Amjad Khan's Gabbar is still Bollywood's favourite villain: A look at his other neglected roles
It was forty-two-years ago, when Ramesh Sippy's film Sholay released with an array of to-be superstars in the cast — Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini and Jaya Bhaduri [Bachchan]. And then there was Amjad Khan, who was relatively new and wasn't a known actor then. The film released on 15 August, 1975 and to the filmmaker and writer's surprise, it didn't fare well at the box-office immediately.
And, then with the turn of days, it picked up and as they say, "The rest is history..."
Sholay, by far, remains one (or maybe the only one) of those Bollywood films which has been able to transcend the boundaries of time, generation, content or treatment. Films have come and gone, but Sholay remains where it was, even today. While undoubtedly Bachchan's Jai, Dharmendra's Veeru, Malini's Basanti or Kumar's Thakur have become synonymous to their real names, but the way Amjad Khan's Gabbar act has penetrated the psyche of Indian masses is really something unprecendented.
"Beta so ja, warna Gabbar aa jayega" — one of the many iconic lines of the dacoit still lurks somewhere deep down in the hearts and minds of people. With Sholay, many careers catapulted; but Amjad Khan's saw the steepest ascent. Today, 27 July 2017 marks 25 years of his untimely demise — a real loss to the Indian film industry.
Gabbar, undoubtedly holds an integral part of the Indian pop-culture — Be it caricatures, mimicry, advertisements, inspirations, spin-offs and even a graphic novel.
Britannia even roped in the actor to do a commercial to promote their glucose biscuits. The video is a treasure for today's generation:
There is something in the character of Gabbar that draws attention and pulls one in. He's not the scariest villain, but the most engaging one. His sheer evilness sometimes gets undermined by his childish dialogue delivery and crackling laughter.
While speaking to news18, Amitabh Bachchan had once said, "When I first heard the script of Sholay I told Salim-Javed (the scripwriters) 'I want to do the role of Gabbar'. But Ramesh Sippy (the director) decided to cast me as Jai," he said, adding, "I never thought he (Amjad Khan) would not be able to do it. It was his voice... as Gabbar...the dialogues became famous."
Gabbar Singh's dialogues are indeed the most memorable and frequently used and rephrased (in form of memes) ones today. Remember "Kitne aadmi they?" or "Tera kya hoga, Kaliya?" or "Bahut yaarana lagta hai" or the iconic "Jo darr gaya...samjho marr gaya." Leading film critic, Anupama Chopra says, "When you speak a line from Sholay, you open up a whole world,” and can't agree less.
But would Gabbar Singh be 'The Gabbar' without Amjad Khan? How much of Gabbar is Khan and how much of Khan is Gabbar, is a question many have pondered upon.
The actor worked in around 130 films before his sudden death in 1992. Seeing his body of work in these years, one can easily say that he was much more than just an iconic villain.
From donning the comedy hat in films like Des Pardes (1978), Chameli Ki Shaadi (1986) or Malamaal (1988) to play the quintessential Bollywood villain (although the degree of vileness was not extreme unlike the typical Bollywood villains) in films like Inkaar (1977), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), Kaalia (1981) or even Mr Natwarlal (1979).
His contributions in films like Satyajit Ray's only Hindi movie, Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) where Khan enacted the part of the indifferent Nawab of Lucknow, Wajid Ali Shah who liked to indulge more in arts than the matters of state. Or, his portrayal of Kamasutra writer Vatsyayan in Girish Karnad’s Utsav (1984) which is again a remarkable performance in his short-yet-illustrious career. He made an appearance in Merchant-Ivory productions' English film, The Perfect Murder (1988) where he was seen as the wealthy bad man with underworld liaisons.
Today, even after these many years, the actor Amjad Khan still holds relevance and reverence within the minds and hearts of all Bollywood fans.