Remembering Sanjeev Kumar

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Best remembered for his roles in Khilona, Aandhi, Mausam, Parichay, Koshish, Anamika, Seeta Aur Geeta and Sholay, Sanjeev Kumar covered the wide gamut of characters.


Born on July 9, 1938 as Haribhai Zariwala, Sanjeev Kumar was one of the most capable yet underrated actors of his times. Today is his 24th death anniversary.

He is still remembered for his role of a mentally challenged individual in Khilona and the helpless husband of a high profile wife in Aandhi believed by many to have been modeled on the life of Indira Gandhi.

He did many more memorable roles and dared to play roles older than his age. His unforgettable troika of old man roles in 1975 in films like Sholay, Aandhi and Mausam barely a decade after making his debut in 1965 with Nishana only proves that he defied the industry’s unwritten-rules by choice.

His portrayal of a successful romantic leading man in a string of films like Anhonee, Anamika, Seeta Aur Geeta and Manchali in 1972-1973 goes to prove that he could touch cord with any character.

His portrayals of two differently troubled husbands in Dastak and Anubhav won him accolades. His association with Gulzar in films like Mausam and Aandhi, Parichay and ‘Koshish’ where he brought alive the hopes and heartbreaks of a deaf-mute couple remains unmatched even today.

His other memorable films include ‘Sangharsh’, ‘Khilona’, ‘Pati Patni Aur Who’, ‘Silsila’, ‘Namkeen’ and ‘Vidhata’. He performed nine different roles simultaneously in the film ‘Naya Din Nayi Raat’ (1974).

He won the Filmfare Best Actor Awards in 1975 and 1976 for ‘Aandhi’ and ‘Arjun Pandit’. Sanjeev Kumar also got two National Film Awards for Best Actor for ‘Dastak’ in 1971 and in 1973 for ‘Koshish’. He had never married.

In 1985, when he was only forty-seven years old, he died of a heart ailment. Ironically for an actor who played many elderly roles, he did not live to the age of 50. Ten of his already completed films were released after his death with his final film ‘Professor Ki Padosan’ being released in 1993.

One of his other notable releases after his death was K Asif’s much delayed ‘Love and God’, which was over 20 years in the making. After director K Asif died in 1971, production came to a halt and the film finally released in incomplete form in 1986, one year after Sanjeev Kumar himself also died.

34 Responses to “Remembering Sanjeev Kumar”

  1. No words are enough to describe Sanjeev Kumar. I feel possibly his inability to do action along with this increasing girth was the reason he had to adopt to doing mature roles.
    However apart from his acting, he was also apparently an excellent human being. I remember reading somewhere that Rafi and Sanjeev Kumar were the two persons who always helped out (monetarily that is) those innumerable strugglers hoping for a chance in Bollywood.

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  2. Fabulous actor. Does anyone remember his act (shown on DD) of a street seller of talismans? He would put on a high pitch voice, shut one eye as though he were wearing a pirate’s patch, and go on in a nasal twang non-stop about the many benefits of using the talisman he was peddling. It was one of the best single-man acts I have ever seen.

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  3. salimjakhra Says:

    Sanjeev is my favourite actor of all time. Nobody else comes close. He was awesome in just about everything he did, but no doubt his best was with Gulzar. Who can say they are stunned by him in Mausam and Aandhi. Angoor exploited his comic talent to the full. Not to forget Parichay and Namkeen. Oh and Koshish! By far the greatest Director-Hero combination India has ever seen.

    Also liked him a lot in Hrishida’s films, but the thing about Sanjeev Kumar was he was great in even crappy 70’s movies.

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    • Parichay (Sound of muisc) starred Jeetendra.

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      • It did have Sanejev Kumar playing the role of children’s father albeit a small one. and of course the song ‘Beeti na beetaaiyi raina’

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        • Yes… but it sounds like saying one watched ‘Alaap’ and ‘Kala Patthar’ for Sanjeev Kumar!

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          • Aalaap I agree, but was Sanjeev in Kala Patthar?

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          • salimjakhra Says:

            Well, I didn’t exactly say that Sanjeev was the best thing about Parichay or that I watched the movie for him!

            But I would say that the scene from Parichay that stands out for me is the song that Latha mentioned Beeti Na Bitayi Raina, which was picturised on Sanjeev and Jaya, hence he comes to mind immediatley when I think of that movie.

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        • salimjakhra Says:

          And what a song it was! Magic
          Thanks Latha

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          • OK. I didn’t know you liked the movie just because of the song, as I was responding purely in the context of your original post – the director-hero combo of Gulzar and SK.

            I know now.

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  4. I rate him above Dilip Kumar – with a an extraordinarily expressive face.

    Good man. Great actor.

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  5. To the ‘MasterPraz’ of Poll:

    Please do a poll on Sanjeev Kumar’s best. It could be befitting on his anniversary.

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  6. Just saw this song on B4U. didn’t know it was picturised on Sanjeev Kumar and that he had apired up with Nutan. Quite amusing to see him do a Jeetendra!

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  7. He’s the great character actor of Hindi cinema…the most notable male acting presence outside of Bachchan in the mainstream cinema of the 70s as far as I’m concerned.

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    • GF, you don’t consider him to be a lead actor?

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      • Well I don’t think being a lead actor and a character actor are necessarily mutually exclusive….certainly in my view Sanjeev’s great strength as a leading man was that he put character before anything else. He worked as a seamless part of many of the movies I’ve seen him in – whether in a supporting or lead act.

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  8. Have a weakness for this one:

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  9. Latha:

    Rakhee’s character replaces Sanjeev Kumar’s as the doctor in the village.

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    • and Sanjeev Kumar makes his mark even in that brief moment..

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      • Talking of making his mark – Swarg Narak was a gem of a performance. Lakhon ki Baat, Biwi-O-Biwi were hilarious.

        PS The above article is quite half-done. And, ‘Pati Patni aur Who’ chuckled me!

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        • “Swarg Narak was a gem of a performance.”

          Don’t recall the performance here but do remember the film being something of a horror. But I must admit I have always loathed films (Aap ki kasam with Rajesh Khanna is another example) where husbands go crazy suspecting their wives of infidelity. Lacan (following Freud’s lead) felt that jealousy in this sense was pathological. In other words the actual infidelity was empirical evidence of what the husband anyway believed or wished to believe. Other than those great psychological theorists the only people who’ve understood this truth are those sublime Hindi film directors.

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          • Do watch Swarg Narak. His part was great. (It starred Jeetendra and Vinod Mehra as well. I think you’re talking about Jaani Dushman perhaps)

            I haven’t delved that deeply into the jealousy part. However, ‘the sublime Hindi film directors’ are the typical Indian male, more often than not.

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          • SWARAG NARAK is available on Netfix streaming if you are interested and completely agree BIWI-O-BIWI is an oft overlooked gem of a performance. The climax scene where Dina Pathak resolves the confusion is completely out of the world!

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  10. One movie which I recollect quite well, again thanks to DD is “Sachaai” – a story of two friends played by Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar -Shammi Kapoor believes that one cannot achieve anything in life without being dishonest and Sanjeev believes otherwise. So they wager that they would go on thier respective paths and meet after 1 year to see who is right. As fate would have it, at the end of the year Sanjeev Kumar becomes a wanted thief and Shammi Kapoor is the cop on his trial!
    very interesting movie actually. and am now realising the truth of GF’s comment- as early as 1969 Sanjeev Kumar did not have any problem in sharing screen space.

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  11. Two things about Sanjeev-
    1. More acting talent in his little toe than Dilip Kumar
    2. Sandwished between Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor in Bollywood heirarchy of thespians. Followed by Naseer and OmPuri. Yes, you read it right. Rishi over Naseer- Om.

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    • I think Rishi’s over Om and Naseer is a good theoretical argument…unfortunately, his filmography doesn’t offer the best evidence for this argument in actual practice. I think he was an immensely talented actor but would I revisit his performances over Om’s and Naseer’s in some of the latter pair’s landmark works? Nope.

      Of course I’m sure I’m in a minority.

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      • I wouldn’t accept that case in theory, let alone in practice! Rishi was a decent enough actor who matured with age, but he was no thespian, per se. And the early days of Dilip Kumar are worth watching — again and again!

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  12. Back to Hari Bhai, I am not one of his greatest fans, but if he’s not spellbinding in Sholay, Trishul, Mausam (3 of his finest!) then the term needs some new definition.

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  13. sir,sanjeevkumar is the greatest this country has produced.He along with ashokkumar,dilip,sivaji ganesan,akkineni nageswararao,sathyan,and uttamkumar
    are institutions by themselves,by virtue of the veriety of roles they have undertaken
    and ease with which they have presented themselves even in difficult roles and the
    dedication to their profession.of course sanjeev heads the above list of most distinguised artists this country has produced.Let me salute Gujrat for giving us
    Mahathma Gandhi the greatest humanbeing of all times and sanjeevkumar the best
    ever.
    rgds
    j natarajan

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    • Pritpal kaur Says:

      How can all of you forgot to write about ANGOOR?

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    • rockstar Says:

      rate uttam kumar and shivaji ganeshan in terms of natural acting as among the best we had in our country but ab as total range and diverse movie have surprassed them long back

      sanjeev was the gem …a guy who died very young(at 47) and still he is known for his most elderly role says it all

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