indian cinema heritage foundation

Boman Shroff


“Boman Shroff, the biggest daredevil I have ever met. He would do anything for a dare – a real Irani! Once he jumped off the top of Tata Palace into a moving car for a shot!” filmmaker Homi Wadia would thus describe the popular actor and stuntman of the silent and the early talkie eras of Indian cinema. In fact, Shroff is even credited onscreen as ‘Dare Devil Boman Shroff’ in the film The Storm of Tarzan (1937). Shroff largely collaborated with the Wadia brothers—popular for their stunt-filled action adventure films—as an actor and also a writer. Other films he acted in include Lal-E-Yaman (1933), Diamond Queen (1940), Hind Ka Lal (1940), Flying Prince (1946), and Tigress (1948). Venturing into direction, he is also known for directing Toofani Tirandaz (1947) and Sher Dil (1954), and also for penning films such as Sher-E-Baghdad (1946), Toofani Tirandaz (1947), Maya Mahal (1949), and Jungle Ka Jawahar (1953). 

On the monthly payroll of JBH Wadia and Homi Wadia's movie production houses, in the mid-1930s, he came to prominence when he starred in the Wadia brothers’ populist action films. He starred in Wadia Movietone’s 1935 production Hunterwali, opposite Fearless Nadia which was a big hit. As JBH Wadia recalled, “The film was an instant success. It cost about 2 lakhs. It was offered to the distributor Kapurchand twice but he turned it down. It ultimately grossed more than five times that amount.” 

The film also became a career-defining film for everyone involved including Irani, who played the male lead. The action-adventure film directed by Homi Wadia, told the story of a princess who fights injustice as the masked crusader Hunterwali (‘lady with the whip’). She combines forces with Irani’s character, Jaswant, to together fight the evil vizier Ranamal and defeat him.

Prior to Hunterwali, Shroff had featured in early silent films such as Challenge (1929) directed by B P Misra, co-starring Ermeline and Eddie Billimoria; the Dada Gunjal-directed Vijeta (1930); Ran Hak (1931) directed by Saki; and JBH Wadia’s Sinh Garjna (1932) also featuring Padma and Sayani Atish.

In the 1933 Oriental fantasy film Lal-E-Yaman derived from classic Parsi theatre, he played a character called Apeman. The film, starring Jal Khambata, Karimja, and Padmadevi, revolved around Prince Parviz, the true heir to the Yemeni throne, and his fight to regain his legacy.

In 1947, he directed Toofani Tirandaz, an action-adventure film that he also wrote. It starred Fearless Nadia, Prakash and Sayani Atish, with Shroff himself playing a character named Dr Natthoo. 

Sherdil (1954) was his next directorial, again an action-adventure starring Shree Bhagwan, John Cavas, Dalpat and Fearless Nadia. 

Among the films that he wrote, Sher-E-Baghdad (1946) was directed by Homi Wadia. It starred John Cavas, Fearless Nadia and Sayani Atish. He had penned the story of the action-adventure Toofani Tirandaz which he also directed. Maya Mahal, the 1949 release which he penned, was directed by K Talpade. It starred Fearless Nadia as Princess Prema, John Cavas as Vijay Singh and Dalpat as King Roop Singh. Jungle Ka Jawahar, the 1953 film that he wrote, was an adventure film also directed by Homi Wadia, featuring Fearless Nadia, John Cavas and Dalpat