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Jeevan: The perfect man to play Narad Muni

For his 101st birth anniversary today (24 October), we take a look why actor Jeevan was best cast as the impish Narad Muni.

Sonal Pandya

Appearing in the ancient Hindu texts Mahabharat and Ramayan, Narad Muni was a Lord Vishnu devotee who is seen as a mischief maker. The popular character was present in many mythological films of the early era of Indian cinema. The actor Jeevan, born Omkar Nath Dhar, ran away at 18 to join the film business in Bombay. Before he became known as one of Hindi cinema’s iconic villains, he essayed the role of Narad Muni in 60 feature film productions, becoming almost synonymous with the role.

Jeevan as Narad Muni in Ganga Maiya (1955)

Even as the films moved away from the mythological period to more realistic plotlines, Jeevan continued his success. He did not become typecast with just that one role. This was a great achievement for the actor who started out as reflector boy in cinema.

He found a way to convert his earlier destructiveness in character as Narad Muni, into a line of iconic villains with a touch of comedy in them. The moment Jeevan appeared in a scene, one knew that he was up to no good.  

Jeevan was noticed by filmmaker Mohan Sinha as a reflector boy alongside future cinematographer Dwarka Divecha on the movie sets of one of his films. Sinha cast him in his film, Fashionable India (1935) as an actor.

But despite leading roles in films like Romantic India (1935) and Forward March (1937), Jeevan transitioned into character roles with Intezar Ke Baad (1947) and Ghar Ki Izzat (1948). He was often seen as the evil landlord or zamindar in films like Naya Daur (1957).

Jeevan as Narad Muni in Har Har Mahadev (1950)

His son, Kiran Kumar, said in an interview, “He should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the role of Narad Muni in more than 60 films. No actor in the history of cinema has played one character so many times.” From the 1940s to the late 1970s, he continued on as Narad Muni.

Watch Jeevan in action as Narad Muni: