Gulzar remembers Sanjeev Kumar

A Complete Actor


He broke all the rules of stardom and yet was a star, a romantic hero and an all-rounder par excellence. 47 was no age for one of Hindi cinema’s brightest talents to go, but on November 6, 1985, Sanjeev Kumar passed away, leaving fans, friends and the Hindi film shell-shocked.
“For me, he was the complete actor. I have always said that I had two anchors – one was Sanjeev Kumar, and the other was R.D.Burman.
What most people do not know is that I knew Haribhai (as I called him) from the late 1950s. We were both with the Indian National Theatre where I would write for the plays and he was a stage actor. Sanjeev was a student of P.D.Shenoy, who was also teaching at the Filmalaya School of Acting and later turned film director.

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130 Responses to “Gulzar remembers Sanjeev Kumar”

  1. Indeed.
    A truely great and a remarkeable talent.
    In terms of pure acting talent, he had no competition.

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    • offtopic-

      if u have missed it i thought u might like to check a poster i drop for u in action replay thread along with trailer of the movie which inspires Tees Maar khan. its hilarious!

      peter sheller’s After the fox…

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  2. Lakshmi Jag Says:

    Thanks for the article…I am a great admirer of Mr. Sanjeev Kumar and never did know a lot about him. He was a brilliant performer

    Lakshmi

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  3. thanks for this piece Munna..

    One of the most welcome actors on screen in terms of his persona. Always a pleasure to watch though I do believe that between the actor who did a Trishul or a Mausam or a Sholay (though I don’t think as highly of this last one as the previous two) or possibly an Aandhi and that who did all those other commercial parts (as lead or otherwise) there was really a gulf in terms of performance. Sanjeev was a true natural but he wasn’t great on more than a few occasions. perhaps he did not get enough author-backed parts. Not blaming him but I am astonished when I see him in a Trishul or a Mausam and nothing else really evokes the same response from me. But again he was always a pleasure to watch and certainly an indispensable part of Hindi cinema.

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    • Did you watch Angoor, Namkeen,Manoranjan, Pati,Patni aur Woh,Koshish,Naya Din Nayi Raat,Arjun Pandit ,Manchali etc?
      He was one of the rare actors who was always on his game, no matter what the movie or the role. A true bluer thespian if there ever was one.

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    • Lakshmi Jag Says:

      Satyam….I once again disagree with you. I think you confuse the choice of the role with the performance. I think he played brilliantly no matter what scope the role had or how small or big the role was

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      • No I think you’re confusing Sanjeev Kumar with Amitabh Bachchan!

        Sanjeev was always fine but wasn’t enough of a star to be ‘great’ doing many of the parts he did. But also one can be a very gifted actor without being absolutely impressive all of the time. Very few actors anywhere in the world fall in the latter group. He was always a pleasure to watch. I’ve always said this. But I wouldn’t call him great in Swayamvar!

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  4. salimjakhra Says:

    Easily my favourite actor of all time – loved him in everything he did, but certainly he was at his best with Gulzar.
    I’m introducing a friend to Gulzar’s cinema but am still in two mids what to show him first!!

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  5. Haribhai …. actual name, and the name that i still use for this genius and legendary actor.

    One of the most underappreciated actor of indiasn cinema, and moreso interesting thing he was my folks neighbour in surat, they slightly knew him..

    we all know him as i said Hari bhai.. actual name Haribhai Jariwala, now many of us are aware of his brother (correct me if wrong) Darsha Jariwala’s work.. as Gandhi.. a stalwart actor he too.

    its a family with strong acting talent in thier genes imo.

    i still remember that Palloo nich scene from Hero. ( i saw all his movies in backward spiral!) than who can forget ANGOOR Mausam.. some of them are gem of his work.

    and Trishul.. against an author backed Big B role he carried himself with dignity and as a perfect character..

    miss him… come to near his place in hometown people still remember him.. thats what i have heard..

    and most heck of a thing.. hes never given due credit…. always remember ya.. a proud talent of India and Gujarat.. Haribhai

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  6. very true rooney , the guy is brilliant . though he didnt get many author backed role but he has come up with admirable performances in movies like Angoor,Mausam ,trsihul, khilona etc. But what is unfortunate is that he didnt receive the appreciation or stardom that he actually deserved

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  7. Angoor was thee best of sanjeev,thakur yeh haath humko dede thakur,ofcourse “SHOLAY” but best of films were trisul and vidhaata and some how he outshined both Amitabh & Dilip Kumar in respectively….

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  8. Never been a great fan of Sanjeev Kumar but I do admire him a lot. He wasn’t exactly a lead actor in the strictest sense of the word but he was a very effective character artist. In the age of superstars, he took risks as an actor, played characters much older than his real age and always came out trumps. In many ways, Boman Irani reminds me of Sanjeev Kumar and that’s the biggest compliment I can ever give to the former!

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    • @saket – disagreed, he was a very good lead actor, fact was only that he wasnt a great lead actor commercially may be, otherwise his voice, get up and performance were always there.. none better to show it like-

      angoor.

      my tow cents.. though i havent seen his full filmography.. but here was a man who could be equal to bachchan onscreen in an author backed role eg movie TRISHUL

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      • I remember saying lead actor in the “strictest sense of the word.” Kishore Kumar acted as a lead in many films, but he too isn’t remembered as a lead actor.

        I don’t doubt his talent and of course Trishul remains a perennial favorite. That apart, the only actors I admire more happen to be Amitabh, Naseer and Om Puri. I also am a fan of the younger Dilip Kumar, Balraj Sahni and a huge fan of Guru Dutt (though more for his directorial prowess than his acting). Among the oldies, I also like Shammi Kapoor & the younger Dev Anand. After Bachchan, only Aamir is good enough to join my favorites list. Again, speaking in terms of lead actors only. There are many supporting actors whom I admire a lot. Manoj Bajpai, Kay Kay Menon, just to name a few…

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        • but ur strictest sense is too harsh.. that aside agree.

          as being strict on haribhai is imo too stubborn a decision as he was certainly brought more to a movie than say Manoj Bajai, Kay kay.. may be naseer is equal or else i am sure..

          but i understand where u are coming from

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        • saket,
          Thakurs role in sholay do you think any other actor could have done that or mausam,nop i think sanjeev kumar a unique actor and every time i see his films i just admire the guy..Naya din nayee raat and sanjeev kumar played nine roles in it and every character in that film was something special…He died in 1985 and it was a big lose to bollywood..

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  9. Right off the bat, my favourites are Aandhi and Pati, Patni aur Woh! Impeccable comic timing and excellent in melodrama too. Aandhi had some gems of songs which would find themselves on any Kishoreda , all time list,:
    My favourite:(one of the few, which have a full blown conversation in the middle)

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  10. I am surprised at the treatment Sanjeev is receiving here.
    He easily leaves Naseer and Om Puri in the dust.
    Comparision with AB is unfair as he is unique.
    What is this BS about him not being a lead actor?
    Of course he was a lead actor in almost all his films with probable exception of films like Vidhata.
    And he had a powerful but not overpowering presence too.
    And could do dram or comedy with equal ease.
    Very spontaneous too.
    I wonder if Saket and Satyam are referring to the same actor as others.
    He is in a different stratosphere than Boman.

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    • Rajen, have you seen Naseer in Paar, Peston Jee, Junoon, Sparsh? Om Puri in Aakrosh, Ardh Satya?

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      • Yes to most of those.
        Naseer is fine and so is Om Puri.
        But,none of them is quite as natural as Sanjeev was nor do they have his range or his charisma.
        Some may find it odd to say Sanjeev was charismatic but he was.For someone who was so clearly out of shape for most of his career and was not strikingly good looking, he managed to play the conventional hero with his unique ability to modulate his voice and the sparkle in his eyes.

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        • Naseer is extremely talented but he has never had any star wattage. Except may be a glimpse in Wednesday. Om Puri’s filmography without Ardh Satya is lacklustre. I find him somewhat overrated.
          I honestly believe htey dont belong in the same discussion as Sanjeev.
          You can lump them with Irfan and Bajpai and Menon, Irani etc with Sahani leading the pack.
          Sanjeev as a star actor in my books is sandwiched between Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor.

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          • Rishi Kapoor? That bloated meatball who wore sweaters to hide his paunch? 🙂

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          • Rishi at least through the early 80s is one of my all time favorite Hindi stars. And few were as natural as he was though sadly he didn’t quite get the opportunities he deserved. On his best day I would take some of his comic talents over anyone in Hindi cinematic history with the exception of Bachchan and Amol Palekar. The AAA guy I think even beats Govinda hollow and to be honest holds his own rather well even with Anthony. I think this ‘pair’ in AAA is Hindi cinema’s greatest comic act. Today I find it sad to see him in the kind of shape he is and I don’t derive any pleasure from his performances (with the possible exception of D6). He really let himself go after the early to mid-80s but his turn in the unconventional Ek Chadar Maili Si (from the mid-80s) is a gem.

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          • “Sanjeev as a star actor in my books is sandwiched between Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor”

            not a bad way of framing it. With all the usual caveats.

            You’ve being unkind to Om Puri though. I would agree that he isn’t necessarily a great actor in the true sense of the word but he can be more efficient in more situations than most others one can think of. I have found him effective in even very routine commercial fare.

            Sanjeev had a unique signature and I certainly cannot think of too many more welcome actors in terms of their persona and style than him in Hindi cinema. Sanjeeb was a true natural for sure but I can’t put him on a list of great star-actors though I suppose such a list for Hindi cinema is a rather brief one for me in any case!

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        • His signature voice modulation was actually an irritant in most of his “bad” movies. It’s also the most parodied voice in most stand-up acts on TV.

          I have immense respect for Sanjeev Kumar. But I don’t think he’s more “natural” compared to Naseer or Om.

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    • I would never compare him to Boman! And yes he was a lead star for most of his career. again I wasn’t probably clear early on. I love Sanjeev everywhere but I do not consider him a great performer everywhere. If Trishul is the standard then the Seeta aur Geeta or Anamika or Manchali guy need not apply! But yeah he’s still a great presence and inimitable presence and even very fine in some smaller parts like Silsila or Kaala Pathar (just the one scene here). Do I consider him greater than Naseer or Om Puri? No though on their best days there is a fair comparison. I’d personally take Sanjeev over the other two. Naseer might be the greatest among the three at his best though I’ve often found him more intense than is required by the part or perhaps too visceral. It is his greatest strength is some ways but also a weakness in other situations (to take two examples from Saket’s list Naseer does Aakrosh and Sparsh in somewhat similar fashion, works better in the former instance than in the latter). Naseer is often lacking in commercial cinema. He was very fine in Bezubaan but that’s an exception to my mind. Om Puri does better than him in terms of adapting to every format but again at their very best he probably pales before Naseer. But as a personal preference I’d take Sanjeev in Trishul or Mausam over anything the other two have done.

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    • @rajen- no need of surprise i have seen this before haribhai not getting due credit.. and very good and apt comment and i 100 % agree with u.

      his range of voice, and those eyes.. when intense and his natural body language in comedy.. amazingly talented.. and hugely neglected.. its disappointing when people compare him with Boman!

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  11. Seriously, watching ‘Dev’ was a paisa-vasool experience just to see Amitabh & Om Puri having a go at each other! Nihalani also chose their dinner table conversations to pinpoint the moral core of the film brilliantly…

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  12. I was kidding about Rishi Kapoor. But to be honest, I don’t see the big deal about his acting. Sure, I’ve enjoyed watching him over the years (Damini, Khoj, Chandni come to mind) but he wasn’t a patch on his father, who I forgot to mention in my list. Although with Raj Kapoor, I think he just stopped being an actor after Awaara — his single best performance.

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    • Saket,
      Just watch Do dooni char. A rather insignificant film but illustrates why I consider Rishi to be the best actor from the Kapoor clan.

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      • have to check this out..

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      • I remember watching Do Dooni Chaar. Only it was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy Of Errors’, with Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen. Later on, Gulzar cast Sanjeev Kumar/Deven Verma in the same roles in ‘Angoor’.

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      • Watch Rishi Kapoor of recent times in ‘Chintuji’.
        He’s so wonderful as himself. The film itself is a fantastic satire on ‘stars’.

        I’m another supporter of Sanjeev Kumar, and think he is the best of those mentioned (Naseer, Boman, Om puri(???)).
        Naseer is the same in every film.

        There’s one film of his which I watched on TV a long time ago. His arguments with God (Krishana) are so hilarious and brings out the comedian in him.
        His versatility was amaaaaazing!!!!!!!

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    • Have a great weakness for Raj Kapoor and yes he got typecast too soon. But even so he was very expressive as an actor. Of course early on he had that great show-stealing deal in Andaz. I too would take Raj Kapoor over Rishi Kapoor as an overall package but I don’t think the gap is that great (if at all). Again Rishi did not get the right opportunities but he was remarkable even in MNJ. And what I would say is that Ranbir anywhere is not a patch on just the guy who did Bobby.

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      • Yes, Andaz, Aag and even Chori Chori were big highlights in Raj Kapoor’s career as an actor.

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      • salimjakhra Says:

        although i found him creepy later on, he was nice to watch in the early movies he did with mala sinha (parvarish, phir subha hogi), nutan (anari, dil hi toh hai, chhalia), meena kumari (sharda), waheeda rahman (ek dil sau afsaane – love this comedy). sadhana (dulha dulhan – even though this was actually mid sixties…had that beautiful lata solo humne tujhko pyar kiya hai jitna kaun karega itna…there was a great mukesh version too.).
        every single one of those above movies had incredible soundtracks…

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  13. @rajen- completely agreed, any given sunday Haribhai IMO was better and agree AB was unique.. but so was Haribhai in my eyes.

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  14. Big B ofcourse was unique . his charm and persona is evident even while watching a movie on Television and i can just imagine how it wd be to watch him onscreen in his younger days.Infact his success and stardom is till untouched by the curren generation of superstar but that doesnt means Sanjeev kumar wasn’t good . agreed he did noy have the screen presence as Big B but he was natural , his eyes used to speak so does the voice modulation used to work. He was absolute delight to watch in Angoor along with deven verma . he was awesome again in Pati patni aur woh . in Trishul, i loved Big B but then Big b get an author backed role of a youngster taking revenge from his father but sanjeev kumar looked equal to him in almost all the Frames . his act as mentally ill person in Khilona is alos good. Aandhi he was good and as said some of the above comment that even where he was sidelined he come up good like in Silsila or maybe a one scene Kaala paththar.

    Naseer can be compared to Sanjeev but OM puri . i dont think om puri has anything apart from an ardh satya . Boman is a good prospect but is till not comparable to sanjeev kumar till now but he has done some brilliant roles in past in Munnabhai ,Don, 3 idiots and well done abba being notable

    I Can compare Sanjeev with Naseer only not the other 2 . Both of these have marked their presence even with the samllest of roles . This reminds me of Naseer’s small role in rajneeti . he was good and stood out

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  15. Thankful for the fact that some sanity has been restored in this thread.

    On a related note, Parda hai from AAA, I regard as one of the golden moments of mainstream cinema in Bollywood. What an act by Rishi Kapoor. If one HAS to wear a transparent shirt, he shows how to carry it off. Every time I see the song I marvel at how pitch perfect he is. His body language, expressions etc elevate a hummable tune to an altogether different level. Easily would make it to my top five song picturisations in Hindi cinema.
    For people who have not seen it recently, may be someone can upload a link.

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    • RE: “On a related note, Parda hai from AAA, I regard as one of the golden moments of mainstream cinema in Bollywood. What an act by Rishi Kapoor. If one HAS to wear a transparent shirt, he shows how to carry it off. Every time I see the song I marvel at how pitch perfect he is. His body language, expressions etc elevate a hummable tune to an altogether different level. Easily would make it to my top five song picturisations in Hindi cinema.”

      Rajen saahab, aap ne dil khush kar diya. One of the supreme “maila”/cheap-O moments in Bollywood as far as I am concerned…of course, to the extent it encouraged untold numbers of old city youths to wear transparent shirts, perhaps someone needs to file a PIL against Rishi…

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      • Agreed with Rajen.. Parda is one of the most iconic moments ever..

        Disagree with him similarly on Naseer (wouldn’t go as far) though agree on Shabana Azmi.. she’s simply one of the most overrated actresses around.. good but not extraordinary and I too prefer Patil.. again can’t take Irfan over Naseer in any sense..

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  16. To bring back some ‘insanity’, I’d like people to actually watch the following films first and then talk about Naseer:

    Nishant
    Manthan
    Bhumika
    Junoon
    Sparsh
    Aakrosh
    Albert Pinto…
    Bhavni Bhavai
    Chakra
    Bazaar
    Jaane Bhi…
    Katha
    Masoom
    Woh Saat Din
    Paar
    Mohan Joshi …
    Ghulami
    Trikaal
    Mirch Masala
    Tamas
    Ijaajat
    Pestonjee
    Monsoon Wedding

    And I stop because I have run out of patience. There’s actually a very strong case to call him the most outstanding actor in Hindi Cinema!

    As for some people calling Sanjeev Kumar ‘underrated’, think about poor Naseer. He’s a 3 time National Award winner for crying out loud. A Padma Shri recipient and a future Phalke winner. And people talk about his ‘commercial’ performances!

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    • I’d easily take Naseer over Sanjeev as an actor. The latter is certainly a more likable presence and definitely more of a star but just not the actor Naseer is…

      And Saket I’ll actually agree a teeny bit with you on Sanjeev’s voice which for me, on the whole, works very nicely but there’s always this sense that he’s somewhat constipated.

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      • Re: but there’s always this sense that he’s somewhat constipated

        You are confusing Kulbhushan with Sanjeev.

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        • Well, yeah, no one sounds as constipated as Kulbhushan!

          But Sanjeev had his moments. Part of why he worked so well in Trishul is because he so passionately wanted to “expel” someone through the course of the entire film.

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  17. Saket,
    No body is denying that Naseer is an extremely gifted actor but was not much of a star.
    Plus, there was a sameness about his acting in all but few films. And, it doesnt help that he has an elephant size chip on his shoulder.
    Anyway, beyond a point this becomes a pointless exercise with people firmly entrenched in their positions. It is all a matter of personal opinions.

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    • I’m not denying it at all. Sanjeev Kumar wasn’t a star either. Sanjeev Kumar’s most iconic performances belong to Sholay, Trishul, Mausam, Aandhi and if one must be lenient, Namkeen. In all 4 films (except Namkeen) he actually played a man much older than his real age. He wasn’t a conventional ‘lead’ in any of these films.

      But yes, beyond a point, the whole exercise becomes pointless. I’m not trying to proselytize but only trying to point out that there’s a whole aspect to hindi films that remains uncovered, unappreciated because it’s not that ‘accessible’ or popular.

      Finally, I don’t think Naseer was repetitive. I will agree with Satyam that he hasn’t trasitioned that well in the commercial format but if you wish to look at range, watch him in Junoon, Mirch Masala, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Katha. Back to back. These 4 films are enough to make anyone a convert.

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      • Let me put it this way.
        He (Naseer) never surprised me. Each role was played exactly as one would imagine him playing it.

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        • An unflattering comparision here. He is like a male Shabana Azmi. Someone, who inspite of an ilustrious career, I am not a big fan of. The only time, I think she surprised me is in the new Umrao Jaan. Would any day take Smita Patil over her.

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        • I don’t know how many of the above mentioned films you’ve seen but leaving that aside, can you imagine anyone else playing Naseer’s characters and surprising you? If not Naseer, then who else?

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          • Well, honestly I think Irfan could do the same roles and I would probably find it more compelling. Irfan has something that Naseer lacks. Even a two minute turn by Irfan in a film like Aaja Nachle
            does more for me than a lot of Naseer’s performance.

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          • Wow rajen, that is pretty harsh on Naseer, although I do like him most in negative roles, not the “parallel” roles he is most famous for. There is a certain kameengi and unpleasantness that he is really good at evoking (Bezubaan, Ghulami; but even in the generally “neutral” role in Masoom something smug shines through). But Irfan’s little turn in Aaja Nachle (even apart from that an underrated film) was definitely one of that movie’s highlights…

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          • I’m glad you brought up Ghulami Q…here’s a villain that actually does surprise the viewer precisely because there’s more going on, and Naseer suggest a lot through his performance here that goes beyond masala caricature.

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          • yes this was definitely a fantastic outing by Naseer.

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          • Thanks GF, saket had also mentioned Ghulami (although, he seems to have mentioned just about everything Naseer’s been in 🙂 Sorry saket, couldn’t resist that). [Aside: Dutta really covered the gamut in Ghulami, where the acting ranges from Smita Patil and then naseer on the one hand to Reena Roy on the other. Egad.]

            On a serious note, I certainly don’t have the familiarity with Naseer’s parallel cinema work that some others on this thread have, but I’ve seen a majority of the films on Saket’s list above. And while I prefer the “negative” Naseer, I think it’s a bit much to privilege Irrfan over him (and I like Irrfan Khan!). Whatever one thinks of Naseer, how can one deny that he has range that Irrfan Khan never will have? There’s a certain sort of brooding figure for which Irrfan — with his frame and sleepy, sulky fish eyes — will always be more right for than Naseer or most others would be, but that’s a niche, not a panorama.

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          • Part of the problem (other than basics like Irfan’s relative youth – this guy’s still going) is that Irfan’s also working in a time when the “parallel cinema” of the day isn’t nearly as interesting as some of what guys like Nihalani, Benegal (though this is qualified) Ketan Mehta and the like were coming up with in the 80s. Whatever one thinks of these filmmakers, it’s hard to find a similar aura of the “pathbreaking” with respect to the art cinema movement in Hindi cinema these days, or even if not pathbreaking than genuine or interesting in some way that doesn’t draw from the well of international artistry in overt, obvious, self-conscious ways. I have a bias here to the extent that I’m not a big fan many of these young filmmakers that are lauded today (the Udaans notwithstanding). Naseer would probably disagree with me because in every other interview he suggests he hated doing those great films…

            I do think Irfan has it in him to create a formidable body of work – he’s already well on his way – and eventually merit comparison with the greats. But only time will tell. Right now, he suffers from the age he’s locked into as does (as you mentioned) Boman Irani, and the best compliment one can offer these guys is that they make a lot of crap worth watching.

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          • Ah, Ghulami. Havent seen it. Gotta watch it. I even have the DVD kindly given to me by someone.

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          • That’s STUNNING Rajen! You must watch it! Unbelievable!

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  18. Re: Thankful for the fact that some sanity has been restored in this thread

    Uh oh, spoke too soon.

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    • lol

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      • If nothing after reading this thread I plan to revisit Ghulami in the next few days. Star turn by Dharamji and Mithunda. One of the very few works of JP Dutta that I have liked before he started with Border etc.

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        • I hardly get time to watch older stuff..I have vignette of some stuff I have seen as kid… but I might have different perspective as my tastes have changed.

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          • I agree to some extent but the way the Rajasthan locales have been captured by Dutta here has to be seen to be believed. And the song “sunaii deti hain jiski dhadkan tmhara dil ya hamara dil hain” is just superb. Vintage stuff.

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  19. When, I talk about great actors, there are three things that seem to be the determining factors:
    a. ability to surprise
    b. ability to rise above the script and the writing
    c. the greatness is more often than not revealed in not their iconic roles but somewhat insignificant moments and at unexpected times.

    Naseer fails for me on all three counts.
    As for Rishi, take an insignificant film like Rangeela Ratan very early in his career. Doubt if many have seen it. But, someone with his chikna looks and privileged background played a tapori so convincingly, I was kind of blown away.

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    • Those criteria though ignore one other — the ability to simply do difficult roles competently. Many of the roles Naseer has done are beyond the competence level of most actors. So for example someone like Tom Cruise just doesn’t have the competence to handle the roles a Daniel Day-Lewis does. In this juxtaposition it would never even get to your three criteria. Rishi was a natural, I think he was underrated too but I ultimately wouldn’t call him a great actor. Because there isn’t that body of work one can base such a claim on. We know what Naseer did in many difficult outings. We know what Bachchan did. We don’t have that sort of evidence for Rishi. But does the guy who was very effective in D6 in a rather brief part seem capable of doing a Sanjeev in Mausam or Trishul? I would guess not. All of this should not take anything away from Rishi but even in commercial terms he’s just not had the parts many other stars have had. Unfortunate for him and perhaps his audience but there you have it. As I said yesterday he was brilliant in AAA, even stands up well against Bachchan but in many ways that part is quintessential Rishi Kapoor. With a greater actor it would just be one facet. And so Bachchan can do so much else too. Even with a Sanjeev we see his dramatic range in certain films but also exquisite comic timing in others. Rishi doesn’t quite have that other side. Again I’d say there were hints in MNJ or Bobby that remained unexplored but even with what he revealed of himself he does not really surprise from film to film. He is a very welcome presence, always engaging but I could go through very many of his films through the 70s and not really be surprised anywhere. I would say Rishi Kapoor surprises as an actor only when his father directs or in the odd film here and there. It’s hard not be seduced by his flair elsewhere but that’s a different point. But again it’s always hard to do these lists for Hindi cinema because very few actors qualify as special in any sense.

      I will agree with you though that Rishi did downmarket very well and after Bachchan he’s the only star who does these parts completely contrary to his class and persona and is nonetheless convincing at them.

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      • I just remembered Rishi’s performance in Luck By Chance. By far the best performance in the film. And yet, it doesn’t have the ‘scope’ or the gravity to be counted as a “great” one.

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        • What I mean to say is, it’s too late for Rishi Kapoor to give any “great” performance. He’s not going to get the opportunity to do so. Neither in terms of ‘scope’ or in terms of importance. His biggest achievement remains his survival during the Bachchan as primarily a ‘romantic’ hero.

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        • I’m a big Rishi fan, but am not all that impressed by his role in Luck by Chance — it was written and played as a caricature, and I would have liked to have seen a better rounded character.

          Off-topic: Konkona Sen also doesn’t seem to be growing as an actress, and is no better now than __ years ago. I felt this keenly when I saw “Mirch”, where, IMO, Raima Sen made far more of an impact than Konkona Sen did.

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    • Rajen, a few questions:

      When you say “ability to surprise” it’s not very clear what you mean by that. Judging by your example below, I think it relates to playing against type. Is that the case?

      Point b (ability to rise above the script and the writing) is valid and I can counter that by asking you to watch “Encounter – The Killing”, a mediocre film with a mediocre script, with Naseer *still* shining through as a ‘Parsi’ cop.

      Point c (greatness is more often than not revealed in not their iconic roles but somewhat insignificant moments and at unexpected times) is also fine but I don’t think it supersedes the most obvious criteria — the number of iconic roles and characters portrayed. Naseer has a bucketful of those.

      Finally, greatness is also a product of “impact” or measured through “influence”. How many actors of the present generation cite Sanjeev Kumar as a direct influence? It’s probably unfortunate but I don’t recall anyone among Aamir, SRK, Ranbir, Abhishek, Imraan etc mention Sanjeev Kumar. Aamir, for instance, is a well known follower of Naseer.

      I seriously don’t wish to mock your taste but apart from Ranbir not even a single aspiring actor would ever mention Rishi Kapoor as an influence.

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      • Abiltiy to surprise has nothing to do with playing against the type but more to do with what you do with the material you have. Irfan’s role in New York was very poorly written and concieved but I still ended up getting more than I expected becasue Irfan added that extra touch which is hard to describe by someone with limited writing skills.

        Am not sure if there is any actor who considers Naseer a role model in terms of acting or public life. Sure ,there are plenty of people who speak highly of him and with good reason. But, he inspires as much pity as admiration with the humungous chip he carries on his shoulder.

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        • Naseer’s public life and his public interviews, I think are irrelevant to the discussion about his acting credentials.

          What you say about Irfan can easily be turned around and used for Naseer. Rajneeti had a 2 min footage of Naseer. And yet he left some kind of mark. He was pretty effective in his small roles in Maqbool, Omkara.

          BTW, I think Irfan is an excellent actor too. His performance in ‘The Namesake’ is one for the ages. Also loved his turn in ‘Haasil’.

          I will admit that his work in commercial cinema — Sir, Mohra, Karma etc is decidedly inferior than his work in parallel cinema. And he’s downright bad in films like Chahat, Tehelka. But when he’s been good and in his strength roles, he’s almost untouchable.

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        • true Rajen.. on the other hand you can only ‘surprise’ if you have a basic competence for the part you’re taking up… Rishi clearly had it for the parts he took up (though I don’t know if he’s surprised me as much as he has yourself).. but because he can surprise in a commercial film of the 70s does not mean that he could take up for example the Deewar role.. this has nothing to do with Bachchan, just that such a part requires a much greater skills set from an actor.. the question of ‘surprise’ arises only after the question of competence has been settled.. and certain actors might surprise doing far more difficult roles than certain others.. the level at which a Devgan surprises me is far lower than the one at which Om Puri surprises me!

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          • Satyam,
            I am not denying that Naseer is competent. In fact, he is extremely competent and elsewhere on the thread I have called extremely gifted and talented, too. The debatable point IMO is whether he is a truly great star-actor or a better actor than Sanjeev. My opinion and strictly, my opinion is that he is not. And, again that doesnt mean that it is a fact. But, I do believe it is not entirely an unreasonable position to have. Just as, having an opinion that he is a better actor than Sanjeev is also a reasonable postion in someone else’s view point. It is a matter of personal preferences.
            And, none of those are really absurd.

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          • Well he can by definition never be a ‘star’. And perhaps this is the side of the ‘star-actor’ equation that is constantly undervalued if not misunderstood all the time. It is not that one is a good or bad actor over which the star signature is then somehow grafted on. The two cannot be separated. Bachchan cannot be imagined solely as star or solely as actor. Naseer must be rated solely as actor which perhaps then creates a certain distortion in this entire debate. Because to be effective on screen one need not be much of an actor at all! On the other hand one might be an extraordinary actor without being an effective star (in that ‘mass’-implied sense of relating to large audiences). Strictly speaking it might be impossible to compare Naseer with Bachchan. One can certain establish though, an on fairly factual grounds, as to who the more influential actor has been.

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          • I will agree to this extent. There is always a certain ‘obviousness’ in Naseer’s performance. The ‘you’re looking at a thespian’ syndrome. The sort of thing Kamal developed eventually. At least to my mind he’s been most subtle in attempts like Masoom and Bezubaan and not really in his ‘art’ films. Even Ghulami, a performance that I love and which has just been mentioned, Dutta smartly works around this ‘obviousness’, otherwise it is Patil who offers the more subtle contrast here. Again Patil was someone who was very good in commercial cinema as well. Knew how to handle even something like Namak Halal!

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  20. What is a ‘difficult role”?
    Not playing a character in difficult circumstances, surely. Which is what Naseer does competently. I would rate his performance in Wednesday very highly where he carries the film and also hams it up a little bit. His role in Ghulami could have been done by countless others with good Hindi/Urdu diction. Meaning he was effective but if one knew the plot one would know excatly how Naseer was going to play that character.
    For me a diificult role is one where it is out of your comfort zone ( and often out of anyones comfort zone , like Paa) , has more than one shade, often lacking the script support it deserves and when one manages to leave an indelible impression in that kind of role, it gets translated into a great performance.
    May be I am just weird but Naseer’s extremely insignificant role in a totally insignificant film like Pehle Baap Mere Aap ( btw, Munna’s favorite film after ATB and Udaan) left quite an impression on me.

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    • “For me a diificult role is one where it is out of your comfort zone”

      But you haven’t even seen Naseer’s celebrated films. I guess there is a serious disadvantage in being an actor with average looks. At least in Bollywood. A Naseer who’s great in Masoom looks out of place in Tridev or even a slightly more successful attempt called Jalwa. Dimple Kapadia, on the other hand, feels right at home in Rudaali or Drishti. In fact, commercial actors are often celebrated (wrongly) for just making the effort to appear in a deglam role. (Raveena Tandon’s National Award springs to mind!)

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      • For the record I have only walked out halfway thru a film. One was a stupid Slaman film and another was Manthan. Just could not take it after a point.
        Coming fron a different direction. Take Naseer’s performance in a film like Sunayna ( a Rajshree film). An extremely ordinary film with Naseer in a central role. And, granted it was a shoddy film but he didnt do anything with a lion’s share of screen time.

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        • This is just one example! And one singular example can’t produce a theory.

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        • I will say this, and this is the only point on which I probably agree with Naseer, but I find most of those ‘art films’ of an earlier age completely overrated at best. In fact I would even consider them poor cinema relative to their ambition. Not true for everything of course. Nihalani for example can always be excepted. Benegal had great moments but also got completely carried away on other occasions. Somehow in the service of an imagined realism many of these directors also gave us films it was impossible to sit through!

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          • Thank God, someone else said this and not me. For me, Naseer-Bnegal combination worked only in Shashi’s films. I have very little patience for Bengal’s pre-Junoon films.

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          • I like his early Ankur quite a bit but somehow Benegal enabled the relative naturalism of this film even by the time he did his next Nishant which is still fine. But he kept going in that direction and certainly loses me in the bargain. And yes I’d take those two Shashi Kapoor films over everything else he’s done barring Ankur. In some ways it is instructive to compare the rather ponderous Bhumika with the much more relaxed and spontaneous (and to my mind ‘better’) Arth.

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          • This is a bold statement, Satyam but I do find some merit in it. Films like Trikaal and Party though full of ensemble casts and great performances actually made little sense. If I reframe the last sentence, they simply were not focused enough.

            I wouldn’t say the same thing about a film like Paar or Aakrosh though.

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          • I wouldn’t either. On Aakrosh as I said I always leave Nihalani out of these discussions.

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          • I think the best works of that age, overrated though much of it may be, seems to my mind far superior to what’s coming out of today’s Hindi art cinema. The movement today seems drunk on references and posturing more than anything else. Even when a lot of those art films of Benergal-Nihalani’s day may have been interminable, they at least resembled something close to genuine.

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      • I’d disagree here.. Om Puri has to my mind been far more effective in all sorts of commercial outings.. Naseer quite often seems over the top in commercial films.. he has never been able to find the right commercial ‘notes’.. Masoom or Bezubaan are really exceptions.. one is not a commercial film at all, the other has him playing a rather well-written ‘normal’ part in a reasonably commercial film. This is very different from the Jalwa kind of deal where he has to play the ‘star’. One’s physical appearance is of course part of it but an equally important one is the star’s body language and so on. And very few commercial stars even otherwise would be considered ‘good looking’ in any other context. So where I disagree is that it isn’t just his looks but far more crucially the kind of performance he comes up with that places Naseer at a disadvantage in commercial films. Also because in some ways Naseer has also been a narcissistic actor. The guy who feels he’s better than the competition and even the system he’s placed in. Om Puri has always been far more self-effacing and therefore fits into all kinds of commercial roles with little of the ‘serious/great actor’ baggage. Admittedly he didn’t have to play the ‘hero’ but nor did Naseer all the time. as I said yesterday Naseer’s performances can often be very ‘visceral’ for a commercial film. Again this would be absolute anathema to him but Bachchan is precisely the example he should have learnt from.. how to be intense without being visceral when the part/script doesn’t call for it.

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        • I think Naseer was always hounded by the question that he “sold out”…And to him, even though he doesn’t like to admit it, it was a step downwards. It’s clear he wasn’t ever comfortable doing commercial cinema. Om Puri, as you rightly metnioned, had no such inhibitions.

          There is the ‘looks’ aspect as well. Naseer looked like a joker in Tridev, its success notwithstanding. His best commercial outing was Pankaj Parashar’s ‘Jalwa’ but the film was a flop.

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          • The best thing about Jalwa was….. Johnny Lever. One of his earlier films.
            Jalwa started of interesting but Parasher is not much of a director.

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          • the best thing here was Bachchan’s guest appearance!

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          • he was effective in Karma too, where quite candidly Dilip Kumar was a bit of a joker! Ah and that reminds me (Rajen will be thrilled by this!) but I think Sanjeev gave some lessons to Dilip in Vidhaata.

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          • Even Shammi Kapoor in Vidhata was better..Dilip Kumar followed Brando’s footsteps quite well. The only difference was Brando was in on his own joke (he began to hate acting) but DK thought he was discovering new facets by making it more ‘ritualistic’ and mannered.

            The only possible exceptions I can think of are Mashaal and Saudagar (ghai)

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          • Brando incidentally is another legend where I’ve never been able to see what the fuss is all about. He was definitely a magnetic screen presence in his younger days and he represented a certain ‘class’ rather well but I’ve always found his Godfather act incredibly overrated. But I confess it might just be me because every critic I am aware of worships him.

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          • rockstar Says:

            wonder how you find brando overrated …he was brilliant in parts and was the pioneer of natural acting not for nothing dilip kumar was known as brando of india(whom he was inspied with)

            naseer’s big moment for me was his portrayl of mirza ghalib in smaller screen rathen than his art cinema days or his outright failure as commercial actor where at times he outshone the original tragic king

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    • Kaahe picture ka naam ki tauheen kar rahe ho aap. It is Mere Baap pehle aap 😉 And yes I have seen it.

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  21. BTW, bringing in Daniel Day Lewis when talking about Naseer is JUST NOT DONE. Even if just making a point.
    And similarly bringing in Cruise when talking about Rishi. Cruise is not enough of an actor.

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  22. BTW, liked Naseer’s performance in Shreyas’s first film too. Forgetting the name.
    The more I think about this, the more it seems that I prefer Naseer’s recent performances more than the older ones. May be I was far too young and immature then. I should probably revisit those and give them another chance when I am slightly ( just slightly ) older but still immature!

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  23. why_so_serious Says:

    I prefer Sanjeev kumar (What an actor!) to Amitabh. I find N’shah to be underrated when likes of Bachchan grab national award for fancy dress day-out.

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    • Ah, all that was missing in this thread was your unique and wonderful input. Dont forget the evening dose of Lithium.

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    • don’t think you want to go there WSR! Not when your screen idol had a painted mustache for most of his career!

      Yes this was in keeping with a certain theatrical tradition but hey let’s not confuse you with too much information!

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  24. alex adams Says:

    i find naseers interviews MUCH more interesting than his recent roles, not demeaning the latter.
    his interiews have that cynical, brash and “with malice to one and all” approach, that I enjoy…..lol
    His bashing of dilip kumar, comments on amitabh and spanking of the “art movement”, to name just a few, were enjoyable.
    I feel that he really admires bachchan a lot and has been grossly envious of him.
    He once famously said SRK reminds him of the younger rajesh khanna and was quick to add that he hopes that he doesnt lose his mind like the latter..
    One recent performance of his that i adore is gulfaam from sarfarosh—-was a masterclass—liked it more than the very well-written and author backed “a wednesday”

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  25. alex adams Says:

    talking of om puri, the one recent role that comes to my mind immediately is “dev”.
    it was a tall order to not only match up but outclass bachchan in key scenes—it will be open to interpretation, but thats what i felt—though bahchan also was in top form.
    nihalani did alright but culd not do justice to the talent at offer….

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  26. alex adams Says:

    “Also because in some ways Naseer has also been a narcissistic actor. The guy who feels he’s better than the competition and even the system he’s placed in. Om Puri has always been far more self-effacing and therefore fits into all kinds of commercial roles with little of the ‘serious/great actor’ baggage. “Agree–nicely summed up!
    Naseer is somewhat similar to the dilip kumar type of narcissistic actors , whcile om puri more fits the sanjeev kr type of unassuming actors.
    Masooom is a gr8 film—everything from performances, direction, screenplay, music was topnotch.
    It also seemed that shekhar kapor managed to force naser to get rid of this “look at me and learn acting from me” vibe.
    one of the many reasons i rate shekhar kapoor highly (when he manages to complete a film). looking forward to paani….

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  27. IdeaUnique Says:

    that link leads to some other article! sad that Hema Malini broke many a hearts and Sanjeev was so much madly in love with her that being rejected did a severe harm to him and he drank to death…..

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    • sanjana Says:

      I read somewhere that he broke Sulakshana Pandit’s heart. The lady with a golden voice.

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    • Frankly anyone who can fall madly in love with a moron like hema deserves to drink to death. But it was a loss for cinema. What a waste!

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