Hindi cinema has been studded with exceptional actors and actresses- not all of whom who became stars or superstars. Some of the best actors in the industry were those who chose to make a space for themselves as character artistes. One such artiste was Keshto Mukherjee. For avid Hindi film buffs, his name evokes the image of a funny, lovable drunkard ambling across the screen, confounding himself and sometimes others. Such was his caliber that despite being a strict teetotaler off the screen, Mukherjee pulled of the role with enough elan that audiences could hardly see him as anything else.
A Bengali by birth, Keshto Mukherjee started his career with Ritwik Ghatak’s first film Nagarik (1952). Ritwik Ghatak cast him in a number of his films, including Bari Theke Paliye (1958), Ajantrik (1957) and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (1974).
He was introduced in Hindi cinema by Hrishikesh Mukherjee in his debut venture, Musafir (1957). Throughout the 1960s, Mukherjee appeared in short, steady roles in movies such as Parakh (1960), Aarti (1962), Asli Naqli (1962) and Padosan (1968). It was in Asit Sen’s Maa aur Mamta (1970), that he first played the role of a drunkard which left an indelible mark on Indian audiences. He continued his winning streak in the 1970s, with appearances in blockbusters like Mere Apne (1971), Parichay (1972), Zanjeer (1973), Guddi (1971), Aap Ki Kasam (1974), Chupke Chupke (1975) and Sholay (1975). Keshto was so beloved that a song - Keshto chala - was composed for him in the film Chacha Bhatija (1977) on reportedly Dharmendra's suggestion.
Keshto Mukherjee died in Bombay on March 3 1982. His son Babloo Mukherjee later became a fairly successful comic actor in television.