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The versatile Sanjeev Kumar

Friday, July 04, 2014
By Rajesh V. Gaur and Suneel V. Gaur

The birth anniversary of Hindi film industry’s iconic star, Hari Jariwala, better known as Sanjeev Kumar falls on July 9. Rajesh V. Gaur and Suneel V. Gaur chronicle his life and times

The Surat-born Sanjeev had a strong theatre background and was first spotted playing the role of an elderly man when he was just 24 years old. A simple man, Sanjeev Kumar arrived for many of his shoots in a kurta pyjama. Many claim that he was notorious for reporting late for his shootings.

However, his one take performance used to compensate for everything. He never gave a retake, until he wanted to. Sanjeev Kumar's debut film was 'Hum Hindustani' [1960], but he was first noticed in 'Sungharsh' [1968]. His riveting performance helped him overshadow Dilip Kumar in the scenes the two shared in the film. Sanjeev’s strength, whether in the blockbusters like 'Khilona' and 'Sholay', or an experimental 'Koshish', lay in his dogged sincerity. A twitch on his face could convey more than reams of dialogues.

It is very difficult to typecast Sanjeev Kumar. Be it comedy or tragedy, he could do it effortlessly. It is amazing how Sanjeev could skilfully move from a flirtatious husband in 'Pati Patni Aur Woh' to the tearful lover in 'Anamika'. No other actor could excel at comedy like him in 'Angoor'. One has to remember 'Trishul' where Sanjeev Kumar did not go overboard with his performance and expressed anger through his eyes. Each time Amitabh Bachchan, stole a march over him, his rage became palpable.

'Naya Din Nayi Raat' was Sanjeev Kumar’s magnum opus. He performed nine different roles and assayed all of them deftly. The feelings of comedy, humour, pathos, anger, fury, fear, valour, bravery, wonder and peace expressed by him set the screen aflame. This film earned him a permanent place in the film industry's Hall of Fame. Sanjeev Kumar has left behind a legacy of quality cinema.

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