Gyan Mukherjee was born on 30 September 1909, inVaranasi, Uttar Pradesh. He was a popular director of the 1940s and 50s. He will always be remembered for giving Bollywood its first blockbuster film ‘Kismet’. Mukherjee entered the film industry as a writer. He worked with Sashadhar Mukherjee in two of his films, Bandhan (1940) and Naya Sansar (1941), both starring Ashok Kumar.
Sashadhar Mukherjee had then approached Gyan Mukherjee, who was editing a science magazine in Kolkatta, to direct a film for his studio. Thus, Gyan Mukherjee made his directional debut with Jhoola in 1941, starring Leela Chitnis and Ashok Kumar in lead roles. Gyan Mukherjee’s Jhoola brought back the Ashok Kumar-Leela Chitnis team after Bandhan, and it was a surprise hit.
In 1943, Mukherjee turned to his creative team in Bombay Talkies to come up with a film that would silence all his competitors, once and for all. The film was Kismet. The story was simple, the screenplay gripping. Rob the rich and help the poor... was the moral Kismet preached. The movie found a tremendous fan-following especially among the youngsters. Gyan Mukherjee and his colleagues at Bombay Talkies had gambled with destiny and managed to reap the benifits. Kismet enjoyed a continuous three years run—192 weeks—at Kolkata’s Roxy Cinema, becoming India’s first blockbuster film. Mukherjee was thus riding high.
In 1944, Mukherjee directed Ashok Kumar again in Chal Chal Re Navjavan. The movie gained mediocre success. After a long break, Mukherjee was back with Sangram(1950), starring Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant. It was quite a big hit. Unfortunately, his other releases like Shamsheer (1953), Sardar (1955) and Shatranj (1956) had all failed to create a big impact. All these films starred Ashok Kumar as the main lead.
Gyan Mukherjee directed Ashok Kumar in Kismet for the first time in a role in which he had gray shades. After 32 years, it was Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay that broke Kismet’s record with an unconquered five year run—1975 to 1980—at Mumbai’s Minerva theatre. On August 10, 2001, Aditya Chopra’s directorial debut, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge surpassed Sholay’s incredible innings with a 300-week run at another Mumbai cinema hall, Maratha Mandir. Ashok Kumar played the lead role in all of Gyan Mukherjee’s films. In 1943, Sashadhar Mukherjee with Rai Bahadur Chunilal, Ashok Kumar and Gyan Mukherjee formed a partnership and started the studio Filmistan in Goregaon. VH Desai, Kavi Pradeep, PL Santoshi, Shahid Latif, SB Vacha and Marshall Braganza had also joined the studio. Gyan Mukherjee expired on 13 November 1956, in Calcutta, West Bengal.