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Did you know? Bhagwan, brother took part in the freedom movement


Shekhar Sartandel, director of Bhagwan biopic Ekk Albela, reveals some interesting information about the late actor. 

Keyur Seta

Bhagwan Abhaji Palav aka Master Bhagwan aka Bhagwan Dada was India’s first lead actor to dance on screen. He began his career as an actor in action films and went on to become a well-known comedian and a filmmaker, too. But few know he was also a staunch supporter of the freedom movement and took part in the struggle before joining the film industry.

This aspect was brought to light in the Marathi biopic on Bhagwan, titled Ekk Albela, which was released recently. At the start of the film, Bhagwan, whose 103rd birthday was celebrated yesterday, is seen emulating Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha along with a friend. As soon as the two grab a fistful of salt, a police constable chases them off. Later, Bhagwan’s father scolds him for his act. 

Shekhar Sartandel, director of Ekk Albela, learnt about this side of the late actor through his interviews. “He had mentioned in one of his interviews that he was part of the Rashtra Seva Dal. Jayaprakash Narayan was one of its leaders. Almost every youngster was passionate about patriotism then. He went to the salt pans at Sewree. It was like a satyagraha for him. I shot the scene exactly the way he narrated it in the interview. He said when he brought the fistful of salt home, his father slapped him.” 

Sartandel also revealed interesting information about Bhagwan’s brother. “His younger brother Shankar was a cameraman. He also volunteered for the Rashtra Seva Dal despite being part of the film industry. So, there was this patriotic zeal in the family.

"The Dadar-Parel area of Mumbai was very active during the 1930s. My father was in the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and did time in Dongri jail before Independence. So, I had more info related to this from him. He kept some newspaper cuttings too.”

The director had more interesting tidbits about Bhagwan. “There was once a protest rally by the Rashtra Seva Dal which was stopped by the police in Gamdevi. It was a silent and peaceful rally. But in his excitement, Bhagwan Dada hit a police constable. Thankfully, another constable knew Bhagwan Dada’s father, which saved him from being arrested and jailed. Following this, he left the group. At the same time his career in films took off.”

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