On 27th July 1992 popular Bollywood actor, famous for his villainous roles, Amjad Khan died, aged 51 in Mumbai.
Khan was a renowned actor and director, famous for playing the role of dacoit Gabbar Singh in the 1975 classic film Sholay. Born in Peshawar (British India), Amjad Khan was the son of legendary actor Jayant. Khan had two brothers, who were also actors. Khan began his acting career as a theatre actor and bagged his first role in a film called Nazneen in 1951. Later, as a 17 year old, he featured in a film titled Ab Dilli Dur Nahin in 1957. He continued making small appearances in films with his father and later assisted K. Asif in the late 1960’s in his film Love and God, in which Khan also made a small appearance. Owing to Asif’s death, the film was shelved and later released in 1986, by then Amjad Khan had made his debut as an adult with the film Hindustan Ki Kasam in 1973.
In 1975, Khan was offered the role of dacoit Gabbar Singh for the film Sholay which catapulted him to fame and stardom. Khan’s portrayal of a sadistic dacoit who reflected nothing but evil on screen has earned him a place in the memories of all movie buffs. The role of Gabbar Singh was initially offered to another acclaimed actor, Danny Denzongpa, who could not make himself available since he was shooting for another film at the time. To prepare for his role as Gabbar Singh, Khan read Abhishapth Chambal, a book on the Chambal dacoits. This was written by Taroon Kumar Bhaduri, Jaya Bhaduri's father.
Even though Sholay was a multi-starrer, with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Sanjeev Kumar, Khan, with his stellar performance as a merciless and cruel dacoit, overshadowed them all. Even till today many people remember Amjad Khan’s dialogues as Gabbar and many spoofs and even a remake of the film has been made.
After the massive success of Sholay, Khan continued playing villainous roles in films in the 1970s right till the 1990s. He changed the image of the on-screen villain and depicted them as more sophisticated as opposed to their earlier image. In many films, he shared screen space with Amitabh Bachchan, who played the hero, while Khan played the villain. Apart from commercial films, Khan also took on unconventional roles such as that of a foolish ruler in Shatranj Ke Khiladi based on a novel by famous Hindi writer Premchand and directed by Satyajit Ray, one of India’s finest film makers. Ray was impressed by Khan’s command over English and Urdu.
Apart from carving a niche for himself in villainous roles, Khan also played many positive roles in films such as Yaarana and Laawaris. In 1988, Khan appeared in a Merchant-Ivory English film titled The Perfect Murder. He also played comic roles in films like Qurbani, Chameli Ki Shaadi and Love Story. In 1991, he repeated his role as Gabbar Singh in a parody film titled Ramgarh Ke Sholay, which also featured lookalikes of Dev Anand and Amitabh Bachchan.
Apart from being a versatile actor, Amjad Khan also directed films like Chor Police (1983) and Ameer Aadmi Gareeb Aadmi (1985). As a well-respected member of the Hindi film industry, Khan was the President of the Actor’s Guild, which would mediate disagreements between actors and film producers and directors.
In 1986, Amjad Khan had a severe accident on the Mumbai-Goa highway which left him with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Due to the serious injuries he also almost spilled into a coma, but fortunately, he recovered soon. The drugs Khan was administered during his operation caused him to gain a lot of weight, which led to further health complications. On July 27th 1992, Amjad Khan passed away following heart failure. Upon his death, his co-star and good friend, Amitabh Bachhan wrote a heartfelt obituary for him, reminiscent of the times they had spent together over the years and the strong friendship they shared.
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