Was Feroz Khan India’s coolest actor ever?

Subhash K Jha remembers the flamboyant star, 12 years after he passed away.

I have to agree with my friend, Fardeen, when he says his father was one of a kind.

There will never be another Feroz Khan. He was by far the coolest actor of India.

In fact the word ‘cool’, so abused in recent times, seems to have been invented to describe Feroz, or FK as his friends called him.


Feroz started his career with a bit role in Hum Sab Chor Hai.

His first lead was in a film titled Ghar Ki Laj.

Feroz spent most of the 1960s playing the guy who loses the heroine to another guy, mostly played by actors who didn’t have half of Feroz’s charm.

One can understand Feroz losing Saira Banu to Dharmendra in Aadmi Aur Insaan (though, admittedly, he had the gorgeous Mumtaz’s shoulder to cry on) and to Rajesh Khanna in Safar. But how could he lose Mumtaz to Sanjay Khan in Mela, never mind if he was his own brother?

In the 1970s, Feroz re-invented his career as a leading man and became Indian cinema’s cowboy in Khote Sikkay and Kaala Sona.

But, by the mid-70s, it was clear Bollywood couldn’t decide where to position this urbane cowboy. It was time for Feroz to create his own opportunities.

In 1972, he turned producer director with the slick action thriller, Apradh.

His buddy, Mumtaz, who was to later become his samdhan (Feroz’s son, Fardeen, married Mumtaz’s daughter, Natasha Madhwani), stepped into the heroine’s stilettos.

The film, shot in Germany, was a big success.


In 1974, Feroz directed his ambitious unofficial remake of Godfather, with Premanth playing Marlon Brando (no, Brando didn’t sue) and Feroz as Sunny Corleone in Dharmatma.

Hema Malini, who had a guest appearance in the film, recalls Feroz’s cool quotient with a smile.

“He was the first and last man to call me ‘Baby’. No one has ever dared. I wish they would.

“What a suave man he was!

“When I agreed to do Dharmatma, he made it very clear I was there in the first half only.

“He said, ‘You can’t say no, Baby!’

“That was a new experience for me. My mother was more shocked than I was.

“With everyone addressing me as ‘ji‘, it feels nice if someone comes up with a term of endearment.

“He decided to take on the challenge of making me look more glamorous and sensuous than ever before.

“That was a tough job because I was constantly fighting to cover myself up more than those costumes by Parmeshwar Godrej allowed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used so many safety pins in my entire lifetime.

“He wanted me to be as uninhibited as today’s heroines. That wasn’t possible for me.

“We shot Dharmatma in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think any Hindi film unit had gone there before. It was a memorable experience. And we really had to rough it out.

“It was freezing cold in Kabul. We had to stay in tents.

“In the evenings, we’d all sit together and prepare for next day’s scenes. Otherwise, after shooting, I always kept to myself. But he persuaded not just me but also my mother to join the unit in the evening. ‘Come on, Mom,’ he’d say. ‘Join us.’

“My mother was taken aback. We’re basically very shy people. But he’d make her part of the discussions.

“That’s the way to make films. One gets so charged and enthusiastic. I wish Feroz Khan and I had done more films together.”


The late, much-missed Sridevi, who got a image makeover in Feroz Khan’s Janbaaz with just one Har kissiki nahin milta yahan pyar zindagi mein, spoke to me fondly about Feroz soon after his death.

“What an impact that 10 minute role left on the audience!

“It was because of Mr Feroz Khan’s presentation that I made an impact in Janbaaz.

“At first I was hesitant because it was just a guest appearance. Also, the presentation seemed a little too sensuous for my personality. But when Mr Khan spoke to me in my mother tongue, I was immediately convinced.

“Yes, I was as surprised as you are. But he spoke fluent Tamil…

“He was a very classy gentleman and his cinema reflected that. I was very proud to be in Janbaaz. It proved it’s not about the length of the role but the impact.”


It was Feroz Khan’s Qurbani that left his most indelible mark as a filmmaker.

The film’s suave presentation was never seen before in Indian cinema.

Zeenat Aman, who sang and danced her way to superstardom with Aap jaisa koi and Laila o Laila, lights up when speaking about Feroz.

“We shot the song Laila o Laila for another film altogether. After we shot it, Feroz Khan, being the mercurial movie mogul that he was, decided to scrap the original film, script and title. He instead decided to make Qurbani overnight.

“We were fine with the decision because we had only shot that song, Laila o Laila…”

*Zeenat remembers the phenomenal reach of the song.

“When we were shooting the song, we never thought it would acquire such an iconic status.

“I mean, we had a lot fun shooting it but I never thought I’d be remembered for Laila o Laila and Aap jaisa koi in Qurbani to this day.

“I don’t remember if we had a formal choreographer on the sets. But I do remember Feroz just told me to do my own thing.

“Whether it was Laila o Laila in Qurbani or Dum maro dum in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, I grooved to my own beat.

“Today, wherever I go, I am asked about these two songs.”

Feroz Khan and Vinod Khanna — who were co-stars in Qurbani and in Dayavan (Feroz Khan’s awful remake of Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan) and who passed away on the same date (though in different years) — must be busy making the apsaras up there dance to Laila o Laila.

Songs filmed on Feroz Khan

  • Jo tumko ho pasand wohi baat kahenge (Mukesh, Safar)
  • Dil ki girah khol do (Manna Dey-Lata Mangeshkar, Raat Aur Din)
  • Darpan ko dekha tune jab jab kiya shringar (Mukesh, Upaasna)
  • Jeevan mein tu darna nahin (Kishore Kumar, Khote Sikkey)
  • Tere chehre mein woh jaadu hai (Kishore Kumar, Dharmatma)
  • Kya khoob lagti ho (Mukesh-Kanchan, Dharmatma)
  • Qurbani, qurbani, qurbani (Kishore Kumar, Anwar, Aziz Nazan, Qurbani)
  • Har kissiko nahin milta (Manhar Udhas, Janbaaz)
  • Chahe meri jaan tu le le (Jolly Mukherjee, Dayavan)

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