Amjad Khan tend to start and end with Gabbar Singh and Sholay, which is drama. An evil incarnate who brought Ramgarh to its knees and induction terror even among children (“So jaa beta nahin toh Gabbar aa jaayega,” Gabbar Singh was played with a cool ruthlessness by a man who was much more than just Bollywood’s ultimate baddie. But he could never fully realise his potential. Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975) made also unmade him. Whatever future work Khan would do, and this would include excellent turns in Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Qurbani, Parvarish, Laawaris, Suhaag, Yaarana and Chameli Ki Shaadi, faded in comparison with the behemoth called Sholay.
Hindi cinema’s greatest blockbuster, Sholay’s line up of stars is unexampled. Never before has the audiences seen such heavyweight cast as Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar and nor has any relatively unknown actor been propelled into such sudden national fame as Amjad Khan. Compared to the rest of the mega stars of Sholay, Khan, the son of star character artiste Jayant, was a mere rookie and yet, his strapping and thickset frame made him look like a veteran looming large over the arid landscape of Ramgarh.
Legend has it that Khan wasn’t the original choice for the dreaded dacoit. Danny Denzongpa was homed in but the actor, known for his slick villainy on screen, walked out just months before Sholay was to slip into production. Writers Salim-Javed who had crafted Gabbar Singh and his grimy gang from the harmonica-scented remains of the Spaghetti Westerns introduced the idea of having Amjad Khan for what many even then believed was a role of a lifetime.