Still remembered for his idiosyncratic voice and style of delivery, Radhakishan Mehra was a comedian-villain who played the miser on the Hindi screen to perfection. Radhakishan was born on 13 June 1915 in Delhi. Hoping to become an actor, he joined the Prabhat Film Company. While there, he met the writer Pandit Mukhram Sharma, who liked him so much that he began to add roles tailored to fit Radhakishan to every movie script he wrote.
Radhakishan debuted as a villain in the V. Shantaram directed Padosi (1941). His co-stars were Mazhar Khan, Gajanan Jagirdar and Anees Khatoon. In 1947, he appeared in the film Geet Govind (1947) alongside Leela Desai, Sulochana Chatterjee and Prem Adib. In the same year, he was also cast in Shehnai (1947) by P.L. Santoshi, in which Rehana, Indumati and Nasir Khan played the lead roles. Following this, he became a regular in Santoshi’s films like Khidki (1948), Sargam (1950), Apni Chhaya (1950), Chham Chhama Chham (1952) and Nirala (1950).
Radhakishan was a great friend of the actor Dev Anand and appeared in a number of his early films. He played Paltu Pandey in Nirala, Gangu Telli in Ek Ke Baad Ek (1960), and the inebriated Shankar in Sharabi (1964). His role as Gangu Telli in Ek Ke Baad Ek earned him great praise. In the Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala starrer Naya Daur (1957), Radhakishan appeared onscreen alongside Jeevan. He played Kishore Kumar’s comic sidekick in Mehboob Productions’ Paisa Hi Paisa (1956).
Radhakishan’s best-remembered role was as the kind-hearted but miserly shopkeeper in Mohan Segal’s New Delhi (1956). Over the next decade, he continued to act in films like Begunah (1957), Parvarish (1958), Sadhna (1958), Chhoti Bahen (1959), Muqaddar (1950), Sangeeta (1950), Baiju Bawra (1952), Aulad (1954), Vachan (1955), Singapore (1960), Shriman Satyawadi (1960), Krorepati (1961) and Banarsi Thug (1962). While in Parvarish (1958) we saw him playing a comic-villain, in Sadhna (1958) he played the role of a crafty neighbour really well.
Apart from being an actor, Radhakishan was a writer as well. Having enjoyed a fair amount of success in his roles as comics and villains, he decided to try his hand at production. He produced the film Amar Rahe Ye Pyar (1961), starring Rajendra ‘Jubilee’ Kumar, Nalini Jaywant and Nanda. Nalini Jaywant’s second husband, Prabhudayal, also co-produced and directed the film. The film ran into some trouble with the censors due to some song lyrics penned by Kavi Pradeep. They were possibly thought to be too radical in their implications. The film ended up being delayed, and when it was released, it flopped at the box office.
Radhakishan passed away on 18 March 1960 after completing shooting for the film Ek Ke Baad Ek (1960). The producer of the film, Raj Rishi, also a close friend of Radhakishan, put an obituary message in the film's credits, "This picture is dedicated to the fond memory of my great friend and great artist Radhakishan who is no more with us." In the same year in May, producer Tarachand Barjatya announced a Trophy in his name to be awarded to the Best Comedian of the Year.
His recognizable voice and dialogue delivery lived on, however, and his last film Sharabi was released four years after his death in 1964.