Sanjeev Kumar (9 July 1938 – 6 November 1985) was a noted Indian film actor. He won several major awards including two National Film Awards for Best Actor for his performances in the movies Dastak (1971) and Koshish (1973). He acted in genres ranging from romantic drama to thrillers. Unlike his peers, Sanjeev Kumar did not mind playing roles that were non-glamorous, such as characters way beyond his age. Movies like Sholay and Trishul exemplify his talents. He is well remembered for his versatility and genuine portrayal of his characters.
Sanjeev Kumar, born Harihar Jethalal Jariwala in Bombay, Maharashtra, (also referred as Haribhai) to a Gujarati Jain family spent his early years in Surat. His family eventually settled in Mumbai. A stint in a film school led him to Bollywood, where he eventually became an accomplished actor. Sanjeev Kumar had two younger brothers and one sister.
Kumar started his acting career as stage actor, starting with IPTA in Mumbai and later he joined the Indian National Theatre. Even as a stage actor, he had a penchant for playing older roles; at age 22, he played an old man in an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. This was when director Gulzar first spotted him; later he was to cast Kumar in the roles of older man in Koshish (1973), Aandhi (1975), Mausam (1975). In the following year, in a play “Damru” directed by AK Hangal, he again played the role of a 60-year-old with six children .
Sanjeev Kumar made his film debut with a small role in Hum Hindustani in 1960. Sanjeev’s first film as a protagonist was the 1965 Nishan. In 1968, he acted alongside a famous actor of those times, Dilip Kumar, in Sangharsh. In 1970, the movie Khilona brought him recognition. He went on to star in the box office hits Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), Manchali (1973) and Aap Ki Kasam (1974). In 1973, he made a guest appearance during a song in a Tamil movie, Bharatha Vilas (1973). He started working with Gulzar, a well-known director, in the early 1970s. He performed in nine movies with Gulzar, including Koshish (1973), Aandhi(1975), Mausam (1975), Angoor (1981) and Namkeen (1982). Sanjeev Kumar won the BFJA Awards for Best Actor (Hindi) for his exemplary portrayal of a deaf and mute person in Koshish, in which the female lead was played by Jaya Bhaduri, who acted as his deaf and mute wife and was herself nominated for Best Actor award by Filmfare for the same role.
Sanjeev Kumar’s excellent comic timing entertained audiences in films like Seeta Aur Geeta, Biwi O Biwi (1981), Pati, Patni Aur Woh, Angoor (1982) and Hero (1983) to name a few.
He demonstrated a willingness to take on unconventional roles that challenged him as an actor. His role as Mirza Sajjad Ali, a chess-obsessed Lucknowi (citizen of Lucknow), in Satyajit Ray’s classic Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) exemplified that aspect. Perhaps his best-remembered roles were in the blockbuster films Sholay (1975) and Trishul (1978). His portrayal of the character Thakur, from Sholay, released in August 1975 was one of his stellar performances. In Naya Din Nayi Raat (1974), Sanjeev Kumar reprised the nine-role epic performance by Sivaji Ganesan in Navarathri (Tamil; 1964), which was also previously reprised by Akkineni Nageswara Rao in Navarathri (Telugu; 1966). This film enhanced his status and reputation as a serious player in Bollywood. He stood his ground against leading superstars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor in the Yash Chopra multi-star cast film Trishul (1978) and with Dilip Kumar in the Subhash Ghai film Vidhaata (1982).
During the early 1980s, Sanjeev Kumar took to acting primarily in supporting roles. In 1980, he starred in a Punjabi movie Fauji Chacha. Raja Aur Runk, released in 1968, starring Sanjeev Kumar was a great success. He has done many regional films in different languages including Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Sindhi and his mother tongue Gujarati.
Sanjeev Kumar remained single all his life. He was involved with actress Sulakshana Pandit, but he remained unmarried.
Kumar was born with a congenital heart condition, and many members of his family hadn’t lived past 50. After his first heart attack, he underwent a bypass in the US. However, on November 6, 1985, at the age of 47, he suffered a massive heart attack, which resulted in his death. His younger brother Nikul died before him, while the other brother Kishore died six months later. Ironically for an actor who had played many elderly roles, he died at less than 50 years of age.
Over ten movies starring Sanjeev Kumar were released after his death, with the last one Professor Ki Padosan released in 1993. At the time of his death, only about three-fourths of this movie was complete, and it was decided eventually to alter the story line in the second half to explain the absence of Sanjeev Kumar’s character.
National Film Awards
National Film Award for Best Actor – Won
1971 Dastak – Hamid
1973 Koshish – Haricharan
Sanjeev Kumar was nominated for 14 Filmfare Awards. Thrice as Best Supporting Actor and remaining as Best Actor. He won the awards twice as Best Actor and once as Best Supporting Actor, as shown below.
Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Won
1976 Aandhi – J.K.
1977 Arjun Pandit – Arjun Pandit
Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor – Won
1969 Shikar – Inspector Rai
Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Nominated
1971 Khilona – Vijaykamal S. Singh
1974 Koshish – Hari Charan Mathur
1976 Sholay – Thakur Baldev Singh
1977 Mausam – Dr. Amarnath Gill
1978 Yehi Hai Zindagi – Anand Narayan
1978 Zindagi – Raghu Shukla
1979 Devata – Tony/Tarun Kumar Gupta
1979 Pati Patni Aur Woh – Ranjeet Chhadha
1983 Angoor – Ashok R. Tilak
Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor – Nominated
1979 Trishul – Raj Kumar ‘R.K.’ Gupta
1983 Vidhaata – Abu Baba
1974 – BFJA Best Actor for Koshish
1969 – Naval Stars Awards. Shanoo Varun Trophy by S.M. Nanda.
1971 – Surat Jilla Leuva Patidar Gnyati.
1975 – Cinegoers Council (Delhi) film Awards
1976 – Lion Club of North Calcutta Actor of the year for “Mousam”
1984 – Maratha Seva Sangh Dist Khed
Award for best actor (stage) for the Gujarati Play “Koi no Ladakh Vayo”
Uttar Pradesh film Patraka Sangh
Kalashri Art & Network “Lifetime Achievement Millenium 2000 Award” at Surat.
18th National Award “Bharat Puraskar” by Information & Broadcast State Minister Mrs. Nandini Satapthi at Shanmukhanand Hall (Mumbai).
Army Officers Voice Association Trophy.
Andhra Pradesh Film Journalist Award.
Chitralok Cine Serjak Award (Ahemdabad).
A road has been named after him in Surat, Gujarat as Sanjeev Kumar Marg, which was inaugurated by Mr Sunil Dutt.
A school has been named after him in his home town Surat, Gujarat, and was inaugurated by then Mayor Kadir K Pirzada.
A postage stamp, bearing his face, was released by India Post to honour him on 3 May 2013.
An Auditorium was opened in his home town Surat by the Gujarat State at the cost of 108cr,in the name of Sanjeev Kumar Auditorium, which was inaugurated on the 14th of February 2014 by Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi who was then the CM of Gujarat. He is the first and only (2014) Indian Actor to have an auditorium named after him.
Sanjeev Kumar Foundation is a national level development organisation(NGO) directly benefiting children and their families every year, mainly focusing on Education, Healthcare, Environment, Culture and Nutrition.