jal-merchant

Jal Merchant

Real Name

Profession – Actor

Active Years – 1920s – 1950s

Nationality – Indian

Religion

Ethnicity

Date of Birth

Date of Death

Debut Film

Last Film

Significant others in the Film Industry

Profile

It was a colorful stellar team that Jal Merchant formed with Zubaida in the early talkies. But it was in mythological roles, and not romantic parts, that they first won the hearts of cinegoers. The first picture that made them a rage everywhere was Sagar’s “Veer Abhimanyu,” in which Jal played Abhimanyu to Zubaida’s Uttara. In the next one Jal was Arjun, Abhimanyu’s father, while Zubaida played Subhadra.

Like Zubaida, Jal Merchant joined films in the “silent days”. It was a change of medium for him, for he had been playing female roles on the Gujarati stage! His performance as the heroine of “Shankit Hriday,” a Gujarati play, proved a hit, and Nagendra Majumdar, who directed the play, induced him to switch over to screen acting. Jal joined the Imperial Film Company, and among his early films the most notable was “Vasant Bengali,” a social picture directed by R.S. Chowdhury. In those days, the screen hero generally had more brawn than brains, but the lead player of “Vasant Bengali” was called upon to show more intelligence than physical prowess. Jal did just that – and won instant fame.

After the advent of sound, Jal’s first four films for Sagar were mythologicals – “Veer Abhimanyu,” Subhadra Haran,” “Pandav Kaurav” and “Mahabharat”. For close-ups of these pictures, Jal used to wear trousers and only the upper part of his body was made up for his role. But in one close-up his pants were also visible! The shot was cut on the first day of screening in Bombay.

Gifted with a fine voice, he also delighted cinegoers with his singing.

In “Zarina,” written and directed by Ezra Mir, he was the tongawalla who falls in love with a dancing girl at a carnival. This poignant romantic tragedy won plaudits for both Jal and Zubaida. It was their last picture together for Sagar. Zubaida left Sagar and Sabita Devi took her place. Sabita and Kumar were the first stars imported from Calcutta. Sabita co-starred with Jal in “Phantom of the Hills,” directed by Ezra Mir, in which he played a dashing Pathan riding a white charger. In “Educated Wife” (Grihalaxmi), directed by Sarvottam Badami, he played a modern educated youth. In this role the versatile Jal revealed a genial personality. Sabita was again his co-star.

Jal and Zubaida played stellar roles together once again in “Aaj Kal,” directed by R.S. Chowdhury. This was the last important picture for both stars. Jal Merchant, who already had a flourishing business, retired from the screen. Later, he started to live a quiet life in Bandra. Jal was an excellent shikari in his younger days. His screen associated also remember his soft voice, gentle manners and sensitive, handsome face. (Written by V.P. Sathe and contributed by Sudarshan Talwar).

Filmography

Filmographies might not be 100% accurate or complete because of various reasons including artistes with similar names

Title
Year

Country
Producer
Director
More Info
Katil Kathlani
1928
India
Imperial Film Company
N. Majumdar
Sword To Sword
1929
India
Imperial Film Company
R. S. Choudhry
Father India
1930
India
Imperial Film Company
R. S. Choudhry
Royal Rivals
1930
India
Sagar
B. P. Misra
Secrets Of The Night
1930
India
Imperial Film Company
K. P. Bhave
Veer Abhimanyu
1931
India
Sagar
Prafulla Ghosh
Subhadra Haran
1932
India
Sagar
Prafulla Ghosh
Zarina
1932
India
Sagar
Ezra Mir
Aaj Kal
1934
India
Gold Mohur Sound Pictures
R. S. Choudhry
Grihalaxmi
1934
India
Sagar
Sarvottam Badami
Sone Ka Shaher
1935
India
Kumar M.
A. P. Kapoor
Banarasi Thug
1936
India
Mayur M.
Choudhry
Aurat Ki Zindagi
1937
India
Sunrise Pictures
F. R. Irani
Click
Kiski Pyari
1937
India
Sunrise Pictures
Akhtar Nawaz
Punarjanma
1938
India
Royal Film Company
Ramnik Desai
Toofan Express
1938
India
Sunder M.
Chunilal Parekh
Pucca Badmash
1939
India
Rex Pictures
A. H. Essa
Nirali Duniya
1940
India
Tarun Pictures
V. M. Vyas
Circus Ki Sundari
1941
India
Paramount Film Company
Palwant Bhatt
Holiday In Bombay
1941
India
Sudama Production
S. Badami
Kalakar
1942
India
Durga Pictures
Kareem
Mashal
1950
India
Bombay Talkies
Nitin Bose
Click