Old times' sake

Bollywood buzz

Old times' sake

Forty-six years ago, Mohan Segal’s successful suspense drama Sajan saw a lanky inspector, billed as S S Sinha, in the credit titles. Pyar Hi Pyar and Dev Anand’s Prem Pujari followed.

From here to becoming Shatrughan alias ‘Shotgun’ Sinha, the star-villain with Khilona (1970), then a hero with Kundan (1972), a huge star as a leading man with Kalicharan (1976) and finally, an eminent, straight and clean politician, is the journey of no less than a living legend.

India’s first and only screen villain to get claps when he beat up the hero, he is also the first Indian film actor to become a cabinet minister.

For good measure, Shatrughan Sinha has sung his own songs in a few films, produced Kalka on coal-miners, acted in a play (Pati Patni Aur Main), been a television host (the Bhojpuri version of KBC) and judge (The Great Indian Laughter Challenge). He has also been ghost producer of many films including Vishwanath.

Villain with a heart

Stylised, charismatic, larger-than-life and ever-smiling, Shatrughan is famous for his one-liners, mannerisms and his resonant tenor. All have been much-imitated — like his single word “Khamosh (Keep quiet)!” Rajinikanth has acknowledged that he was inspired by Shatrughan. Incidentally, the two, who are great friends, came together twice, but while Asli Naqli flopped, the second film Takrao remains unreleased.

Today, all the Sinha children are shining in their respective fields. Sonakshi is a superstar and is hugely popular within the industry. Luv and Kush are into film production, with Luv also being an actor.

“You ask me to talk about my children, so let me start by saying that parents are always biased towards their kids, and so you are asking me to be,” he roars and chuckles. “I am not only fond of them all, but immensely proud of them. How many children of their age can be seen progressing in their careers with self-respect, dignity and family values, and devoid of any major or minor vices?”

He lauds his sons for their intelligence, maturity and determined commitment. “I hope, wish and pray that they live up to the expectations of the people and make both my wife Poonam and me even more proud of their dedication and professionalism.”

Sonakshi, he reveals, is “the answer to our prayers because we always wanted a daughter. She is the apple of my eye. Her personality sums up her character and confidence and explains her popularity. She is a model daughter and sister.”

He laughs when told that she has an immense following among kids. “I credit her mother completely for her upbringing. But for her confidence and performances, I, her father, should, could and would claim credit,” he quips. “With all my children, just like me, it has always been confidence, never over-confidence.”

Was he also not popular with children (this writer included!) even as a villain? A loud laugh and he admits, “That’s because Sonakshi and I both have a tough exterior but are soft inside. Guess our child-like innocence has got us there!”

A happy family

How much of his own success would be attributed to his wife Poonam? “She was my life-long ardhangini (better-half), but is now my sarvangani (everything),” he says. “If I have got this second life after my health crisis a few years ago, it is all because of her. I would also give her full credit for standing by me, and understanding me all through my professional and political careers.”

After Rakht Charitra, has he decided to quit films? “Not at all, but for me the most important part of any film, apart from the freshness in its script, is the timeframe for my work. Politics is my mission, so films get lesser priority. So I am a one-film-at-a-time man just as I am a one-woman-at-a-time man,” he chuckles.

He adds that he is not doing Akira starring Sonakshi because there was not a single scene with her, and says, “The script is great, so is the director, but in the larger interests of public expectations from a father-daughter team, I left the film amicably.”

About his approach as an actor, he simply says, “I always believed in growth. I accepted what happened with me and never tried to push things and play a bigger role than what I could. Yes, I am definitely one of the lucky ones — people say that I look more or less the same as I did when I entered this industry, that my persona is still as strong.”

He goes on, “Even today, during the first day of every film’s shoot, I feel like a complete newcomer, and that excitement cannot be described. So I always approach a film as if my career depends on my work that day.”

“The second thing is that I never looked at a villain as a villain, but as a character with weaknesses. I treated him naturally even if I adopted a style and glamour to be different, not necessarily better, than the others.” He proudly points out that the late producer Chinappa Devar waited for months for him to accept Gaai Aur Gori because his character moved from a villain to a good man and Devar thought that only he could be equally credible as both. And for Babul Ki Galiyan, though he was the bad guy, they had made a 25-foot cut-out of him!

Roaring with laughter, he drawls, “On screen, you know better than I do that I was welcomed with claps and even standing ovations when I entered as a villain. I was the first-ever villain who had a fan following among college girls, the first for whom a solo song “Sharbati teri ankhon ki” was conceived by Vijay Anand in Blackmail, and the first star to play an old man in L V Prasad’s 1972 Shaadi Ke Baad when I was just 26!”

Shatrughan’s most favourite co-stars were Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Mumtaz and Sanjeev Kumar. “Mumtaz, Sanjeev and Salim Khan were friends in need. When people did not want me in some films of Salim-Javed, it was Salim Khan who stood like a rock for me. He and his son Salman are like family.”

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