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How Shatru became Shotgun!

March 13, 2003 13:21 IST

Dinesh Raheja

Confidence, thy name is Shatrughan Sinha, was his magic mantra. Sure enough, this famously big-mouthed actor's brash, cock-a-hoop attitude worked wonders for him.
Shatrughan Sinha
The scar-faced newcomer from Bihar, who had studied acting at the Film and Television Institute Of India, Pune, relied on his quick wit and care-a-whit attitude to leave a distinctive mark onscreen; and provide material for believe-it-or-not stories offscreen.

Imagine a bit role player making the grade to become a villain who evoked universal revulsion yet was immensely popular, before finally graduating to successful hero status!

Shatrughan's beginning in films -- a cameo role in Mohan Sehgal's Saajan (1969) -- was marred by an unhappy incident. Sinha inadvertently ruffled the feathers of the film's heroine, Asha Parekh. Fortunately for the loud-mouthed newcomer, he soon found other actors who understood his personality better. Sanjeev Kumar and Mumtaz became his good friends and avid supporters of his talent.

Mumtaz empathised with the struggling Sinha and recommended him for films like Khilona (1970). While shooting for Khilona, the novice Sinha could not get his first shot right much to the unit's displeasure, but Mumtaz came to his rescue. "This is no way to treat a newcomer," she boomed. Sinha's confidence got the much-needed boost. Years later, he repaid the favour when he starred opposite Mumtaz in her comeback film, Aandhiyan.

Shatrughan Sinha's landmark films
 Year  Film Costar
 1971  Mere Apne  Meena Kumari, Vinod Khanna
 1972  Bhai Ho To Aisa   Indrani Mukherjee
 1972  Rampur Ka  Laxman  Randhir Kapoor, Rekha
 1974  Dost  Naaz
 1976  Kaalicharan  Reena Roy
 1977  Aadmi Sadak Ka  Vikram, Zahira
 1978  Vishwanath  Reena Roy
 1979  Kaala Patthar

 Neetu Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor

 1979  Jaani Dushman  Rekha, Reena Roy
 1980  Dostana  Zeenat Aman
 1981  Naseeb  Hema Malini, Reena Roy, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor
 1987   Khudgarz  Amrita Singh


Khilona, a jubilee hit, brought Sinha a whiff of recognition and a surfeit of parallel roles in offbeat fare like Chetna and Do Rahe. The actor earned his stardom with Gulzar's Mere Apne (1971). As the rough-edged street don Chhainu, who hates rival Vinod Khanna's guts, Shatrughan's impact was raw but powerful. He amplified his hearty voice to the full. Costar Meena Kumari complimented him on his ability to deliver dialogues without pausing at the expected moments.

Mere Apne won Sinha labels like Wonder Boy and Wonder Villain. His career steamed full throttle and Sinha happily blustered his way in viperous roles in films like Rampur Ka Lakshman, Bhai Ho To Aisa and Heera.

As proof of his burgeoning popularity, Manmohan Desai was forced to heed his distributors and include a reformation scene in Bhai Ho To Aisa (1972). The public could no longer accept Sinha as an all-black villain. Sinha's style -- in the midst of an action-packed fight, he would take time off to check out if his watch was working -- suddenly made most villains look like they belonged to the age of the Flintstones.

Whether as a scoundrel (Kundan), cad (Blackmail) or parallel hero (Do Yaar), Shatrughan earned his reputation as a star villain because of his flamboyant style and his insouciant gimmicks.

But he was capable of more. His turn as the merry prankster-cum-loyal friend to Dharmendra in Dost (1974) was an instant hit with the masses. Sinha says, "My character in Dost comes closest to what I am like off-screen, naughty and talkative but with a childlike heart."

Shatrughan Sinha's famous songs
 Song  Film Singer
Kai sadiyion se, kai janmo se  Milaap  Mukesh
Barkha rani zara jamke barso  Sabak   Mukesh
Sharbati teri aankhon ki  Blackmail  Kishore Kumar
Shor mach gaya shor aaya makhanchor  Badla  Kishore Kumar
Kaise jeete hai bhala  Dost  Shatrughan Sinha, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar
Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai  Aadmi Sarak Ka  Mohammed Rafi
Bane chache dushman zamana hamara  Dostana Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi
Chana chor garam  Kranti  Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Nitin Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar
Zindagi imtihaan leti hai  Naseeb  Anwar, Kamlesh Awasthi, Suman Kalyanpur
Yehi kahin jiyara hamar  Khudgarz  Nitin Mukesh, Sadhna Sargam

Sinha shifted to hero roles opposite newcomers like Poonam [who later became his wife], as well as established heroines like Jaya Bahaduri (Gai Aur Gauri) and Hema Malini (Do Thug). Major success as a hero came Sinha's way with Subhash Ghai's thriller, Kalicharan (1976). Sinha had a double role in this tale about the transition of Kalicharan from a remorseless fugitive, a villain, to a sensitive law-abiding citizen, a hero. The story proved prophetic for Sinha. He made a decisive transition from villain to hero with this film and Kalicharan's heroine, Reena Roy, became a regular feature in Sinha starrers.

The Ghai-Sinha-Roy combination seemed to have found the key to success and, in quick succession, delivered yet another hit, Vishwanath.

The who's who of the industry were drawn into Sinha's magnetic field -- Prakash Mehra (Jwalamukhi), Manmohan Desai (Naseeb) Ramesh Sippy (Shaan), Raj Khosla (Dostana) and Yash Chopra (Kaala Patthar). With the support of Amitabh Bachchan's favourite scriptwriters, Salim and Javed, Sinha tried, but failed, to oust Amitabh.

Sinha and Bachchan brought out the best in each other, especially when they were playing adversaries (Dostana, Kaala Patthar), but they chose to go their own ways after Naseeb (1981).

In the early 1980s, Sinha's career went through a patchy spell despite the fact that Vinod Khanna, Sinha's immediate contender, had left the industry. Sinha's pairing with topnotch names like Hema Malini (Sharara), Smita Patil (Mera Dost Mera Dushman) and his favourite, Reena Roy (Do Ustaad), only added more blotches to his career. His latter day performances sorely underlined the fact that the early angst was missing.

Sinha needed to face up to a challenge -- whether it was in the form of Bachchan or the notion that scar-faced actors cannot make it big -- to bring out the best in him. His career reignited with the heat generated by violent conflagrations like Ilzaam (1986) and Aag Hi Aag (1987). With the surprise success of Khudgarz (1987), he became a big name again and his fans were convinced his appeal had survived the perils of the been-there-seen-that syndrome. As a Bihari whose heart is as big as his mouth, the film evidenced that Shatrughan Sinha was best in roles that mirrored his personality.

A compulsive talker, Shatrughan now employs his God-gifted prowess for oratory in his new role as the Union Minister of Shipping.

Occasionally, Sinha agrees to do a film (Madhur Bhandarkar's forthcoming Aan) or trains his sights on a play, Pati, Patni Aur Mein, where his witty monologues give him another chance to inhabit his favourite place -- centrestage.

Dinesh Raheja