With Father’s Day set to arrive on the 19th of June, here’s a throwback of our story with Shadaab Khab, son of the legendary Amjad Khan, who talks about his father’s massive influence during his formative years and how he rightly advised him to never be burdened by his legacy. Read on:
The year was 1975. In the green room of the palatial shooting set of the film Bhagawat, little Shadaab Khan, with a sword in each hand, stared at the string of tall mirrors. The fake bows, arrows and other princely props were piled in a trunk equipped for the costume drama. Across the hall, he could hear his father’s voice, along with Dharmendra’s and Hema Malini’s. They were reading lines and laughing about something. “Dad never needed to pick anything up for me from any of his shooting locations, because I’d go to the sets with him every Saturday and Sunday, and if I liked any prop, I’d pick it up myself. I remember helping myself to quite a few of them,” says Shadaab, son of legendary actor Amjad Khan; he has just written a whodunit called Murder in Bollywood.
Amjad Khan signed Sholay the day Shadaab was born. His monstrous laugh as Gabbar Singh still reverberates through the decades, a yardstick for all Bollywood baddies. Instead of bedtime stories, goodnight kisses for little Shadaab were followed by his father’s hushed tone in his ears – ‘Beta so ja, varna Gabbar Singh aa jayega’, he would say. “Obviously, while growing up, kids my age would think that my father’s real life nature was similar to his on-screen persona, but once they’d meet him they would become very fond of him, because in real life he was a fun loving and gentle person who was particularly good with children. Dad and mom would always attend our school annual day function, because I would invariably be performing in one of the programmes. Dad always made the time to be there for us. In fact, he would also try and help out with our homework and other school projects.”As a kid, Shadaab was immersed in reading mythology and writing bizarre stories that were often too dark for his age. On languid evenings, father and son would sit across the square of a carrom board, playing what one calls a start to finish game.
Shadaab was born into one of the oldest film families in the country. His maternal grandfather, the famous Urdu screenwriter and poet Akhtar ul Iman, has bestowed the country with countless treasures, including Waqt(1965) and Itefaq(1969). It came as no surprise when Shadaab chose to become an actor. First came Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (1997) followed by a handful of films that went unnoticed until Hey Ram (2000), in which he played a small but prominent role. Ever since, he has juggled acting, script-writing and directing. “But I never thought that I would become a writer. In fact, I was very keen to become a policeman. But while growing up, my mind set shifted more towards the creative field,” he says. Coincidentally, the protagonist of his novel, Hoshiyar Khan, is a peace-loving cop. “I was very keen to come up with a fictional detective and was toying with this idea for quite a while. It was early last year that I came up with the idea of Inspector Hoshiyar Khan , an officer with the Mumbai police’s crime branch, who, contrary to police stereotypes in stories and films, is an extremely soft spoken and cultured man who detests guns and violence and relies on his intelligence to solve the most difficult of cases. When I presented this idea to Hussain Zaidi, he absolutely loved it and got Penguin to back me on it. The rest has been a wonderful journey from there on.”
“If you want to be a successful actor, always leave your ego at home” was the only piece of advice that his father gave him for his career. “My father and I are as different as chalk and cheese, and this is mainly because of his influence on my nature during my formative years, because he would always tell me never to be burdened by my legacy. “Be different from me and look to carve your own path” he would say. My father, by God’s grace, and by his own admittance, didn’t have to struggle much to make it big, and he was very open about this fact. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was just 18, so he never got to see me embark on my professional journey. ”
As effortless as life looks for a celebrity child, the saddles that come along are backbreaking. Constant comparisons, set expectations, fear of failure, the pressure and the premature limelight lead to greater chaos, which is one reason the debut in storytelling is life-altering for Shadaab. “Murder in Bollywood is a work of pure fiction, where although the story is set in the glitz and glamour of tinseltown, none of the characters in the book bear any resemble to any film personality. And whatever my father told me about the Hindi film industry, none of it made it into this book, because times have drastically changed and what stories and anecdotes made big news back then today would seem old and stale.” Who knows, maybe his next book could be a vintage thriller.