Remembering Kader Khan: The first Khan who made a difference
In a country where lead actors got boxed into 'angry young man' images, Kader Khan stood out precisely because he could fit in.
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It was one of those lazy winter afternoons when you park yourself in front of the television, hoping it will surprise you with something truly worth watching. As I kept surfing, my glimmer of hope kept fleeting away.
And then, I stumbled upon Ghar Ho To Aisa — a 'hen-pecked' Kader Khan terrified of his wife and mother-in-law, having a dialogue with his deceased father, leaping out of a photo frame on the wall, also played by Kader Khan.
My afternoon was sorted.
Scriptwriter, actor, comedian — Kader Khan was a man of many talents. And anyone who has grown up gorging on Hindi cinema through the '70s, '80s and '90s, knows that it is not a cliche. The veteran actor died in Canada yesterday, at the age of 81, leaving a nation speechless.
"Zinda hai woh log joh maut se takrate hai ... murdon se bhattar hai woh log joh maut se gabrate hai."
Kader Khan had a weird screen persona — in a country where lead actors got boxed into 'angry young man' images, Kader could effortlessly slip out of and into any character. He could be the dapper villain or his menacing aide, and soon after, twist your insides as you fell off the couch laughing at his impeccable comic timing. The Indian audience never had any problem accepting him in his varied shades. He stood out precisely because he could fit into any mould.
Kader Khan was no hero. He was nothing short, either. (Source: YouTube screengrab)
In many ways, he was the first Khan of consequence in the world of Hindi cinema, long before Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan found a place of their own. Yes, Yusuf Khan had been ruling the roost for years when Kader arrived, but Yusuf had to change to fit in — he became Dilip Kumar — while Kader wore his 'different' identity on his sleeves. No, he was never the macho 'hero' Hindi cinema idolised, but he was always there — in essence, through his brilliant dialogues.
Kader Khan was the man — or at least, the pen — behind establishing Govinda as the rainbow of talent we came to love.
"Duniya mera ghar hai, Bus stand mera adda hai, Jab mann kare aa jana, Raju mera naam hai... aur pyaar se log mujhe bulate... Coolie No.1."— Coolie No. 1.
If we are in awe of the fiery words Amitabh Bachchan mouthed, can we deny how Kader fueled that fire?
"Duniya ki koi jagah itni door nahi hai jahan jurm ke paon mein kanoon ... apni faulaadi zanjeeren pehna na sake." — Shahenshah.
When Kabir Bedi charmed us, leaving us unsure whether to love or hate this towering personality, Kader Khan added zing to it.
" Qatl bhi kartein hai aur haath mein talwar bhi nahin?" — Khoon Bhari Mang.
Would Muqaddar Ka Sikander be as gut-wrenching as it was if it wasn't for the sublime realisation that, "Sukh toh bewafa hai ... chand dino ke liye aata hai aur chala jaata hai?"
Would you be able to explain the ever-present class divide any better than how Kader Khan did so in Hum, with, "Kya ishq ka khoon kisi sahukar ke paan ki pichkari hai ... kya tumhari zindagi zindagi, hamari zindagi bimari hai ... tumhara khoon khoon, hamara khoon pani hai ... tumhara naam naam, hamara naam gaali hai ... tum karo zulm toh woh sarkari hai ... aur hum kare fariyad toh woh gaddari hai?"
It is not that Urdu was new to Hindi cinema — but through Kader Khan's pen, it rendered itself to a new interpretation. It no longer needed to be romantic or elite; it could now be witty, humorous, and as sharp as a whip.
And it could be cool — Kader Khan, the genius, made Urdu cool.
Kader Khan may not have been blessed with a fan base like that of Bachchan, but Kader, in a sense, was the first pop culture icon Hindi cinema saw. It is, therefore, not surprising that his witty dialogues travelled out of the realm of the film it was written for, and into canteen conversations between two buddies, trying to outdo the other, only realising that Kader Khan cannot be outdone.
At least, not in this universe.
"Auron ke liye gunaah sahi ... hum piye toh shabaab banti hai ... arre sau ghamo ko nichodne ke baad ... ek katra sharaab banti hai!"