Sabu Dastagir- The first Indian actor in a Hollywood movie.

The young boy from India became a child star of British and Hollywood films in the 1930s and 1940s.

When he was 13, Sabu was discovered by documentary film-maker Robert Flaherty who cast him in the role of an elephant driver in the 1937 British film Elephant Boy, based on “Toomai of the Elephants”, a story by Rudyard Kipling. In 1938 producer Alexander Korda commissioned A. E. W. Mason to script The Drum as a starring vehicle for the young actor. Sabu is perhaps best known for his role as Abu in the 1940 British film The Thief of Bagdad. Director Michael Powell said that he had a “wonderful grace” about him. In 1942 he once again played a role based on a Kipling story, namely Mowgli in Jungle Book directed by Zoltán Korda where he plays a feral child whose animals are in danger by human villagers. He starred alongside Maria Montez and Jon Hall in three films for Universal Pictures: Arabian Nights (1942), White Savage (1943) and Cobra Woman (1944).

After becoming an American citizen in 1944, Sabu joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as a tail gunner and ball turret gunner on B-24 Liberators. He flew several dozen missions with the 370th Bomb Squadron of the 307th Bomb Group in the Pacific, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valor and bravery.

His career declined after World War II as he was unable to secure equivalent roles in Hollywood that British films had offered. He occasionally did gain significant parts, such as his supporting role in the British film Black Narcissus (1947). Through most of the 1950s he starred in largely unsuccessful European films. In 1952, he starred in the Harringay Circus with an elephant act.

His last completed film, A Tiger Walks, was released in March 1964, three months after his death.

The Link is of film Elephant Boy & Sabu is performing.

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Celebrating Cinema

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