Shotgun’s Biography: On the Bachchan Rivalry and Sonakshi’s Birth

Excerpts from Shatrughan Sinha’s biography which reveals a thing or two about the veteran actor’s rivalry with Big B

6 min read
Sonakshi Sinha with dad Shatrughan; Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha in <i>Dostana&nbsp;</i>

Excerpts from Shatrughan Sinha’s biography Anything But Khamosh: The Shatrughan Sinha Biography, by Bharathi S Pradhan, which reveals a thing or two about the veteran actor’s rivalry with Amitabh Bachchan and the birth of Sonakshi Sinha.


The Shatrughan - Amitabh Rivalry

Amitabh Bachchan with Shatrughan Sinha in <i>Kaala Patthar</i>
Amitabh Bachchan with Shatrughan Sinha in Kaala Patthar

Drawing a contrast between SS and Amitabh Bachchan, Salim Khan described an incident which dated back to the days of the Salim-Javed written film Kaala Patthar. “When we were writing Kaala Patthar, we had the main characters already in our minds. Of course Amitabh Bachchan was always before us for the main role, Shashi Kapoor was there for the pleasant, romantic role of an engineer. And Shatrughan Sinha was clearly in our mind when we wrote the character of an escaped convict who could open any lock in the world and was hiding in the coal mines,” the writer revealed how they’d visualised their script. “For every character we had given some very distinctive dialogues. Shatrughan Sinha’s role was pretty interesting; it had been written keeping in mind his image. Dialogues like, ‘Teesra badshah kahan hai (Where’s the third king in your trio of cards)?’ ‘Abbe, teesra badshah hum hai (Hey, the third king is me),’ were written with Shatrughan Sinha in mind.

Shotgun’s Biography: On the Bachchan Rivalry and Sonakshi’s Birth

“Amitabh Bachchan had spent his initial period in the industry with Shatrughan Sinha. Shatru used to recommend Amitabh to people and they even shared the same secretary, Pawan Kumar. It was ‘Sonu, Sonu’ and ‘Amit, Amit’ between them. I don’t know what differences cropped up between them or whether there were any differences. But I do know that somewhere Amitabh owed Shatrughan,” commented Salim. “However, if anybody really opposed Shatrughan’s inclusion in Kaala Patthar, it was Amitabh Bachchan and he recommended many other names in his place,” he disclosed, as he went on to describe the machinations that went on during the making of Kaala Patthar.

“In those days, who could afford to offend Amitabh Bachchan? Whether it was Yash Chopra or anyone else, they needed Amitabh Bachchan for their films; he had become a larger-than-life star. But I put my foot down and said, ‘For this film, it will be only Shatrughan Sinha in that role.’ So they started devising ways and means of ensuring that Shatrughan himself rejected the role.

They offered him a humiliatingly low price. They were told that he always comes late, so they told him that they wanted him on the sets at a really early time. They started dictating such terms that Shatrughan would be provoked to say, ‘Bhaad mein jao, mujhe nahin karna (To hell with you, I don’t want to do your film).’

“I realised what they were all up to, so I quietly told Shatrughan, ‘This role was written for you, it will benefit you. Out of the four-five important roles of your life, this will be one of them. Whatever they say, accept their terms. Don’t think of it as a compromise, think of it as a strategy. If they call you at 5 am, say, ‘OK’. Even if they offer you no money, say, ‘I’ll do it because Salimsaab has asked me to do this role.’ Put all the blame on me but do this role.’

So, all their schemes to get him out of the film failed. I am a living witness to all this manipulation. It means even the biggest actor had certain fears from Shatrughan Sinha as far as performance was concerned. They knew he was a scene stealer. At some stage every actor has feared sharing screen space with Shatrughan Sinha. I was an eyewitness to this and by the grace of God I have to this day a very good memory. Let anybody deny it, they all have convenient memories,” he gave a short laugh.

Sonakshi Sinha’s Birth

The birth of Sonakshi was unplanned. Left to SS, he would not have gone in for a third child, content as he was with his sons, Luv and Kussh. He was forthright as he admitted, “It is true that initially I didn’t want a third child. I was coming into politics and I had the ‘Hum do, hamare do (family planning mantra exhorting couples to have no more than two children)’ policy on my mind.” But when Poonam got pregnant again, she was so keen to have a third baby that they went ahead with it.

A routine sonography (which was allowed those days) showed a nice, strong baby, probably another male child. Perhaps ironically, when SS became the Health Minister years later, he banned sex determination tests. While the Sinhas awaited the birth of a third son, Sonakshi turned up a week before the expected delivery date. Amusingly, her arrival reduced the new mother to tears. SS narrated the story.

Shotgun’s Biography: On the Bachchan Rivalry and Sonakshi’s Birth

“I was shooting for the Bengali film, Antarjali Jatra (Maha Yatra in Hindi). Sonakshi was in a hurry and came along earlier than the due date. I was in Sagar Deep which was a one-and-a-half hour boat ride from Calcutta. We took a rickshaw, walked a long distance through mud and somehow reached Calcutta where I was informed that Promi was in hospital. We were having dinner with Brigadier Sharma and his wife Chitra who was assisting Goutam on the film, when we got the news that Promi had delivered a baby girl at night. To be in character for the role of a chandal in Antarjali Jatra, I had grown a beard.

When we got the news of the delivery, I caught an early morning flight and went straight from the airport to Nanavati hospital in Bombay to see the baby. As soon as Promi saw me, she started crying. I had travel fatigue and was sun-tanned with a beard on my tired face. She misunderstood that look for unhappiness over the birth of a baby girl! I scolded her and asked her from which regressive Hindi film she had picked up this scene. I hugged Promi and assured her that quite to the contrary, I was thrilled to have a girl. The family was now complete.”


The Transition from Villain to Hero

Shatrughan Sinha with Ajit in <i>Kalicharan</i>
Shatrughan Sinha with Ajit in Kalicharan

According to him, upgrading himself to the main slot in the rat race was simply a natural progression of events. By the time Heera (1973) and Blackmail (1973), his last two films as villain rolled along, distributors were demanding that his character be given some sort of redemption at the end. People had grown too fond of this villain to accept him as completely black.

Shotgun’s Biography: On the Bachchan Rivalry and Sonakshi’s Birth

“That’s true,” he nodded. “I was the first villain who was invited to Sophia College (an all-women’s college in South Mumbai) as their Chief Guest. I must be the first villain who was asked to solve women’s emotional problems in Eve’s Weekly, in an Agony Aunt sort of column. And I was the first villain over whom women fought; even heroines fought for my attention when we’d all be shooting in the same studio.”

The attention went to his head.

“I did get carried away with all this adulation,” he admitted. “A lot of big films came my way: Sangram, Aadmi Sadak Ka, Kalicharan, Dost, Vishwanath, Samjhauta, Aa Gale Lag Ja, Dostana, films with Manmohan Desai and Harmesh Malhotra who were the big commercial names of the seventies.”

Extracted with permission from Om Books International

Anything But Khamosh: The Shatrughan Sinha Biography

Bharathi S Pradhan

Foreword: Shashi Tharoor
Pages 338
Price: Rs 595
Published by Om Books International

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