New Delhi: One of the finest actors of Hindi cinema, Bharat Bhushan was an artist who was totally consumed by his craft. He was the romantic heart throb of the 1950s whose good looks and charm endeared him to women.
The 1950s were ruled by larger than life personas such as Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar, but yet Bhushan was able to carve out a niche for himself. His quiet, regal demeanour combined with his good looks and a penchant for playing tragic characters contributed to his entire persona.
He acted in over 30 films in his career and had been a part of several extraordinary and timeless movies such as Baiju Bawra (1952), Anand Math (1952), Mirza Ghalib (1954) and Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh (1960), among others.
But, his life also bears testament to the fact that fame and popularity are transient as a star of his stature was later forced to do minor roles in films to make ends meet.
Bhushan was born in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, in 1920. His father was a lawyer and Bhushan, too, was expected to take up the same profession. However, after finishing his studies from Aligarh, Bhushan moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) to become an actor.
In 1941, he made his debut with Chitralekha. This was the beginning of Bhushan’s 10-year-long struggle before his first commercial success Baiju Bawra in 1952 opposite Meena Kumari.
The movie catapulted him to his most successful professional decade during which he acted in hit movies such as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1954) for which he won a Filmfare award in 1955, and Barsaat ki Raat (1960) for which he is recognised the most.
He was famous for playing out-of-luck poets and musicians in his movies — Baiju Bawra and Barsaat ki Raat are the most popular among them.
Baiju Bawra was a breakthrough film for Bhushan. He played the role of a musician who challenged ‘Tansen’ to a musical duel to avenge his father’s death.
According to Scroll, “In his celluloid avatar, he melted marble with the ardour of his music, wooed the ascetic guru Swami Haridas with Man Tarpat in Malkauns, and romanced Meena Kumari with Tu Ganga ki Mauj in Bhairavi.”
Bhushan was able to showcase his strength with this movie — his ability to successfully translate a character’s pathos on screen. Baiju Bawra’s most popular song ‘O Duniya ke Rakhwale’ is a perfect example of Bhushan’s acting prowess. With Mohammed Rafi singing ‘O duniya ke rakhwale sun dard bhare mere nale,’ Bhushan deftly translated the despair and angst of Baiju on screen.
In Barsaat ki Raat, Bhushan was paired opposite Madhubala in a tale of love nestled between qawwali and ghazals. He also co-wrote the movie. It is in this movie that Bhushan’s natural charm comes through, showcasing an affinity towards playing a romantic lead. The movie was known for its music — music director Roshan and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi produced evergreen hits such as ‘Na to karvaan ki talash hai’.
This movie was also special for Bhushan as he met his second wife, Ratna, on the sets. Bhushan’s daughter, Aparajita, was also an actor and is best known for playing Ravana’s wife Mandodari in the popular 1986 TV show Ramayan.
Bhushan worked with several significant actresses of his time — Geeta Bali (Suhaag Raat), Nirupa Roy (Aurat Teri Yahi Kahani), Nargis (Saagar) and Madhubala (Phagun). He was also part of an ensemble in the movie Ghunghat (1960) that featured Bina Rai, Pradeep Kumar and Asha Parekh.
From rich to poor
Bhushan was not able to sustain the success he received after Baiju Bawra. He forayed into production with his brother with the movie Dooj ka Chand and met with massive monetary loss. At the peak of his career, Bhushan was one of the richest actors in the Hindi film industry, but he soon went bankrupt.
Nine years after Barsaat ki Raat, he started playing the role of the lead actor’s father at the age of 49. The most prominent instance of this is in the 1969 movie Pyar ka Mausam where he played Shashi Kapoor’s father. Bhushan was unable to compete with the rise of young stars such as Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra. This, combined with the failure of his production company ended Bhushan’s career indefinitely.
His downswing continued in the 1970s and he was forced to take up minor roles to make ends meet. He sold off most of his property and started living the life of a recluse, occasionally returning to silver screen in marginal roles. By the 1990s, Bhushan was reduced to the status of a junior artist with movies such as Humshakal and Pyar ka Devta.
Perhaps the most poignant anecdote of Bhushan is when superstar Amitabh Bachchan in his blog wrote that he saw him standing in a queue to catch a bus. “One morning for work I saw Bharat Bhushan, the great romantic heart throb of the 50’s, hero of some of the most successful musicals of the times, standing in a queue at a bus stop! An ordinary citizen. Part of the crowd. Alone, unnoticed. No one recognizing him. No one knowing who he was.”
Bhushan passed away on 27 January 1992 at the age of 72 in a forgotten and an impoverished state.