Bhagwan Dada was born on 4th February 1913 as Bhagwan Abhaji Palav. He was an Indian actor and film director. He was the son of a textile mill worker but was obsessed with films. He worked as a laborer but dreamt of films.
He got his chance in 1930. After years of haunting the studios in the hope that he would some day be discovered, producer Siraj Ali Hakim gave him a small role in Bewafa Aashiq. Bhagwan was so thrilled to the extent that he refused to leave the studio even after his work was completed.
Bhagwan quickly learnt all the aspects of filmmaking, even as he continued to act in a series of stunt film like Himmat-e-Mard (1935), and Chevrolet (1936). Meanwhile there was a demand for directors and Bhagwan was willing to try his hand. He used to make low budget films (in which he arranged for everything including the design of costumes and arranging meals for the cast) for Rs 65000. His film could not be acclaimed as great, but they were profitable ventures. The first feature he co-directed with long time partner Chandrarao Kadam was Bahadur Kisan (1938). Then came a spate of action films, including Bhagwan Dada's Criminal (1939), Badla (1943), Dosti (1946), Jalan (1948), Lalach (1948), Matlabi (1948), Jigar (1949) and Bhedi Bungala (1949).
Bhagwan was as popular a star. He had also turned producer in 1942 with Jagriti Pics and Bhagwan Arts Production, owning Jagriti Studios, Chembur. But the trend was changing, a fact that was pointed out to him by Raj Kapoor, who guided him to make a social film. The result was Albela (1951). Albela was without doubt his best known film. A smash musical hit, the film was Bhagwan's most successful film as producer and director. Albela was a simple, uncomplicated movie. With no well known actress willing to work opposite him, it was Geeta Bali who came forward and willingly acted in the film. Even today, in this jet age of electronic entertainment, crowds go hysterical every time they hear Shola jo bhadke, dil mera dhadke ... or Bholi surat dil ke khote, naam bade aur darshan chhote... from the film. After that Bhagwan did not give any more hits and eventually had to give up producing and directing films, sell his bungalow and cars and moved to a chawl in Dadar. Soon the roles offered to him got smaller. His large circle of friends who lived at his expense deserted him.
He passed away in Mumbai recently on February 4, 2002 leaving behind his memorable films.
Towards the end of his life, he was awarded the Chitrapati Award in 1998 for his invaluable contribution to Indian Cinema Instituted in memory of V. Shantaram. The award was conferred on him by the Usha Prabha Prathisthan, formed by Shantaram's son Prabhat Kumar Shantaram in 1991.
He enjoyed the popularity among the poorer classes as the working class saw in him their own image. Heavily influenced by Benny Goodman, he introduced the use of Western instruments in Hindi Cinema in a big way for example using the alto sax in combination with guitar and harmonica and also whistling. He is best known for his social film Albela.