Meet the real Agent Vinod
While all eyes are on Saif Ali Khan's Agent Vinod, the film makes a special mention of Mahendra Sandhu, who also plays a cameo in it. Thirty-five years ago, he starred in the Rajshri production with the same title. "Cops at traffic signals, security guys at the airport and people who recognise me shout 'Agent Vinod" when they spot me," says the 60 year-old.
Mahendra Sandhu, who played Agent Vinod in the Rajshri Productions
film by the same name 35 years ago (below)
Though disconnected from the film industry for the past 25 years, Sandhu, who owns a real-estate business, received a call from Saif and director Sriram Raghavan during the making of the film in the film. "I reluctantly agreed to play the part on condition that I like the role," says Sandhu, who recalls the time when Tarachand Barjatya from Rajshri called him after seeing his work in Khoon Ki Keemat. "When they offered me Agent Vinod then, I took it. They called it desi Bond. The director was a young man Deepak Bahri and our careers depended on the success of Agent Vinod," says Sandhu, who had already decided to leave Bollywood by the time the movie was released.
"I had come from Punjab to try my luck in films. Since I hadn't made any headway I decided to go back to farming. But Agent Vinod revived my career," says Sandhu, who got many offers after the hit. He did films such as Jwala Daku, Mujhe Vachan Do and Kaun Kitne Paani Mein. "But I was foolish in my choices. The Rajshris couldn't afford a sequel as the movie demanded expensive locations. If there were a sequel, Agent Vinod would've been a franchise," says Sandhu.
Sandhu recalls being fussy and picky. Once, while doing a film with Raj Kumar, Sandhu, who was playing a cop, refused to let Kumar snatch the gun away from me. "I refused to do that shot. The director argued that it was the character from whom the gun was being taken. 'Mahendra Sandhu ke haath se koi gun kaise le lega', I told him," laughs Sandhu. An offended Kumar left the shooting and the film was shelved.
Sandhu, who now owns a real-estate business, juggles his time between Mumbai and Punjab. He spends his summers abroad and winters in Punjab. "I am far happier now than I was as an actor," he says. And will he watch the new Agent Vinod? "I haven't visited the theatres or watched a Hindi film in 25 years," he says,
shaking his head.