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David Abraham Cheulkar

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David Abraham
David in Boot Polish (1954)
David Abraham Cheulkar

(1909-06-21)21 June 1909
Died2 January 1982(1982-01-02) (aged 72)
Years active1937–1982

David Abraham Cheulkar (21 June 1909 – 2 January 1982), popularly known as David, was an Indian Hindi film actor. In a career spanning four decades, he played mostly character roles, starting with the 1941 film Naya Sansar, and went on to act in over 110 films, including memorable films such as Gol Maal (1979), Baton Baton Mein (1979) and Boot Polish (1954), for which he was awarded the 1955 Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award.[1]

Early and personal life[edit]

He was a member of Mumbai's Marathi-speaking Bene Israel community. David graduated from the University of Mumbai with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. After a six-year unsuccessful struggle to land a job, he decided to try his luck in the Hindi film industry by becoming a professional actor. During these years of struggle, he also managed to obtain a degree in law from the Government Law College.

Finally, on 15 January 1937, with the help of his close friend Nayampalli, a veteran character actor, he landed his first role in a movie. The movie was Zambo, and it was being produced and directed by Mohan Bhavnani, who was the Chief Producer of the Films Division of the Government of India.[2]

He never married.[3]


David was actively associated with IPTA, a theatre organization, and went on to be part of many Khwaja Ahmad Abbas's films, including Palme d'Or nominee Pardesi (1957),[4] and Shehar Aur Sapna (1963), which won the 1964 National Film Award for Best Feature Film, Munaa and Char Dil Char Raahein.

Strongly associated with avuncular roles, David is best known for his portrayal of "John Chacha" [5] in the 1954 hit and Filmfare Award for Best Film winner and Palme d'Or nominee,[6] Boot Polish, directed by Prakash Arora, for which he won the 1955 Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award.[7] The song "Nanhe Munne Bachche" from the film, picturized on him became a memorable song of that era.

In his prime, in the period 1959 to 1975, David was one of the best and the most well-known anchor, compere and the host of the prominent award shows and other functions.[8] In one of the speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister, said that any of the events will be surely be incomplete without David's speech.

He was involved in promoting sports,[8][9] and later became India's Olympic Games representative.[10] He was awarded the Padma Shri award in 1969 by the Government of India.[11]

Often billed as simply David or Uncle David, Cheulkar appeared in more than 110 Bollywood films in a career that exceeded four decades, many of them indeed as a kindly, avuncular character. Among his more notable performances were his roles in Boot Polish (1954), in which he played John Chacha, a kindly bootlegger who, before he is sent off to jail, takes two orphan siblings under his wing and teaches them to work for a living shining shoes, rather than to get by begging. Cheulkar received the Filmfare magazine best supporting actor prize for that role.

He was also featured in Pardesi (Journey Beyond Three Seas), a 1957 Russian-Indian coproduction taking place in the 1400s; The City and the Dream (Shehar Aur Sapna, in Hindi), a naturalistic urban drama from 1963, that was nominated for Indias National Film Award as best feature, and the romantic comedy Chupke Chupke from 1975 (from minute 1 to minute 2 of clip).

In the 1969 film Satyakam, Cheulkar was given the opportunity to play against type, taking the role of Rustom, a debauched drunkard who serves as a foil to the hero of the film, a family drama that takes place during the final days of British rule in India, in 1947.

According to Bentsion Abraham Chewoolkar, who wrote an essay about his relation Uncle David, on the centenary of the latter's birth, Cheulkar, though not religiously devout, prayed briefly each day, and always observed Yom Kippur by fasting and by visiting synagogue for the Neilah service.


He died on 2 January 1982 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada of a heart attack at the age of 72.[3]

Selected filmography[edit]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ "Bollywood once had a Jewish connection Published: Sunday". DNA. 6 March 2011.
  2. ^ "David Abraham's interview in 1956 - Cineplot.com".
  3. ^ a b Sir Stanley Reed; The Times of India (1984). "Deaths, 1982: January 1". The Times of India directory and year book including who's who. Bennett, Coleman & Co. p. 836. Death date January 1, 1982
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Journey Beyond Three Seas". festival-cannes.com.
  5. ^ Vail, p. 118
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Boot Polish". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  7. ^ "List of Filmfare Award Winners and Nominations, 1953-2005" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b Benjamin J. Israel (1998). The Jews of India. Mosaic Books. p. 200. ISBN 81-85399-43-3.
  9. ^ Vail, p. 120
  10. ^ Sight & Sound. Vol. 26–27. British Film Institute. 1957. p. 200. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954-2009)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein (1968)". The Hindu. 8 April 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  • Shalṿah Ṿail (2006). India's Jewish heritage: Ritual, Art & Life-Cycle. Mārg Publications. ISBN 81-85026-58-0.

External links[edit]