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Bollywood’s macho man bids goodbye

V. GANGADHAR

Feroz Khan, who passed away recently, projected the Hollywood-type tough guy image on screen. ‘Welcome,’ in which he plays a super gangster, was his swansong.



Showman: Feroz Khan

Feroz Khan was the super gangster in the 2008 hit film, (which was also his last) ‘Welcome,’ and he enjoyed the experience. From the time he stepped out of the aircraft, twirling two guns and shooting at random making his ‘chamchas’ (henchmen) hop around, this super gangster, ‘RDX,’ was an impressive caricature of a larger-than-life mobster.

The 70-year old actor, who died in Bangalore on Monday, craved for a larger-than-life image and got it in his last film. In a career spanning 45 years during which he made 60 films, he never cared for the wishy-washy Hindi film hero roles. Of course, during the first 15 years of his career, which began in 1960, he was the ever-present friend, brother or romantic rival of the hero (‘Arzoo’, ‘Oonche Log’ and so on), but his heart was set on something bigger.

Played second fiddle

Since producers wanted him to play the second fiddle, or run around the trees or sacrifice the heroine for the sake of the hero, his friend, Feroz decided to go on his own. And how! The handsome, blue-eyed, fair and well built actor, who hailed from Afghanistan, always had a king-sized ego and was influenced by the Hollywood tough guys. Not the villainous ones, but the hard drinking, straight shooting types such as Gary Cooper or John Wayne.

He was among the first ones to switch over to jeans, checked shirts, and guns in Bollywood films. He craved for the macho image. His first home production was ‘Dharmatma’ based on Coppola’s ‘Godfather.’ Although the Hindi version (which was shot in Afghanistan) reduced the classic to the level of a farce, the presence of beautiful heroines such as Hema Malini and Rekha, the exquisite photography and great special effects helped to make it a hit.

After this success, Feroz was hungry for more. He never worried about budgets, going for the best technicians, the most glamorous heroines, exotic locales and lilting music. In the process, acting became of secondary importance and one never saw much of Feroz Khan, who won the Best Supporting Actor Filmfare Award for ‘Aadmi aur Insaan’. Instead one saw Feroz, the show man. But the hits continued to flow, such as the multi-starrer ‘Nagin’ and his own film, ‘Qurbani,’ where he introduced Nazia Hassan, whose number ‘Aap jaisa Koi’ became very popular. ‘Jaanbaz,’ another expensive production, was about pirates and he came back to the mobster theme in ‘Dayavaan.’

‘Terrible Khans’

The problem with Feroz Khan was that he seemed to believe he was immune to the ageing process. Haughty, easily provoked and occasionally wild, the Khan brothers (Feroz, Sanjay, Sameer and Akbar ), residents of Mumbai suburb, Juhu, were labelled the ‘terrible Khans of Juhu’ for beating up people and getting into trouble. Despite a roving eye, Feroz remained married to Sundari for 20 years. Then rumours about his link-up with a young starlet led to a divorce.

His career began to fade following unsuccessful attempts to launch son, Fardeen, in ‘Prem Aggan’ and ‘Janasheen’. When Fardeen was arrested for possession of cocaine, an upset Feroz stood by him. Then came the silver lining, the huge success of ‘Welcome.’ But, by this time doctors had diagnosed cancer which had spread. The Pathan fought a brave battle, but ultimately surrendered.

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