A prominent director of the silent era in Indian cinema, Naval Gandhi was born in Karachi in 1897. He completed his graduation from Ahmedabad in 1919, and went on a European study tour soon after.
In 1923, he joined Ardeshir Irani’s Majestic Film Company. He worked as a director in the company for a while. His most successful film for the Majestic Film Company was Paap No Fej (1924) which he co-directed with Ardeshir Irani.
Later, he started working at Orient Pictures Corporation where he made one of the most well-known films of the silent era, Balidan (1927). Balidan was an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s play Bisarjan. Highly acclaimed, it was said that Balidan was one of the films of the silent era that lived up to western standards of filmmaking. The Indian Cinematograph Committee in 1927 hailed it as ‘an excellent and a truly Indian film’. The film was widely praised for its technical soundness as well for its advancement in adapting a literary work. Balidan starred a number of famous names of the silent era like Master Vitthal, Sulochana, Zubeida and Sultana.
Balidan marked the beginning of the partnership between Naval Gandhi and Zubeida. Gandhi went on to direct Zubeida in most of his films for Orient Pictures and Kohinoor United Artists like Devdasi (1930), Veer Rajput (1930), Nadira (1931) and Diwani Duniya (1931). The last film Naval Gandhi directed was the talkie Shikaari in 1932. Shikari was the only sound film he directed in his career.
During World War II, he worked at the Directorate of Services Kinematography, the film wing of the armed forces during the war where he produced P.V. Pathy’s documentaries. After the war, in the early 50s he started working as a sales executive for General Radio and Appliances Ltd., Bombay. Not much is known about him after his stint as a sales executive.
Sadly, most of his work as well as his name have been lost in the quagmire of time.
Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Paul Willemen. “Gandhi, Naval.” Encyclopaedia Of Indian Cinema, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 96–97.
“Balidan (Sacrifice), 1927, 108 Mins.” Film Heritage Foundation, 30 Aug. 2014, http://filmheritagefoundation.co.in/balidan-sacrifice-1927-108-mins/.
“India's Top 10 Lost Films - Compiled by P.K. Nair.” Film Heritage Foundation, 30 Aug. 2014, http://filmheritagefoundation.co.in/indias-top-10-lost-films-compiled-by-p-k-nair/.
“Asian Film Directory and Who's Who.” Google Books, Google, https://books.google.de/books?id=0wY6AQAAIAAJ&q="Gandhi,+Naval"&dq="Gandhi,+Naval"&hl=de&sa=X&ei=s4EXUvb6GaTG4gTqkYCwBQ.