Remembering Kanhaiyalal, one of the finest natural actors of Hindi cinema, on his 36th death anniversary today.
In the narrative of Hindi cinema’s history, Kanhaiyalal’s portrayal of the evil incarnate Sukhilala in Mother India (1957) ranks amongst the most contemptible yet memorable characters of villainy.
A native of Varanasi, his full name was Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi. He was fond of plays andcame to Mumbai to find a space on stage. He had written many plays. He acted in a couple of films too, but his big break came when Mehboob Khan was scouting for an actor to play an evil moneylender in his upcoming production Aurat (1940). Kanhaiyalal played Sukhi Lala with much aplomb and gained immediate recognition. When Mehboob Khan was to remake Aurat, he again picked Kanhaiya Lal to act as Sukkhilala, a character that came alive with his natural acting. The film was Mother India (1957). This time, Kanhaiyalal endowed Sukhi Lala with as much evil and menace as he could possibly muster the very mannerism and speech reeked of lust and greed.
In a career spanning over 40 years Kanhaiyalal worked in innumerable films including Gunga Jumna (1961), Grahasti (1963), Upkar (1967), Ram aur Shyam (1967), Jeevan Mrityu (1970), Apna Desh (1972), Karmayogi (1978), Hum Paanch (1980) and Hathkadi (1982).
After completing a century of roles in Hindi film industry, Kanhaiyalal passed away in Delhi on 14 August 1982, leaving behind his wife, two sons and four daughters, and hardly any property. Even the body of the celebrated artiste could not be brought to Bombay, his home.