Renowned and prolific actor of Gujarati stage and cinema, Upendra Trivedi was also known as Abhinay Samrat due to his brilliant performance in the play of the same name. Said to represent the golden era of Gujarati cinema, he carved a strong profile in the entertainment industry with his skilled and nuanced acting, combined with an understanding of literature. A stage actor, director as well as a producer, he is known for being among the most productive actors in the Gujarati industry. Starting his career in the 1970s, he enjoyed an innings that spanned more than 40 years. His evergreen films include Jesal Toral (1971), Veer Mangdavalo (1977), Navrang Chundadi (1979) and many more. Director of the National Award winning Gujarati film Manvini Bhavai (1993), he was honoured with the Padma Shri award in the year 1989, and was also the recipient of the Pandit Omkarnath Thakur award. An active member in the Gujarat political arena, he had contested the Gujarat legislative assembly election from Bhiloda and won.
Born Upendra Jethalal Trivedi on 14 July, 1936 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, his family originally hailed from Kukadia village near Idar, Gujarat. One of four siblings including two brothers and a sister, he completed his education in Ujjain. Moving to Bombay where he stayed with his elder brother, his early years saw him earn a living as a coolie, and a labourer in an umbrella manufacturing factory when his father who, a mill worker, had suffered a paralytic attack.
During his college years in the city, he acted in several plays. Performing frequently on stage, he started played supporting roles in Gujarati films in order to pay his way through college. Among the early films he acted in are Mehndi Rang Lagyo (1960) and Vanraj Chavdo (1963). He got his major break as a leading man in the 1971 film Jesal Toral (1971). Apparently it was his performance in the Gujarati play Abhinay Samrat, in which he played seven different roles, which inspired director Ravindra Dave to cast him for Jesal Toral. He essayed the role of Jadeja in the film, which shot him to stardom. The film is considered the ‘Sholay’ (1975) of Gujarati cinema as it set several landmarks. Besides being commercially successful and critically acclaimed, it began the trend of films based on local lore, also infusing new life in Gujarati cinema.
Featuring in several Gujarati films, he also acted in Hindi films such as Jungal Mein Mangal (1972), Pavitra Papi (1970), Parde Ke Pichhe (1971), and Nagina (1986) along with his brother Arvind Trivedi in a negative role.
He also went on to direct several Gujarati films, chief among which is the 1993 film Manvini Bhava. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Gujarati author, Pannalal Patel. It revolved around the famine of Vikram Samvat 1956 (1900 AD), which resulted in difficult times for people, with many dying of starvation. The film earned the National Award. He also produced and directed Jher To Peedhan Jani Jani (1972), based on the Manubhai Pancholi-penned novel of the same name. Convinced, he went ahead with his productions despite the risk of financial viability, going on to create landmark films based on Gujarati literary masterpieces.
Stepped into politics in the 1980s, he contested and won elections in 1985 and 1990 with an Indian National Congress ticket, and in 1998 as an independent candidate to Gujarat Legislative Assembly from Bhiloda. He served as the deputy speaker of the assembly from 31 March, 2000 to 19 July, 2002.
He also penned his autobiography - Upendra Trivedi: Atmakathan ane Anya Aalekh.
Married and the father of two, his younger brother, well-known actor Arvind Trivedi, had played Ravana in the Hindi epic TV serial, Ramayana.
Upendra Trivedi passed away on 4 January, 2015 following respiratory arrest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled his demise, writing, “An inspiring personality who won hearts both on and off the screen.”