12 November: Remembering Amjad Khan on birthday

OV Digital Desk
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Amjad Khan

Amjad Khan (12 November 1940 – 27 July 1992), a famous actor in Hindi films. The character Gabbar Singh played by him in the film ‘Sholay‘ is one of the memorable villains of Indian cinema. In his career, he worked in about 130 films like ‘Sholay’, ‘Parvarish’, ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikandar’, ‘Laawaris’, ‘Hiralal-Pannalal’, ‘Sitapur Ki Geeta’, ‘Himmatwala’ and ‘Kalia’.

Life and Career

Amjad Khan was born in the Bombay Presidency. He was the son of legendary actor Jayant. He was the brother of fellow actor Imtiaz Khan and Inayat Khan who only acted in one film. In 1957, he was cast in the movie Ab Dili Dur Nahin, as a child artist. His family hails from Ghazni, the Pathan region of Afghanistan.

Khan did school at St Theresa’s High School, Bandra. He attended R D National College, Bandra, and was the General Secretary – the highest elected student body representative. He had already gained a reputation of being a heavyweight “dada” and was feared and respected.
In 1972, he married Sheila Khan, and the following year, she gave birth to their first child, Shadaab Khan, who acted in a few films. He also had a daughter Ahlam Khan and another son Seemaab Khan. It was said that he had an affair with actress Kalpana Iyer, who after his death didn’t marry anyone.

He started his journey from the world of theatre. He acted first as a child actor at an age of 17 in the film Ab Dilli Dur Nahin (1957). The journey began from then. In 1975 he was offered the role of a dacoit Gabbar Singh for the film Sholay (meaning flames) by Salim who was one of the film’s writers. For his preparation for the role, Amjad read Abhishapth Chambal, a book on Chambal dacoits written by Taroon Kumar Bhaduri (actress Jaya Bhaduri’s father). Amjad shot to stardom with the movie. His portrayal of Gabbar Singh is considered by many to be the first depiction of pure evil on the screen in Indian Cinema; a totally evil character who doesn’t make excuses for its evil. “Arre O’ Samba, Kitne Aadmi The“— is the most popular line of Bollywood ever mouthed.

After the success of Sholay, Khan continued to play villain roles in many subsequent Hindi films in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s – superseding, in terms of popularity and demand, the earlier Indian actor, Ajit – portraying more sophisticated and urbane criminal bosses, mastermind of bank robberies, murders and conspiracies to seize power. He often acted as the villain opposite Amitabh Bachchan as the hero.

Amjad Khan played one-to-one dangerous and atrocious roles on screen, was in real life a civilized, cultured, and good-hearted person who helped the poor. The role of Gabbar Singh of ‘Sholay’ was given to actor Danny before him, but when he refused due to time constraints, the role went to Amjad Khan. Amjad Khan brought to life the character of dacoit Gabbar Singh on the film screen in such a way that he made him immortal.

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Life and immortality

Amjad was also the President of the Actors GUILD association. As mentioned earlier, he had been a leader in college and was respected in the adult film industry too. He would intervene and negotiate disputes between actors and directors/producers. There was one such dispute in which Dimple Kapadia had agreed to play a role of a mother in a movie and later backed down. The entire film producer community tried to boycott her. Amjad did intervene on behalf of the actors guild.

In 1976, he had met with a near-fatal accident on the Bombay-Goa Road, when he drove his car into a tree while trying to avoid a boulder. The drugs administered to him for treatment caused a serious weight problem for the rest of his life. As a result of his increasing weight, he died on 27 July 1992 after suffering from heart failure at the age of 51. Several of the films he had completed when he was alive were released after his death – right until 1996.

His funeral procession passed from his house in Pali Hill to the Muslim Burial in Bandra East. All major movie stars at that time attended and could be seen walking through the narrow lanes of Bandra.

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