By now everyone knows Danny Denzongpa was the first choice to play the villain Gabbar Singh in Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay. Then what happened?
Danny Denzongpa clears the air once and for all. “It was because of a prior commitment and my word of honour that I had to let go of Sholay. I had signed Feroz Khan’s Dharmatma before Sholay and the dates were given to Feroz Bhai. I knew the Gabbar character was fabulous but my conscience guided me to take the right decision.”
Danny doesn’t regret losing out on Gabbar. “I have no regrets at all.If I had done Sholay we would have missed seeing all the wonderful performances of a wonderful actor called Amjad Khan.”
One recalls the great actor Pran saying no to Manoj Kumar’s Shor as he was already playing a Pathan in Zanjeer at that time.
Recalls Danny, “Pran uncle was keen not to repeat himself. After being typecast as a villain,two movies he produced which were directed by his son Tony Sikand had me playing the bad guy and he played positive characters in both the films”
Danny says he has always been selective. “My colleagues who came in with me have done 600-700 films.My average remains three years per year.From the start I had decided not to do too many films simply because I find it very difficult to shoot during the summer in Mumbai.There are many reasons why I say no to a role.”
Danny remembers how difficult it was for him to get roles because of his looks. “It was very difficult. I couldn’t get any films, so I went back to the Pune Film Institute where my teacher,the very king Roshan Taneja got me a job as an acting instructor .I used to help the newcomers with acting tips all week.On Fridays I used to go from Pune to Mumbai looking for acting assignments. I’d struggle the whole of Friday and Saturday and then go back to Pune on Sunday.This went on for almost three years.”
How did the first acting offers come your way? “I started my career with a bit role in Gulzar’s Mere Apne.Then I got the second lead in B R Ishaara’s Zaroorat. It was my third film B R Chopra’s Dhund which actually established my acting career. I had a fantastic role in that film. Luckily all these films were hits.ke to work with people I am know and I am comfortable with.I feel I’ve always had to choose from a very limited range of roles. Writers and directors are struck with a particular image of mine. I sometimes do roles that I’m not fully convinced about because of many factors.”
Among his films which are the ones Danny is the proudest of? “I did a Bengali film Lal Kuthi. I had a very good role in that. The story and screenplay were written by me, though I didn’t take any credits. Then I love my role in another film called Bandhu released in 1992. That film was later turned into a television serial called Ajnabee.I also liked my roles in H S Rawail’s Laila Majnu ,Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1942: A Love Story and Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Ghatak. But the one film that I am really fond of is Shivaji Chandrabhushan’s Frozen. I loved shooting that movie in Ladakh.We shot at minus-30 degrees in February. It won many international awards. Then there was of course Mukul Anand’s Agneepath.I fitted the character of Kancha Cheena. However Agneepth was not a boxoffice success when it was released.”