“Hey, I know him!”
Ars Bandeet (1889-1971) was a Bombay-born, flamboyant Bollywood actor turned film producer who made several attempts to break into the film industries of America and the UK. Together with his younger brother Buum (1909-2001), he changed the face of Indian cinema forever.
Their first Bollywood film, a 1928 silent feature Ram Eet In, showed the world that India could compete with Hollywood. But it was 1937's Dikki Likki, that made the world sit up and watch.
Although the son of a successful lawyer, the older Bandeet spent his formative years living a life of crime, stealing fruit from the market and beansprouts from the local shop. During a visit from the British Royal Family, Bandeet stole a camera from the entourage of King George V, and filmed around several parts of the city, documenting typical examples of Bombay life and accidentally making his first short film, Vagrant Molesting Peasant Boy. With his brother Buum, and the money earned from the Vagrant film, he formed the Bandeet Boys Film Company.
Bandeet's early film character "Hunnee Suckle" was by his own admission an embarrassment. The character of Hunnee Suckle was an overweight washer woman who would 'hold all the old men's dicks for a rupee'. The Bandeet brothers eventually developed the "dick-holder character" into an altogether more mature comedy character with greater potential for sympathy and emotional depth. Beginning in 1934, they moved from shorts to feature length comedies. These included the acclaimed Wankee Wankee (1935), which pioneered the combination of complex character development and film comedy, the sensational Bongo Bingo!! (1936), which cemented Bandeet's stardom, and Rubee Quickly? (also 1936).
The Bandeet brothers made over three hundred films, mostly snuff movies and light titillation. Most of the films he made depicted scenes from British Pantomimes where female stars dressed as men and male stars dressed as women. The Bandeet brothers parted company in 1939, prior to the outbreak of World War 2 and Ars became the sole producer of his own films. These included his most accomplished mature features Fannee!! (1940), and Fannee 2! (1941).
While loved by the public, Bandeet's success was too much for the Indian government who banished him from his home country in 1950.
Bandeet headed to England where he felt certain he could replicate his homeland success.
Carry On Foray
Identifying the British Carry On Films as similar to his own movies, he teamed up with producer Peter Rogers to make 1970's Carry On Film. 50% of the film's budget was stumped up by Bandeet. This was an attempt to introduce the Carry On films to the Indian sub-continent. At the time of the film's release, the British Government concocted a recruitment drive to attract more Asians to the UK to work as bus conductors for London Transport, and this film was seen as a valuable opportunity to publicise their efforts. It was a sad end to a brilliant film career.
Carry On Film was Bandeet's last film. His later years were filled with disappointment and shame. He did much to raise the profile of Indian films in the West and tried the same with Carry On Films in India. The public, however, did not take to the bawdy British humour, feeling that they were a pale imitation of the original Ars Bandeet movies of the 1920s and 1930s. In late 1970, Bandeet was diagnosed with liver, lung and bone cancer. He also suffered with respiratory problems and gout. By January 1971, failing eyesight combined with cancer of the prostrate and bowel, plus septicaemia and heart murmurs made him permanently bed-ridden and he died of a brain haemorrhage on February 1st, 1971.