Sabu Dastagir-the first Indian actor to make a big mark in Western audience(1924-1963)

Sabu DastagirSabu Dastagir-First Indian to walk on Hollywood walk of  Fame

Sabu Dastagir was an Indian actor born on January 27, 1924 in a small village Karapura near HD Kote, Mysore, British India. He was the son of an elephant driver (mahout) who was in service for the Maharaja of his town. His mother died when he was only five years old and his father remarried. His father also died after some years when he was only 9 years and he continued his father’s service as an elephant driver.

His original name was Selar Sabu. Dastagir was the name of his brother who accompanied him on his journey.His journey to stardom is nothing short of a cinematic fairy tale. He was the first Indian actor to make a big mark and a successful career in the Hollywood. He left an indelible mark on Hollywood’s Golden Age.

He is mostly remembered for his role in the “Arabian Nights”. He rose from a humble family background and became so popular that in 1960 he was inducted into the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. In the early role of his film career he mainly portrayed in films that depicted the East as a wild, fantasy and exotic land.

Childhood and education of Sabu Dastagir

He did not attend any school during his childhood and help his family chores. He did not even see a film in his life before acting in his first film. His only ambition was to become the mahout of the royal family.

Photos of Sabu Dastagir

Did Sabu serve in US military?

Sabu served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and became a decorated military officer. He served as a machine gunner and ball-turret gunner on B-24 Liberators. He became part of 40 air missions across the pacific as their machine gunner.

When did Sabu became an American citizen?

Sabu became an American citizen in 1944.

Acting career and Movies of Sabu Dastagir

Sabu’s acting career spanned over two decades, featuring many memorable performances. He broke cultural barriers and paving the way for diverse representation in the Hollywood film industry. A sunny-faced Indian boy won the heart of many audiences by his on-screen presence, characterized by a genuine innocence and athleticism.

In 1935 while he was only 13 years old, he was discovered during location scouting by the film’s cameraman, Osmond Borradaile. while they were searching for a youth to play the role of an elephant driver in their upcoming film “Elephant Boy”. Among them was the documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty.The film was an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s story “Toomai of the Elephants.” It was a turning pont in his film careeer for a boy who had never even seen a movie. For the “Elephant Boy” Flaherty won the Best director in Venice festival and Sabu played the role perfectly.While portions of the film were shot in Mysuru, the rest of the film was shot in London.

In 1938 he was caught attention by Alexander Korda, a well-known producer. Alexander made the film “The Drum” as a starring vehicle for the young actor Sabu in which he played the role of Prince Azim. The film causes riots in Mumbai for its subservient attitude towards the British. However his best performing role came in the 1940 fantasy adventure film “The Thief of Bagdad” where he played the role of Abu who ultimately saves the princess of Baghdad. “The Thief of Baghdad” won the Oscars for Art,Special Effects and Cinematography.

In 1942, Sabu played another role in Rudyard Kipling’s story “The Jungle Book” as Mowgli. It was directed by Zoltan Korda. Sabu touched his stardom in playing the role of Mowgli.It secured Academy Award nominations for its music and special effects. He starred in three films for Universal Pictures. They were “Arabian Nights” (1942), “White Savage” (1943) and “Cobra Woman” (1944).

He also did two British films in his career “Black Narcissus” (1947) and in the end of the same year “The End of the River”. “Black Narcissus” was based on the novel written by Rumer Godden. The film was about a nun at a convenent in the Himalayan where he played a small role as an Indian prince who falls in love with a dancing girl. 

In the 1950s he cannot gave much impact as he did in his early career. Most of the role that offered him were the same stereotypical daze and native Asian. In 1952 came an Italian comedy film “Hello Elephant” where he played the role of a Sultan of Nagore. And in 1954 came the French-Italian  action- adventure film “Treasure of of Bengal”. It was based on the novel by Emilio Salgari and  directed by Gianni Vernuccio. The story of the film is about a young boy from a remote Hindu village  who tries to protect the world’s largest and precious stone from being stolen.

Man Eater of Kumaon was his last film of Universal pictures. Sabu never acted in any of his home country Indian films.It is said that he was offered to work in Mehboob Khan’s film Mother India (1957). But he was not permitted to work in India by the Indian Government and the role went to Sunil Dutt, the Indian actor.

“Magic Ring” (1957) was directed by George Blair. Sabu played the role of a stable boy who can speak to elephants. In 1960 came “Mistress of the World” where he played the role of Dr. Lin Chor. “Rampage” (1963) was a jungle movie where he played as a guide.

What was the last movie of Sabu Dastagir?

The last movie of Sabu Dastagir was “A Tiger Walks” (1964). It was released after his death where he played the role of an Indian animal trainer.

What is the net worth of Sabu Dastagir?

According to some sources his net worth was $ 102 Million before he dies. His primary source of income is being from a professional actor. However in the 1950s he began invented in real estate.

Who was the wife of Sabu Dastagir?

In 1948 he married actress Marilyn Cooper. He met Marilyn Cooper for the first time on the sets of ‘Song of India’ in 1949. The couple had a son, Paul, and a daughter, Jasmine.

When did Sabu Dastagir died?

Sabu died on December 2, 1963 from heart attack unexpectedly at his Chatsworth home, 10901 Winnetka Ave at the age of 39. It left the world in shock.

How many Children did Sabu Dastagir left?

He left two children- daughter Jasmine and son Paul. Jasmine worked as a horse trainer but she died young and Paul was a musician and producer.

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