As we mark the solemn occasion of Amjad Khan’s death anniversary, let us delve into the heart-wrenching account of an unfortunate accident that occurred in 1976, leading to irreversible consequences for the iconic character of Gabbar Singh in the legendary movie “Sholay.”
“Kitne aadmi the?” “Tera kya hoga Kaalia?” “So jaa beta, nahin to Gabbar aa jayega!” “Jo darr gaya samjho marr gaya!” His menacing dialogues have transcended time, etched into folklore, while his ruthless rhetoric echoes like the rocks he once ruled over. Ramesh Sippy’s cinematic masterpiece “Sholay” stands tall as an epic, but it is Gabbar Singh, the enigmatic antagonist, who has forged an indelible identity of his own. Amjad Khan, the talented actor who portrayed Gabbar, found himself forever entwined with the character’s savage stardom – feared by many, yet adored by countless fans.
Amidst the promise of a soaring career, Amjad Khan’s life took an unexpected turn when a fateful accident struck. Despite giving his best as an actor in the subsequent decades, he silently bore the physical toll of surgeries and steroid treatments. A tarot reader, who had once predicted a bright future for Amjad after “Sholay,” could not foresee the multitude of dreams that met an untimely end.”
Amjad Khan was a man of many talents, deeply immersed in the world of literature and theatre. Armed with a Master’s degree in Persian Literature and Philosophy of Religion, he initially aspired to be a journalist. His passion for the stage led him to share it with illustrious actors like Farooque Shaikh, Shabana Azmi, and Sanjeev Kumar in various plays.
Fate smiled upon Amjad when Chetan Anand and Balraj Sahni witnessed his powerful performance in the play “To This Night A Dawn,” centered around apartheid. Impressed by his acting prowess, Chetan Anand cast him in “Hindustan Ki Kasam” (1973). As destiny would have it, Amjad’s big break came with the offer to portray the iconic dacoit, Gabbar Singh, in the monumental movie “Sholay” (1975) – a role initially considered for Danny Denzongpa.
Behind the enigmatic persona, Amjad’s personal life also had its own romantic tale. He fell in love with Shehla, daughter of renowned writer and lyricist Akhtar-ul-Iman, when they were neighbors in Bandra during the ’60s. Their love story blossomed, and they tied the knot in 1972.
The release of “Sholay” catapulted Amjad Khan to stardom. His portrayal of Gabbar Singh captivated audiences, and he became a household name. Life changed dramatically for him after that fateful Sunday when he, along with his wife Shehla and son Shadab, had to escape a swarm of fans at Juhu Beach. From that point on, his popularity as Gabbar Singh soared, leaving an indelible mark on Indian cinema.
Tragedy struck the lives of Amjad Khan and his wife Shehla during their journey to the outdoor location of “The Great Gambler” (1976) in Goa. Accompanied by Shehla, Amjad was driving when an unfortunate accident occurred near Sawantwadi, close to Goa. Attempting to change a cassette in the car recorder, the vehicle crashed, leaving both of them severely injured. Shehla, six months pregnant with their daughter Ahlam, suffered injuries to her face and bones, leading to temporary amnesia. Amidst the chaos, she kept asking questions like, “Who are we, where are we going?”
Amjad’s injuries were even more severe. He endured thirteen broken ribs, a penetrating chest injury caused by the steering wheel that also ruptured his lung, and a broken femur bone, all resulting in internal bleeding. The news of the mishap quickly spread, and a crowd of fans gathered outside the hospital in Sawantwadi, demanding to see their beloved “Gabbar Singh.” Unable to manage the throng, the doctors transferred Amjad and Shehla to Panjim for further treatment.
In a critical condition, Amjad required immediate surgery in Goa. Amitabh Bachchan, his co-actor and dear friend, provided his consent for the doctors to perform a tracheotomy, a surgical procedure to aid breathing. After receiving initial treatment in Goa, the couple was later flown to Mumbai in a chartered flight. Their journey to recovery was long and arduous, as they remained in Nanavati Hospital for three months, battling their injuries and working towards healing.
Despite the traumatic accident, Amjad Khan’s spirit and determination shone through as he fought to regain his health and continue his illustrious career in the world of cinema.
The day, July 27, 1994, marked a tragic turn in the life of Amjad Khan. Scheduled to meet someone at 7 pm, he headed to his room to change, but destiny had other plans. At 7:20 pm, his son Shadab rushed downstairs, alarmed that his father had become cold and was sweating profusely. Amjad had fainted, and within moments, he passed away. He was merely 48 years old. The impending wedding anniversary, just three weeks away, could not be celebrated as the family was engulfed in profound grief.
The loss of Amjad Khan hit the family hard, especially his three children: Shadab, who was 17 at the time, Ahlam, aged 14, and Seemab, who was around 10 years old. Devastated by their father’s sudden departure, they found it incredibly challenging to come to terms with the heartbreaking reality. Shadab, who had once been carefree and passionate about art, undergoing personality changes and growing distant. Unfortunately, his early film debut with “Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat” (1997) did not provide solace.
For Shehla, Amjad’s wife, the loss was equally devastating. Ten months after Amjad’s passing, she faced health challenges in the form of tachycardia, a cardiac condition. She had to undergo a surgical procedure to stabilize her health, navigating the difficult journey without her beloved husband by her side.
The void left by Amjad Khan’s untimely departure had a profound and lasting impact on his family, who continued to cherish his memory and legacy even as they navigated the difficult path of grief and healing.
Indeed, time has proven to be the kindest therapy for the Khan family, allowing them to heal and find their paths after the loss of their beloved Amjad Khan. Shadab, who underwent a transformation after his father’s passing, has channeled his creativity into writing and filmmaking. He authored books, including “Shanti Memorial” in 2013 and “Murder in Bollywood” in 2015, showcasing his literary talents. His creative journey continued as he ventured into filmmaking, directing the short film “Mini Banerjee Ghar Mein Hai,” which received a nomination at the prestigious Filmfare Awards in 2020. Moreover, Shadab’s acting skills found recognition in the acclaimed series “Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story” in the same year.
Ahlam, on the other hand, discovered her passion for theatre and embraced the performing arts. She showcased her acting prowess in Bijoy Nambiar’s short Malayalam film titled “Reflections” in 2019, sharing the screen with renowned actor Mohanlal.
Seemab, the youngest of the siblings, found her footing in the film industry by contributing as an assistant on various film projects.
The family has also welcomed new members, with Shadab marrying Rumana and Seemab tying the knot with Shikha. These additions have brought the family even closer together, creating a shared treasure trove of memories.
Amjad Khan’s legacy lives on through his talented and resilient children, each carving their own path in the world of creativity and cinema. Despite the tragic loss they endured, they have found strength and unity in cherishing the memories they hold dear and in celebrating the common wealth of love and experiences they share under one roof.