Article Hindi

Vinod Khanna special: 5 walk-on roles that could have been forgotten but weren’t

The star was seen in several walk-on roles through his career. On his 71st birth anniversary (6 October) we look at five special appearances.

Anita Paikat

Vinod Khanna was one of the more popular stars in Hindi cinema, not just with the public, but also with colleagues in the industry. He made his debut with Man Ka Meet (1969), produced by Sunil Dutt and directed by A Subba Rao, and went on to play anti-hero, hero, friend, father and grandfather in a career spanning nearly five decades.

Interestingly, another film from 1969, Nateeja, echoed his career trajectory. The film opened with Khanna as a villainous trickster and ended with him having mended his ways to become the ideal hero.

On his 71st birth anniversary (6 October), we look at some of the smaller roles that Vinod Khanna essayed throughout his career. Even at the height of his stardom, Khanna was seen doing these roles, usually for a friend. He performed several walk-on characters or guest appearances. Here are five such roles that could have been easily forgotten but weren’t.

Purab Aur Pachhim (1970)

One of the early entries in Vinod Khanna's filmography, Purab Aur Pachhim was Manoj Kumar’s second tryst with a patriotic themed feature after Upkar (1967). As the title suggests, the film represented the clear distinctions between the cultures of the East and the West, and, of course, everything Western was ruinous and everything Eastern was a path to nirvana.

Vinod Khanna, as Shyamu, belonged to the East and played the loyal friend of Bharat (Manoj Kumar). Breaking away from his villainous image, Khanna played a meek, sensitive, shy young man who cannot even confess his love for Gopi. He is seen playing the dhol in two songs from the film, ‘Dulhan Chali’ and ‘Purva Suhani Aaye Re’.

Guddi (1971)

Photo: YouTube/Screenshot from Guddi

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi was a film with a message, and an unusual one at that. A young girl (Jaya Bachchan) is besotted by the star Dharmendra (played by Dharmendra himself), so much so that she naively decides to spend her life in devotion to him. Her sweet bubble is burst when she is made to see the actual shooting of a film and the conditions in which films are made.

Guddi was an endeavour to break the supernatural image of the Hindi film hero. An eye-opener conveying that the protagonist of a film is not the actual hero, and the credit should go to every individual contributing in the making of the film — from the technicians to the spotboys, stuntmen, and so on.

Many successful actors of the day came together, as themselves, to make this film. Amitabh Bachchan, Pran, Ashok Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Om Prakash, Shatrughan Sinha, and Dilip Kumar, among others, appeared in small roles depicting that an actor is as human as any man on the street.

Vinod Khanna, too, was part of this party. He is seen in a scene that is barely a minute long, shooting with Shatrughan Sinha. Shyamu, as Khanna is called in the film being shot, seems to be an extension of his role in Purab Aur Pachhim. Wearing a pristine white shirt and trousers, Shyamu appears to be a decent college student, in direct contrast to the rowdy-looking Sinha.

Parichay (1972)

Vinod Khanna in Parichay (1972)

Khanna played the tiny role of Amit in Parichay, even though he was already 19 films old in Hindi cinema by then. Though Khanna’s Amit appeared in a total of two scenes, one at the beginning and one closer to the end of the film, he played the key role of sending Jeetendra’s Ravi where he belonged, not once but twice. It is Amit who encourages Ravi to take up the job at his village, and also the one who convinces Ravi to meet Rama again and confess his love.

Kunwara Baap (1974)

Photo: YouTube/Screenshot from Kunwara Baap

Mehmood was the king of comedy in Hindi cinema, but he will always be remembered for his role in the moving Kunwara Baap. High on message, the film, directed by Mehmood himself, dealt with the evils of the easily avoidable polio, and the hypocrisy of a patriarchal society.

Vinod (Vinod Mehra) abandons Radha (Bharathi) after impregnating her. Radha delivers a boy and, in turn, abandons the child at a temple. Mehmood, a cycle-rickshaw driver, accepts the child and raises him as his own but fails to protect him from polio or infantile paralysis.

Like Guddi, this film, too, was packed with special appearances from Sanjeev Kumar, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Yogita Bali, Dara Singh and Dharmendra, among others. But unlike in Guddi, Khanna had a longer role in Kunwara Baap. He played Vinod’s friend and police inspector Ramesh, who is given the task on finding the ‘lost’ child.

If the plot of this film is compared with the epic Ramayana, Vinod Khanna can easily be identified as Hanuman. He is the helper, with power and influence.

Prem Kahani (1975)

Photo: YouTube/Screenshot from Prem Kahani

A love story set in the time of the Quit India movement, Prem Kahani had some big names like Rajesh Khanna, Shashi Kapoor and Mumtaz. However, Vinod Khanna had a special role in the film as Sher Khan. A loud, brave and kind-hearted Pathan, Khanna transports an injured freedom fighter (Rajesh Khanna), who is wanted by the police, to the latter’s friend’s house.

Though he was seen on screen for a short time, Khanna had all the punch lines. For example: “Hindustan mein eet aur patthar le jaane wala bahut lorry hai, lekin azaadi ko le jaane wala sirf Sher Khan ka lorry hai! [India has many lorries to ferry bricks and stones, but only Sher Khan’s lorry can ferry independence!]”