Every Sholay fan would agree that while Amitabh Bachchan’s Jai and Dharmendra’s Veeru were the heroes of the film, it was baddie Amjad Khan as Gabbar who is one of the most iconic characters of Indian cinema. His laughter, mannerisms and dialogues have often made it to stage acts and movies that followed. Villains achieved star status thanks to movies like Sholay and roles like Gabbar. Even in his meanness Amjad Khan was endearing. And such was the impact of his honest portrayal of Gabbar Singh in Ramesh Sippy’s blockbuster. On Amjad Khan’s birth anniversary we take you back to a movie that gave India one of the most memorable anti-heroes.
Gabbar would never have been what it is today if it wasn’t for Amjad Khan. Many from the 70s vouch for this fact. But did you know that the part was originally offered to another fine Bollywood actor, Danny Denzongpa before Amjad Khan came on board. And it took more than just transformation for Khan to play this part. Legend is that Danny had to bow out of Sholay because he had already promised his dates to Feroz Khan, who was filming Feroz Khan’s Dharmatma at the time in Afghanistan. There’s even a picture of the original cast from the mahurat of Sholay that has Danny posing alongside the rest of the cast Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Hema Malini and Sanjeev Kumar. In fact, Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar wanted to play Gabbar’s role, which eventually fell on Amjad Khan’s lap.
And if you thought that the actor got lucky, then let’s tell you it was not. The actor was recommended by Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, who were the writers on this film. Ramesh Sippy on meeting Amjad approved of him and the actor was taken on board. The day, Amjad Khan signed Sholay was also special, because the young actor also became father to his son Shadab Khan on the same day.
The day Amjad Khan was to join the Sholay team in Bangalore, he took a flight that had a hydraulic failure and the pilot had to circle around Mumbai and the actor landed back in the city instead of reaching his destination. The actor refused to return home and stayed put at Mumbai airport. Amjad Khan was amongst the 4-5 people who took the same flight to Bangalore that day after the technical malfunction that the aircraft had experiences.
And that wasn’t it, on reaching Sholay sets the actor was super nervous and was kept on bench for almost a month. After trying 40 takes with the actor, Ramesh Sippy and the film’s cinematographer Dwarka Divecha asked Amjad to stay in his character and experience him. Buzz around the sets was not in favour of Amjad and many from the crew wanted the actor out. Gossip started that Amjad Khan would be replaced and many chimed that he wasn’t an able replacement for Danny Denzongpa.
The biggest blow on Amjad’s confidence was the fact that those who had recommended him, Salim-Javed, had asked Ramesh Sippy to replace the actor if need be as they didn’t want to sabotage this much anticipated project that was also highly talked about for it’s casting coup. The actor was hurt his friendship with Salim-Javed took a beating, so bad that after Sholay they never worked together. However, Gabbar will forever be one of the most iconic villains of Indian cinema and best character in lives of Salim-Javed and Amjad Khan.