Obituary| Viju Khote (1941 – 2019) Movies

Remembering Viju Khote: his iconic roles in ‘Sholay’, ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ and more...

Sometimes it just takes a small role or two to make an artiste immortal. It could also become a cross to bear, covering up the many other talents, accomplishments and achievements. Despite the 300-odd films and about 30 TV shows behind him, actor Viju Khote, who passed away on Monday morning due to multiple organ failure, became synonymous with Kaalia, the henchman of the dreaded dacoit king Gabbar Singh that he played in Ramesh Sippy’s classic Indian Western Sholay.

He caught the public eye with the get up itself: bushy brows, twirled up moustache with tilak on the forehead and a taweez (talisman) around the neck. An entire generation, for whom the film has been a cinematic Bible of sorts, would easily recall the chain of events on screen. Kaalia along with two others from Gabbar’s troupe, on a mission to extort goods from the villagers of Ramgarh, is driven away by Thakur’s new recruits Jai and Veeru.

It leads on to the long, iconic sequence, involving Kaalia’s timid and frightful (and also untranslatable in English) exchange with a livid Gabbar, that has been by-hearted by many a fan: “Tera kya hoga Kaalia … Sardar maine aapka namak khaya hai … Ab goli kha”.

Just these two scenes in an over three hour-long film were all Khote had to make an indelible impact. As he said in a 2015 interview to The Times of India, the scenes involved ten days of shoot and fetched him a royal pay packet of Rs 2500 as well as the pain of falling down the unruly horse, not one but six times.

He went on to feature in many popular films like Qurbani, Karz, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge and the recent Golmaal 3. His last significant outing was Rajesh Mapuskar’s Marathi film, Ventilator.

Despite the role of a dacoit turning him famous, Khote went on to get circumscribed by comic appearances. Like Rajkumar Santoshi’s cult cornball flick Andaz Apna Apna where he is one of the two stupid bumbling sidekicks — Raabert and Bhalla — of the villain Teja. Their slapstick scenes together — involving time bomb, bichchu ka zaher (scorpion’s poison), Vasco Da Gama’s gun et al — have become legendary over time. As Raabert (not Robert, mind you) he turned the silly into sublime with a wisecrack like, “Sorry, galti se mistake ho gaya,” and goofily made Sharbat-E-Jannat the drink to raise a toast with for the giddy-headed. On TV he worked in Zabaan Sambhal Ke, Devrani Jethani and Aflatoon, but confessed in an interview about finding films and theatre more appealing.

What got entirely sidelined is his stint in Marathi cinema and in theatre. In the 2015 TOI interview he spokeabout acting with Amjad “Gabbar Singh” Khan in a play directed by his brother Imtiaz called To This Night A Dawn.

Acting seems to flow in the Khote blood. He was the son of noted theatre actor Nandu Khote and the brother of popular actor Shubha Khote. Veteran actress Durga Khote was his aunt and Bhavna Balsaver his niece. Viju and Shubha Khote and Bhavna Balsaver acted together in Zabaan Sambhal Ke.

Viju Khote had been ailing for long. “He did not wish to die in the hospital, so we had brought him home few days ago. It is a great loss for all of us,” said Ms Balsaver.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 4:44:19 AM |

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