I recently came across a picture of the Jankidas Mehra Chowk in Juhu Mumbai (http://arunoday.deviantart.com/art/Jankidas-Mehra-Chowk-29553746).
Having seen Jankidas as the comic face of so many films of the golden era, I have tried to gather some more details about the life of Jankidas – the actor, sportsman and freedom fighter.
Born in Lahore in 1910; Jankidas Mehra was a film actor, cyclist, production designer and writer. He made over a 1000 film appearances between 1930’s and 1997.
Jankidas was interested in sports from a young age. Although cycling was a sport at which Indians had shown much promise in the fifties; Jankidas can be hailed as the first Indian Cyclist of distinction. He broke eight world cycling records between 1934 and 1942 and represented India in the World Olympic Games in 1936 at Berlin. He was also India’s sole representative at the British Empire Games (Commonwealth games) in 1938 at Sydney, Australia and at the Eastern Games in 1940 in Tokyo. He became the first Indian to have hoisted India’s national flag (pre-independence) at the World Sports Congress in Zurich. He served as the only Indian member of the international Olympic committee at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
Entry into Hindi Cinema
Jankidas debuted in Hindi films with Khazanchi (1941) produced by Dalsukh M. Pancholi in Lahore. Jankidas played the role of a news reporter. However being involved in cycling , he was next seen as Dr Mukerjee in Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani(1946).Jankidas came to Mumbai after partition and his career took off in 1949 when he appeared in three films Duniya,Aiye and the Madhubala starrer Daulat.
From then on he continued to play various roles till the late nineties. Some of the notable films in which he starred were Anand Math (1952),Footpath (1953),Kala Paani(1958),Kala Bazaar(1960),Ek Musafir Ek Hasina(1962),Patthar ke Sanam(1967),Sadhu Aur Shaitaan(1968), Victoria No. 203(1972) and Saajan Bina Suhagan(1978).
Jankidas was also credited to being the first production designer in the Indian film industry and had designed several films including Pathar aur Payal and Warrant. As a production designer Jankidas was responsible for the founding of many famous Indian actor careers. He was responsible for Madhubala’s role in Sohrab Modi’s Daulat in 1949 and introduced Meena Kumari in Nanabhai Bhatt’s Hamara Ghar and Khushboo in Sunil Dutt’s Dard Ka Rishta.He aso introduces actress Mala Sinha in Hamlet, produced and directed by Kishore Sahu.
He also wrote the script of the film Yaadon Ki Kasam in 1985.
In a career spanning five decades, Jankidas acted in close to 1000 films as a hero, comedian, villain and later in character roles. He is also the author of popular books on films like ‘My Misadventures in Film Land’, ‘Acting for Beginners’ and ‘Strange But True Tales in the World of Film’ among others.
Jankidas was the recipient of numerous national and international awards. Jankidas was awarded the IMPPA Lifetime Achievement award in 1996. He was honoured by the Film Writers’ Association in 1996. He was also honoured by the Cine Artiste Association with a Shawl and a Silver trophy in August 1997.
Jankidas died of cardiac failure at his Juhu residence on Wednesday 18 June 2003. He was 93.He will always be remembered as a multi talented personality who was active till his last.