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When Amitabh Bachchan Was Dropped In Favour Of Sanjay Khan



Amitabh Bachchan

It  happens only in India, goes a Govinda song. These words never seem truer than when applied to the vagaries of Bollywood. But even by the unpredictable unscrupulous standards of the Indian entertainment industry, this one takes the cake and the  bakery.

It happened  in  early 1970s when Amitabh Bachchan, fresh  raw and struggling for a foothold, signed  a potboiler  titled Duniya Ka Mela. The film  was directed by Kundan Kumar; a  little-known name today, but a biggish gun in  the  1960s  and 70s, Kundan Kumar helmed  musical hits like  Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo(1962, India’s first Bhojpuri  blockbuster),  Aulad(1968, the  Jeetendra-Babita  starrer best-known for the comedic song Jodi hamari  jamegi kaise jaani) , Pardesi(1970, a slinky Mumtaz dancing to Chitragupta’s hit tunes) and Anokhi Ada(Jeetendra-Rekha’s first hit together).

In  1973 , before  Amitabh Bachchan’s Zanjeer  turned him overnight  into India’s  biggest  star, Kundan Kumar launched  Duniya Ka Mela with Rekha and a struggler named Amitabh Bachchan. Distributors  advised Kundan  Kumar against what they saw as a foolhardy move. And they were only being  rational: until that  point of time  AB had featured only in  superflops like  Saat  Hindustani, Pyar Ki Kahani, Bombay To  Goa ,Parwana and Gehri Chaal.In the last two mentioned films AB played  villainous roles and was seriously thinking of trying his luck as  a villain, a la Shatrughan Sinha.

But  Kundan stuck to his  guns. He  even shot a  romantic  duet Yeh chehra yeh zulfen  jadoo sa kar rahe hain  composed by the  hit-makers Laxmikant-Pyarelal , and   filmed on  Rekha and the almost-newcomer Amitabh Bachchan.

This is when the  distributors  threatened  to  back out of the project. They advised Kundan   Kumar to get  rid  of  the  wobbly semi-newcomer and replace  him with someone more viewer-friendly.

The  Big B was  sacked overnight, and not even informed  properly of his  loss. He   was replaced  by  the then hot and saleable Sanjay Khan(who  appeared  in films as only ‘Sanjay’ in the credit titles).  Sanjay(with or without the Khan) had delivered a slew of  successes  in the  late 60s and early 70s.

But look at destiny’s devious ways!  By the time Duniya Ka Mela was released in 1974 , Sanjay  Khan’s career was on the downslide and Amitabh Bachchan after Zanjeer  took over the entire  entertainment  industry.

The same duet song  from Duniya  Ka Mela, a miserable flop by the way , that  was shot with Bachchan and Rekha was re-shot with Sanjay and Rekha.

Technically Duniya Ka Mela is  the  first  Amitabh-Rekha starrer, although the one that released  first with them  in the lead was Do Anjaane in 1976  (where  believe  it not,Rekha eloples with  Prem  Chopra  after marrying Amitabh Bachchan).

Speaking  of  the  experience Amitabh Bachchan says he  holds absolutely no grudges. “I was  grappling with  flops. I was grateful that they even considered me for the film. I  was  replaced by My Sanjay Khan who was  big star during those times.”

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