In the early 1950s, Sabu was the elephant trainer in Tom Arnold’s Harringay Circus. Having retained his youthful looks, he is reported to have appeared in oriental clothes and a turban in the show.
He was the same Sabu who had become Britain’s first and only child star of Indian origin in the 1930s and won international repute. Sabu had been found by Alexander Korda’s team members, Osmond Borradaile and Robert Flaherty. At that time, he was attached to the elephant stables of the Maharaja of Mysore. Impressed by Sabu’s natural flair for acting and his ease in handling elephants, he was made the hero of Korda’s film, The Elephant Boy (1937). Young Sabu who had then been a very young lad, was later shipped, along with his brother, to London for completing the film in London. He next went on to star in Korda’s empire film, The Drum and his oriental Arabian Nights extravaganza The Thief of Bagdad (1940).
Sabu became an American citizen in 1944 and during World War II, joined the US Airforce and took part in the War for which he was decorated with honours.
It is said that he was offered the lead role in a film by Mehboob Khan, but was unable to accept the part due to some practical problems. It was after 1945, that finding his acting career limiting, he had gone back to elephants, worked in Tom Arnold’s circus in the early 1950s and toured all over Europe.
For a film on the Harringay Circus, please click this link: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/circus-comes-to-town-2
The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project - A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)