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Bollywood legend Amjad Khan's son turns writer

Late villian Amjad Khan’s son Shadaab turns crime thriller writer with a little help from Hoshiyar Khan

Shadaab Khan has grown up around guns and goons thanks to an actor father who debuted in the role of one of Bollywood’s most famous dacoits.


Pic/Satyajit Desai

But, the man Shadaab Khan has been keeping close ties with of late is nowhere as dark as his late father Amjad Khan’s characters. Crime Branch inspector Hoshiyar Shehryar Khan abhors violence and aggression, making him a pleasant protagonist of Khan’s second novel, Murder in Bollywood.

If the book, which releases on Tuesday, does well, the 41-year-old has plans to write a sequel. “I’ve figured out what Hoshiyar Khan will do in the books that will come next,” he says.

The novel mixes Khan’s multiple loves — films, writing and policing. Although he is often remembered as the actor who didn’t quite make it after his debut opposite Rani Mukerji in Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat, Khan says he had plans to join the police force. But with his father’s death in 1992, he had little choice but to hold fort. And the film industry was his first refuge.

Paltry attendance in class meant that he had to drop out of Bandra’s National College. “The only thing I could do was act until I figured out what I really wanted to do,” he says. Although he returned to the screen in 2000, with JP Dutta’s Refugee, he decided he wouldn’t act again because he needed to take a “break from bad work”.

Instead, he picked up the pen on December 1, 2006, a day etched in his memory because it was 30 days away from brother Seemaab’s wedding. “I used to lock myself in the building manager’s cabin every night at 10 pm and write until dawn. This went on for 13 months straight, and the result was 120 pages of trash which no one wanted to publish.”

Finally, he set up office in an empty room opposite his bedroom on the fifth floor of his family-owned building on Pali Hill. “It has a simple desk, a chair and bed. From my window, I can see foliage that keeps me cool,” says Khan, whose first book, Shanti Memorial, inspired by his favourite writer, Edgar Allan Po, was a morbid and dark novel that released in 2013.

Publishers Penguin India took notice of the book and got Khan to approach them with a couple of ideas. “I read Po’s Tell Tale when I was eight,” he confesses, much to his mother’s chagrin.

His latest novel, however, is an out and out whodunit? While Khan is averse to joining theatre, a platform that sister Ahlam Khan is comfortable with, he hasn’t given up on acting. He’ll embrace it when a good role comes his way. “I don’t have the discipline of rehearsals required of theatre actors. But I am clear that I will do roles I like. After a point, I had begun to get angry at what was being offered to me,” admits Khan, happy though, that in the end, “I did figure it out.”

My father's son
Shadaab Khan says he spent more time with his actor father on set than he did at home. But a personal memory, one of his favourites, has to do with the man off set. “We were headed to his set on a Saturday, when a man stopped our car outside the gate, requesting for money to fund his daughter’s wedding. Dad told him to come home the next day. Sundays were when the film fraternity frequented our residence, so the man wasn’t allowed in. He waited till 10 pm and left. When dad found out, he sent me to Khar station to find him. I looked for him with the money in hand — double the amount the man had requested. When I asked dad about the sum, he said, ‘I made the man wait double the time he was meant to. So, it’s only fair that I give him twice the amount.’”

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