I first met reader Arunkumar Deshmukh over at Atul’s Song A Day blog, where he continually bowls us all over with his crystal-clear memory of pretty much every Hindi film ever made, it seems. No matter how obscure the movie, Arunkumarji can give you the plot and many other details of its making. He has also been instrumental in helping me identify character actors, so you can imagine how glad I was when he emailed to say that he had written a piece on comedian and character actor Bhudo Advani after interviewing Mr. Advani’s son, a neighbor and friend. There is so much “misinformation” about people and events in cinema history out there that it is nice to get the inside scoop from a family member.
Mr. Advani worked in cinema from 1933 until 1977—a whopping 44 years—and I thank Arunkumarji for bringing him some much deserved attention!
Bhudo Advani (17 August 1905 – 25 July 1985)
One Mr. Ramesh Advani came to live in our building in 1992. He was a good looking, jovial person who soon became friendly with all members. Recently when I was talking to him casually, he told me that he was the son of Bhudo Advani, the Hindi film actor. I was shocked that despite spending so many years with him he was telling me NOW about it. Anyway, as a writer on old films I was keen to know from him about the yesteryear comedian Bhudo Advani. He graciously agreed to an interview and this is what he told me.
Bhudo Advani’s real name was Doulatram Advani. Born in Hyderabad (Sindh) in 1905, he was doing all sorts of dramas, stage shows etc. from his teens. He specialised in doing female roles. After matriculation, he came to Bombay to seek roles in films. Here he met Mohan Bhavnani, a producer also from Hyderabad, who gave him a break. His first movie with a minor role was Afzal (1933). Finding that he was good at comedy, he henceforth mostly stuck to comic roles.
From 1933 to 1940 he did 35 films. Notable among them were Jeevan Lata, Ladies Only, The Mill (Gareeb Pariwar), Navjeevan, Postman (Abhilasha), Vasavdatta etc. He got married in 1939. He had 7 children, 2 sons (one of whom died early) and 5 daughters. In Mumbai, he acquired a big flat on nominal rent at Tardeo in a building on the premises of Central Studios, the biggest studio in Bombay at the time with 6 stages in all. His flat was so big that the reception of one daughter’s wedding for 100 people was thrown in its drawing room!
Director Mehboob used Central Studios for shootings (his studio came up only in 1942). Mehboob was allotted one makeup room for his artists on the same floor where Advani lived. Thus, he became acquainted with many leading actors and actresses.
Advani was a very simple man. There are two reasons for his nickname “Bhudo”. One is that he was called “Buddu”, which means one who is too simple; and the other that he was called “Buddho”, meaning old (due to his lack of teeth). Whatever the case, he became Bhudo consequently in film credits and accepted this name stoically. From 1940 to 1950 he acted in another 35 films, including Anmol Ghadi, Anokhi Ada, Meri Kahani, Amaanat, Bisvi Sadi, Dukhiyaari, Ismat, Pooja, Shauhar etc. From 1950 to 1960 he did 20 films including Meena Bazar, Aadmi, Aakhri Dao, Boot Polish, Shri 420, Jagte Raho, Ab Dilli Door Nahin, Madhumati, Madhur Milan, Miss Coca Cola, Qaidi No.911, Aankhen, Bewafa Saudagar etc.
He was a strict family man and kept his children away, warning them never to enter films. From 1960 onwards his films became fewer as new comedians entered the industry, and his financial condition became delicate. However his only son Ramesh Advani got into Dena Bank and after bank nationalisation things improved considerably. All his daughters married well and settled happily. In the 60s he did only 5 films like Anuradha and Khamoshi. His last film was Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977).
He left the Tardeo flat and came to Versova in 1978. Now that there were no films, he used to sit in his brother’s Coronation Footwear chain of shops at Grant Road for 6 years.
Bhudo Advani died in 1985 peacefully. He had few friends, but fellow comedian Mirza Musharraf was among them. In his heyday, Bhudo Advani was in great demand. He averaged 3 films a month during the 1930s and 40s, a very high number; and was very friendly with Motilal, Devendra Goel, Shekhar, and Mukesh, who stayed with him in his early days. Nobody from the film industry attended his funeral. Surprisingly, the news of his death first appeared in Pakistan in the Karachi newspapers and only later in the Times of India.
In total, he acted in 102 Hindi, 4 Sindhi and 2 Gujarathi films. He had a major role in Abana, India’s first Sindhi film. In two of his Sindhi films, his own real-life wife portrayed his movie wife.
In his wonderful book ”Eena Meena Deeka: The Story of Hindi Film Comedy” author Sanjit Narwekar has this to say about Bhudo Advani:
Apart from Ranjit, Sagar was the other company in the early talkie era which specialised in comedies. One of the Sagar staples was Bhudo Advani, who endeared himself with the audience because of his toothless smile [...] Actually he was more of a character actor who found himself saddled with comic dialogues. He made his debut in films in 1933 with Mohan Bhavnani’s Ajanta Cinetone, playing the main comedian in the fantasy Maya Jaal [...] None of [his early films] were notable, but he did get noticed by the Sagar bosses who invited him to join the company which was slowly gearing up for comedies.
The fact that he was an important addition to the repertoire is borne out by the fact that he starred in almost all their important films from the very start: Badami’s Dr. Madhurika (1935), Mehboob’s Deccan Queen (1936), Luhar’s Do Diwane (1936). He soon became a Mehboob favorite and starred in all his Sagar films: Manmohan (1936), Jagirdar (1937), Hum Tum Aur Woh (1938). So much so that he followed Mehboob to National Studios, which was formed after Sagar had collapsed [...] He is credited with having staged the first full length Sindhi play Under Secretary (with S.P. Menghani) in Bombay in the immediate post-Partition period.
(Photo at left and quote reproduced courtesy of Sanjit Narwekar)