films in Middle-East and Gulf countries were highly appreciated."
Mahipal said, “My mythological films in East Asian Countries like Cambodia, Java-Sumatra and my fantasy films in Middle-East and Gulf countries were highly appreciated. One day V. Shantaram called me, narrated the story of his next film and asked me how much will you charge to play the leading role? I said ‘You are the one who gave my career the right direction, what more can I ask for, just give 1 Rupee, 25 Paise and a coconut. That film was Navrang (1959) which was in the making for a year and has left a permanent mark in the history of Hindi cinema.”
 
Navrang (1959). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
His career was at its peak in the mid-1960s. With passage of time towards the end of 1970s, viewers started losing interest in mythological and fantasy films. In such times Mahipal preferred to retire from acting rather than doing small insignificant roles.
According to Mahipal, in a career spanning almost four decades he had participated in 130 films and among them in 108 films he played the leading man. In mythological films usually his leading ladies were Meena Kumari, Anita Guha or Nirupa Roy while in fantasy films he usually co-starred with Shakila, Chitra or Shyama. His career was at its peak in the mid-1960s. With passage of time towards the end of 1970s, viewers started losing interest in mythological and fantasy films. In such times Mahipal preferred to retire from acting rather than doing small insignificant roles. Ganga Sagar (1978) and Badrinath Dham (1980) were among his last films.

By then both his daughters were married. He lived with his wife at his Marine Drive flat. Post retirement Mahipal mostly spent his time in reading and writing. He was extremely fond of going for long walks and would almost cover 8-10 Kilometers every day. That’s why he remained physically and mentally fit till the end. On 15th May 2005, Mahipal had returned from his morning walk when he suddenly passed away at the age of 86.

Its almost 8 years since Mahipal passed away but his memories are still fresh among the viewers of the golden age of Hindi cinema.


Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series.

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