He turned 66 last month, but Vinod Khanna — the lead of hits such as Mere Apne (1971), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Inkar (1978) — is raring to go. With work on the second edition of Dabangg — where he continues to essay the role of Salman Khan’s character Chulbul Pandey’s father — having started, Khanna is looking ahead.
“My character is tautly scripted in Dabangg 2 and has realistic shades. In the earlier film, a number of mine and Dimple Kapadia’s scenes were edited as the film was getting too long.”
Khanna adds, “Director Abhinav Kashyap understands his work well and handles his artistes with care. Salman is a sport and is always co-operative. Though Dimple is not in the film, I always cherish working with her. She is intelligence, beauty and talent personified.”
A commerce graduate from Sydenham College, Khanna has kept a low profile over the years. The actor, pegged as one of the most handsome of his time, has proved his mettle, portraying negative roles with as much élan as those of the hero. He has held his own against contemporaries such as Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachhan.
“Mere Apne gave me ample critical acclaim and success. I still remember how Gulzarsaab inspired me to speak with my eyes whilst lipsyncing for Koi Hota Jis Ko Apna. In Meerabai, I adopted the regal walk of a king and never felt uncomfortable, though it was my first costume film.”
Now he wants to experiment. “While a majority of my films were action thrillers, I performed characters of substance in films such as Achanak, Aarop, Main Tulsi Tere Angan Ki and Meerabai. At present, I am not into mindless action thrillers and am eager to experiment, given the opportunity.”
Speaking about his brief hiatus during the years of Acharya Rajneesh (Osho), Khanna says, “Though I did not act for years, I understood when it was the right time to return. Insaaf (1987) and Satyamev Jayate (1987) were important comeback films and I had matured by then as an actor.”
After four decades in the profession, does he have any regrets? Khanna smiles, “I am not a pessimist and am focused as long I work. Indian cinema has advanced for the better in these years. At this age, I will only accept challenging and author backed characters which I can do justice to, and prove my worth as an actor.”