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How Shubha Khote joined Hindi cinema

The actress, who turns 76 today, would have had a very different career in cycling if the rules had been different in the 1950s.

Shubha Khote

Sonal Pandya

If Shubha Khote, daughter of silent film actor Nandu Khote and niece of star Durga Khote, had her way, she would have never joined films. The former all-India cycling champ was a keen sports enthusiast who wanted to one day represent the country in cycling. According to an online interview, she stated, “I would have represented India in the Asiad for cycling, but when I was the national champ, this event was still not introduced. They had the event for men not for women.”

Khote got to fulfil her cycling dreams in another way. In her debut film, Seema (1955), director Amiya Chakrabarty cast her as one of the young women looking for a second chance in a remand home. In one sequence, she chased down a thief, in what else, a cycle! The day her film premiered, Khote participated in a race and got home in time to get ready for the film and the good reviews.

Soon after Khote was inundated with roles. Initially, she played a variety of characters but got slotted as a comedienne after Chhoti Bahen (1959). Her co-star in the film was Mehmood, an actor she would share the screen with in over 20 films. Usually, comedian Dhumal was also a part of those films.

Mehmood, Shubha Khote and Dhumal in a still from Sasural (1961)

Khote believed that in any of Mehmood’s films where his character's name was Mahesh, it went on to become a hit. Their screen names were usually Mahesh, Sheela and Bapu and they ended up inhabiting the same kinds of roles in each film. Mahesh (Mehmood) and Sheela (Shubha Khote) were in love with each other and wanted to marry with Dhumal being the father who opposed their union.

In the same interview, she explained, “But though we were such a successful team, it all became too monotonous. It was just like changing clothes and doing the same thing again and again. The producers and distributors loved it because this team was a crowd puller and they could sell their films on this.”
The trio broke up in the early 1970s and Khote continued acting in Hindi films until the 1990s until she transitioned successfully into television and theatre.