A. Bhimsingh – A rare film director who tasted success in both Bollywood and South Indian films during classic era
A. Bhimsingh (1924–1978) was a very successful film director associated with Bollywood, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada films. A rare breed, who worked in both south Indian and Bollywood film industry, he gave many memorable films in different language Indian films. He remade many of his hit south Indian films to Hindi, which include Dilip Kumar classics – Aadmi and Gopi. He began his career in the early 1950s with Tamil movies and was fully active in the film industry till his death in late 1970s. Sadhu Aur Shaitaan, Loafer, Amanat, Pooja Ke Phool, Rakhi, Joroo Ka Ghulam, Khandan, Maalik, Main Chup Rahungi, Naya Din Nai Raat, Gauri, Khandan and Yaaron Ka Yaar are some of his major Bollywood works.
Bhimsingh was born in Rayalacheruvu of present-day Andhra Pradesh. He joined film industry in the 1940s working as an assistant editor to Krishnan–Panju, and later working as assistant director. He married Krishnan’s sister Sona also. Later the first son of the couple married Panju’s daughter. His debut film Ammaiyappan was released in 1954. Marked his directorial debut with Tamil film, he later directed movies belonging to all south Indian languages and Hindi. He predominantly worked in Hindi cinema, with 18 Bollywood films to his credit. Pasamalar is widely regarded as his masterpiece.
A. Bhimsingh – Some interesting facts
1. He made a series of Tamil movies with legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan, with starting letter ‘Pa’, and most of them registered success at box office. Pava Mannippu, Paalum Pazhamum, Pasamalar, Padithaal Mattum Podhuma, Paarthaal Pasi Theerum and Pazhani are among those ‘Pa’ series movies of which Pava Mannippu won National award for second best film in 1962, only the first south Indian movie to achieve this feat. Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy duo composed music for most of them. He also made ‘Pa’ series movies with other film actors.
2. He received Filmfare Award nomination for Best Director for the movie, Meharbaan.
3. His first wife Sona was a sister of noted director Krishnan of Krishnan–Panju duo. Two sons with Sona, Lenin and B. Kannan became famous film editor and cinematographer respectively. His eldest son married Panju’s daughter.
4. Through his marriage with Sukumari, he became a relative of famous Travancore sisters, actress Ambika Sukumaran, and also Sobana, Krishna and Vineeth of next generation actors.
5. After his death, his second wife Sukumari rebooted her filmy career very soon to financially support her family. She was in her late 30s. Though she faced criticism she never cared about it.
6. He had a total of 9 children, 8 from first marriage and one for second.
7. Actress Lakshmi won National award for best actress for his movie, Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal in 1975.
8. In 1960 he directed Sivaji Ganeshan starrer Bollywood film, Aai Phirse Bahar. Apart from L. V. Prasad’s trilingual film, Manohara released in 1954, Aai Phirse Bahar is the only Hindi movie of the legendary actor. The movie was Bhim Singh’s Hindi debut too.
9. Late politician M. Karunanidhi scripted his first two film releases.
10. He directed many classic hits of 1960s and early 1970s, and frequently worked with Sunil Dutt and Nutan for 60’s family dramas. He tried different genres of filmmaking and succeeded as well. He also frequently worked with Ashok Kumar in 1960s and 1970s, and gave him some of his career best roles.
11. He regularly worked with Rajesh Khanna in the 1970s and also directed his second flop after 17 consecutive hits from 1969 to 1971 – Maalik released in 1972. In fact the movie ‘Badnam Farishte’ which registered flop after 17 hits of Khanna only had his extended cameo role among a bunch of newcomers. Interestingly he shared screen space with Sharmila Tagore in both these films.
12. He directed Sanjeev Kumar in Naya Din Nai Raat, in which the actor famously appeared in 9 different characters onscreen. It was a remake of Sivaji Ganesan starrer Navarathri.
13. Five of 5 Tamil films have received National awards. While Pava Mannippu received ‘Second best film’ award, the rest four awards were given for first or second best regional film in Tamil – Bhaaga Pirivinai & Kalathur Kannamma (best Tamil film) and Pasamalar and Pazhani (second best Tamil film).
14. Though many of his Hindi remakes of south Indian films were commercially successful, film critics regard Tamil version as best.