Article Hindi

Kader Khan (1937 – 31 December 2018): A master at writing dialogue as well as delivering it

The silver-tongued writer and actor died on the last day of 2018 in Canada after a prolonged illness.

Sonal Pandya

Celebrated actor and dialogue writer Kader Khan died yesterday in a Toronto hospital where he was undergoing treatment for progressive supranuclear palsy. Khan was 81 years old and had been in hospital for nearly 17 weeks.

The prolific actor and writer appeared in over 300 films, writing dialogues for about a third of them. The well-educated and well-read Khan graduated from Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari, then a distant suburb of Bombay, and was a devoted professor of civil engineering at the MH Saboo Siddik College of Engineering in Mazgaon, Mumbai, before he found fame in Hindi cinema in the 1970s.

Kader Khan with Rajesh Khanna

Incidentally, it was a play of his, called Local Train, that changed the course of his life. He was persuaded by many around him to enter the play in a competition and he ended up winning a slew of awards, including best writer, best actor and best director. 

Filmmaker Narinder Bedi was a judge in the competition and asked the professor if he would write dialogues for his upcoming film, Jawani Diwani (1972), starring Randhir Kapoor and Jaya Bachchan (then Bhaduri). Khan himself once said he wrote the dialogues for the superhit film in three hours.

More opportunities arrived with films like Khel Khel Mein (1975) and Rafoo Chakkar (1975), but it was a meeting with Manmohan Desai that brought him to the big league. The filmmaker asked Kader Khan to write an ending for Roti (1974) that would bring the house down and the writer delivered. 

When Kader Khan read out the scenes to him, Manmohan Desai was so impressed that he reportedly gifted him a black and white Toshiba television set (television was still only just making its way in India at the time) and a gold bracelet on the spot. Khan had received Rs21,000 for writing Khel Khel Mein (1975). Desai beat that by a mile, giving him a salary of Rs1,21,000.

From giving tuitions free to becoming a dialogue and screenwriter earning over a lakh per movie, Kader Khan had come a long way. By 1973, the writer with the modulated voice had also begun to do small parts. 

He played a lawyer in Yash Chopra's Daag (1973) along with Rajesh Khanna and Rakhee. In his nearly four-decade career, he worked with all the top heroes of the time, often giving them their best lines; some of them even had trouble reciting them all.

He acted with Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda when their popularity was at its zenith, with comedians like Asrani and Johnny Lever, and played father to actresses like Sridevi and Tabu. He was a cunning villain, sympathetic uncle or simply the buffoon. Honestly, the man could do it all. 

Kader Khan won the Best Dialogue trophy at the Filmfare awards twice, for Meri Aawaz Suno (1981) and Angaar (1992). He wrote for blockbuster hits Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), Mr Natwarlal (1979), Yaarana (1981), Lawaaris (1982) and Coolie (1983).

In the 1990s, it seemed as if Kader Khan was in every other film. He was nominated for Filmfare's Best Comedian nine times and won it once for Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri (1990).

Despite a productive screenwriting career, Kader Khan came to be known more for his acting roles in films like Coolie No 1 (1995), Saajan Chale Sasural (1996) and Dulhe Raja (1998) with Govinda. Their combination was a tour de force, guaranteeing laughs among the audiences and hits at the box office. Eventually, however, their brand of comedy faded as a new era of cinema was ushered in with the turn of the millennium. 

While Khan continued to act occasionally in films like Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004) and Ungli (2014), it was never the same as his dominance in the 1980s and 1990s. Eventually, the actor-writer moved away to Canada to be with his son. 

In a video interview, Kader Khan recalled an early scene from Prakash Mehra's Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978) with child artiste Mayur Raj Verma where he gives the young boy some solid advice on how to deal with death and grief and move on. In a way, he was teaching us all how to cope.