Sanjeev Kumar, a Versatile Actor, who shined among the Stars

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Sanjeev Kumar was known for his perfect timing, for expressing an emotion honestly and was considered to be a complete actor. Samina profiles the actor, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

If there was an actor who had defined versatility in acting and had inspired writers to create a character, who had been directors’ delight, then it was none other than Sanjeev Kumar. He was an actor par excellence, who most naturally and effortlessly slipped into any role, that of an intense Thakur in Sholay or the comic double role in Angoor.

Sanjeev Kumar was known for his perfect timing, for expressing an emotion honestly and was considered to be a complete actor. Born as Harihar Jethalal Jariwala, he changed his screen name to Sanjeev Kumar and also changed people’s perception of a Hindi film hero. He was an actor among the stars and dared to do roles of an old man with heroes close to his age.



To begin with, let’s talk about this legendary actor’s films, which were released in 1975 where each film brings to light a different layer of his talent. Also, these films were landmark films in the history of Bollywood for acting, music, and plots. Uljhan had Sanjeev Kumar playing the role of a police inspector investigating a murder in which he is suspicious of his wife and the song, Apne jeevan ki uljhn ko kaise mein suljhaaon is a song which echoes in our mind even today.

In Mausam, he plays a 50 plus guilt-ridden industrialist, who returned to look for the love of his youth and finds their daughter had landed in a brothel. The intensity with which he controls his emotions and the sensitivity with which he plays the father and tries to win over his daughter, bringing about a certain maturity in both the roles. One can’t help marvel at the dexterity with which Sanjeev Kumar essays the role traversing two different time periods, from the young medical student in love to the middle aged, mature, never married industrialist. His outburst at being misunderstood by Kajli (daughter) seemed so effortless and spontaneous.

“Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din….” Andhi is remembered today for the stunning performance of both the lead actors, Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar. The raw intensity in his eyes, in the role of the hotel manager JK, when he meets his wife after she comes to the hotel as a politician, the quiet suffering in her eyes, is phenomenal. The emotion conveyed and expressed without a word or music can be beautifully seen in this movie though one has to admit that the songs of Andhi were rhythmic melodious and soulful.

Iss morh se jaate hein

kuch sust kadam raste kuchh  tez kadam raahen

 patthar ki haveli ko shish ke gharonde mein

tinkon ke nasheman tak is mod se jaate hein…

Sholay proved to be a cult film and has set benchmarks in the history of Indian cinema. In this film, Sanjeev Kumar exemplifies his talent with his dialogue delivery, intensity, and dignity in the role of Thakur. In the role of a disciplined, honourable and revenge seeking Thakur Baldev Singh, the veteran actor made this character iconic, raising standards, which till today are insurmountable.

A film released in 1977, Shatranj ke Khilari, based on Munshi Premchand’s short story and directed by Satyajit Ray, is yet another film, which reflects the reality with which the two wealthy Nawabs, so involved in the game of chess, prefer to be indifferent to the scheming Britishers.

Be it a humourous comic role in Angoor, which would just make you crack up with uncanny comedy timings, a film based on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, or a serious angry industrialist in Trishul or a romantic husband to a wife who is in love with the other man in Silsila, playing nine roles in Naya Din Nayee Raat, opposite Jaya Bahaduri, and being the only man as a truck driver with four powerful women including Waheeda Rehman and Sharmila Tagore in Namkeen, Sanjeev Kumar has probably been the only actor who enjoyed author-backed roles.

From a mentally challenged groom in Khilona to playing and mute couple with Jaya Bahaduri in Koshish, which again is considered a landmark movie in the film industry, Sanjeev Kumar won various awards for the meaningful cinema he chose to do and was accepted wholeheartedly for playing the flirtatious husband in Pati Patni aur Woh. His charming demeanour, crooked smile and modest humble lifestyle won him friends in the industry and everyone truly agrees that 47 was no age for a man so gifted and talented to die. He died a bachelor leaving a huge vacuum in the film industry.

Tere bina zindagi se shikwa toh nahin

Shikwa nahin,

Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi toh nahin…

©Samina Naqvi

Photos and videos from the internet.

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Samina Naqvi, educator, teacher trainer and motivator, uses education as an instrument for change. She believes in adventure, romance and living life to the fullest. Watches and analyses films, understands people’s perception. Loves to travel, read, and meet people from different sociocultural backgrounds, integrating communities. She is free spirited and enjoys her freedom to live life on her terms. She also believes that the youth today needs to be guided to create a better tomorrow.