Prolific film director and producer of the early era of Indian cinema, Jayant Desai is known for films such as Sitamgarh (1934), College Kanya (1935), Tansen (1943) and Amber (1952). Beginning in the silent period of Hindi films in the 1930s, he went on to direct through the decades, till the 1960s. He has more than 70 films to his credit as a director. Credited as the producer of Zaban (1943) and Miss Mala (1954), he also penned the screenplay for Sitamgarh, College Kanya, and Tansen.
Born on 28 February 1909 in Surat, Bombay presidency, he graduated from the University of Bombay. He went on to join Ranjit Studios in 1929. He initially worked as an assistant director to Chandulal Shah and Nandlal Jaswantlal, assisting the latter on Pahadi Kanya (1930). His first independent directorial work was the 1930 film Noor-e-Watan. An action film that translated as ‘Glory of the Nation’, it starred Inamdar and Sultana. Some of the films he directed at Ranjit Film Company include Do Badmash (1932) featuring India’s Laurel & Hardy – Ghory and Dixit; Char Chakram (1932) and Bhutio Mahal (1932). His directorial Toofani Toli (1937) was a commercial success and earned him a reputation as a director of comedy films.
One of his best-known works came in 1943, with his directorial Tansen. A historical film, it was based on the life of the 16th century classical musician who was one of the navratnas at the court of Mughal emperor Akbar. The film featured 13 hit songs, including More balapan ke saathi, Rum jhum rum jhum chal tihari, Kahe guman kare gori, Bina pankh ka panchhi, Diya jalao and Baag laga doon sajni. It was the second highest-grossing Indian film of the year.
In 1943, he left Ranjit Studios to found his own production company - Jayant Desai Productions. In the 1960s, he founded Jupiter Films and Hemlata Pictures. Zaban, his production of 1943, was a drama that starred Master Bhagwan, Dixit, and Ishwarlal. His production Miss Mala revolved around a psychiatrist Dr Miss Mala who protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory. Based on Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), it starred Kishore Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, and Agha.
His later films as director include the family drama Shaan (1950) starring Rehman Khan, Suraiya, and Amar; Naya Rasta (1953) starring Manher Desai, Bipin Gupta, and Nirupa Roy; Basant Panchami (1956) starring Jeevan Dhar, Anand Kumar, and Nirupa Roy; Hamara Watan (1956) starring Agha, Jagdish Kanwal, and Kumkum; Laxmi Pooja (1957) starring Jeevan Dhar, Shahu Modak, and Minoo Mumtaz; and the drama film Zamana Badal Gaya (1961) starring Helen, Iftekhar, and Naina.
Jayant Desai passed away on 19 April 1976 in Bombay. He was 67.
Image courtesy: https://www.cinestaan.com/people/jayant-desai-173