Sunday, March 3, 2024

Tuesday Trivia: When Amjad Khan almost lost his role of Gabbar Singh in Sholay

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In the spirit of delving into the intriguing world of cinema, this Tuesday Trivia brings to light a fascinating tidbit about the casting process that almost changed the course of cinematic history. Sholay, directed by Ramesh Sippy and released on August 15, 1975, stands as a monumental masterpiece in Hindi cinema, boasting a stellar cast featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, and the legendary Amjad Khan.

Before Sholay, Amjad Khan was not a household name, and the role that catapulted him to fame almost slipped through his fingers due to an unexpected hurdle—his distinctive voice.

In the early stages of casting for the role of Gabbar Singh, the menacing villain of Sholay, the writer duo Salim-Javed was actively involved in the selection process. Originally, Danny Denzongpa had been signed for the role, but due to a prior commitment to Feroz Khan’s Dharmatma, he had to step down. This turn of events led Javed Akhtar to recall an actor named Amjad Khan, whom he had seen in a playback in 1963.

Salim Khan, impressed by Amjad Khan, recommended him to Ramesh Sippy, emphasizing that it was the finest role in the biggest film of the time. However, during the initial meetings, concerns arose about Khan’s unconventional voice and whether it would suit the character of Gabbar Singh.

Salim-Javed, not willing to compromise the film’s potential success, suggested to Sippy to replace Amjad Khan. This decision left Khan disheartened, as he felt it was a significant setback to his budding career. Despite the recommendation, Ramesh Sippy saw something in Amjad Khan that convinced him he was the right fit for Gabbar Singh. Going against the initial reservations, Sippy cast Khan in the iconic role, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reflecting on the casting decision in 2020, Sippy shared how he was impressed by Khan’s stage performance and overall presence. “His face, built, personality, voice—everything felt right. We told him to grow a beard, got him in the costume, took pictures, and he just felt right as a rough-and-tough guy,” revealed Sippy.

Amjad Khan’s unforgettable portrayal of Gabbar Singh in Sholay went on to become a defining moment in Indian cinema, proving that sometimes, unconventional choices lead to cinematic brilliance.

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