indian cinema heritage foundation


  • Real Name: David Abraham Cheulkar
  • Born: 21 June 1909 (Thane)
  • Died: 28 December, 1981 (Toronto, Canada)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi

Compassion, geniality, and a zest for life- these qualities defined David Abraham and vividly came to life in his appearances on the screen. David was only 5’3” tall; but his short stature never stopped him from doing what he loved the most—acting. 

David Abraham was born on 21 June 1909 to a Jewish family belonging to the Bene Israeli community in Thane. He grew up in Mumbai, where his father worked as an engineer for the Indian Railways. As a young boy, David enjoyed physical exercise immensely. However, following the wishes of his family, he completed a degree in law even as his interest in sports grew steadily. He began to practice weightlifting at this time and secured prizes for his prowess in a number of competitions. After the completion of his degree in law, he practiced in court for a while but failed to get a case for many months. 
In college, David was involved with the Indian People’s Theatre. During this time, his friend Nayampalli sparked his interest in films. In 1937 he got a small role for the film Zambo, in which the young David had to portray the character of an elderly professor. He kept acting in small roles in many other films until 1940 when he received an important role in the film Naya Sansar. This role established him as a recognized actor in the industry, and he made the world of film into his new family. David always accepted any role he was offered. The film-maker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was a great admirer of David and cast him in several films he made. 

David was already established as a character actor in the industry when he was offered a role in the film Boot Polish (1954). His turn in this film as the loving, affectionate John Chacha firmly ensconced him in the memory of all film-goers, and the song ‘Nanhe Munhe Bachche Teri Mutthi Mein Kya Hai’ picturized on him proved to be so popular, it played on the radio for years to come. For his heartfelt portrayal of John Chacha, David Abraham received the Filmfare Award for the Best Supporting Actor in 1955.

While continuing his work as an actor in films, David did not lose any of his former enthusiasm for sports. He remained the President of the Maharashtra Weightlifting Championship for thirty years, and in 1952, presided as judge over the Weightlifting championship at the Helsinki Olympics. Articulate and entertaining, David was also often a commentator for sports. With this extended involvement, David’s fame in the world of sports often far exceeded his recognition by most cinema-goers of the time. He had other talents too: he often organized both government and non-government events and was responsible for the organization of the first Filmfare Awards. His charm adn wit alos led him to be the host of most major award shows between 1959 to 1975. 

David worked in over 125 films. Some of the popular films he appeared in included PardesiHaathi Mere Saathi, Baaton Baaton Mein, Abhimaan, Kalicharan, Golmaal, Khatta Meetha, Satyakam and Khoobsurat

David remained unmarried throughout his life. In 1979, he decided to shift to Israel and travelled to meet his relatives in Toronto for this purpose. While there, he suffered a cardiac arrest on 28 December and passed away on 28 December, 1981.