NostalgiHow Shatru became Shotgun!

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Letter to the Editor

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.

Mumtazempathised 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
1971Mere ApneMeena Kumari, Vinod Khanna
1972Bhai Ho To Aisa Indrani Mukherjee
1972Rampur Ka Laxman Randhir Kapoor, Rekha
1976KaalicharanReena Roy
1977Aadmi Sadak Ka Vikram, Zahira
1978Vishwanath Reena Roy
1979Kaala Patthar

Neetu Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor

1979Jaani DushmanRekha, Reena Roy
1980DostanaZeenat Aman
1981Naseeb Hema Malini, Reena Roy, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor
1987 Khudgarz Amrita Singh

Khilona, a jubilee hit, brought Sinha a whiff of recognition and a surfeitof 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 hatesrival 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
Kai sadiyion se, kai janmo seMilaapMukesh
Barkha rani zara jamke barsoSabakMukesh
Sharbatiteriaankhonki BlackmailKishore Kumar
Shor mach gaya shor aaya makhanchor BadlaKishore Kumar
Kaise jeete hai bhalaDostShatrughan Sinha, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar
Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi haiAadmi Sarak KaMohammed Rafi
Bane chache dushman zamana hamaraDostanaKishore Kumar,Mohammad Rafi
Chana chor garamKrantiMohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Nitin Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar
Zindagi imtihaan leti haiNaseebAnwar, Kamlesh Awasthi, Suman Kalyanpur
Yehi kahin jiyara hamarKhudgarzNitin 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 convincedhis 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 Ministerof 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.

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