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Gabbar Singh (character)

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Gabbar Singh
Sholay character
Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh in Sholay
First appearanceSholay (1975)
Last appearanceRamgarh Ke Sholay (1991)
Created bySalim-Javed
(Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar)
Based onGabbar Singh Gujjar
Portrayed byAmjad Khan
In-universe information
RelativesHari Singh (father)

Gabbar Singh is a fictional character and the antagonist of the 1975 Bollywood film Sholay. It was written by the duo Salim–Javed, consisting of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. Played by Amjad Khan, he is depicted in Sholay as a dacoit with an evil laugh much like "El Indio", the robber, from the Western film For a Few Dollars More, who leads a group in looting and plundering the villages in the region of Ramgarh. He has a sadistic personality and insists on killing whenever required to continue his status and to take revenge on his enemies.[1][2][3] The character is considered to be one of the most iconic villains in Indian cinema.[4] He was featured in the 1991 spoof Ramgarh Ke Sholay, with Khan portraying a parody version of the character.[5] His famous dialogues include -" Yahan se pachas pachas kos door gaon mein ' jab bachcha raat ko rota hai, toh maa kehti hai bete soo ja ' soo ja nahi toh Gabbar Singh aa jayega", "Kitne aadmi the?", "Arre O Samba" , "Tera kya hoga Kalia?" , "Kab holi, holi kab hai", and "Ye haath humko dede Thakur".[citation needed]


Gabbar Singh was modelled on a real-life dacoit Gabbar Singh Gujjar who had menaced the villages around Gwalior in the 1950s. Any policeman captured by Gujjar had his ears, and nose cut off, and was released as a warning to other policemen.[6] The fictional Gabbar Singh was also inspired by larger-than-life characters in Pakistani author Ibn-e-Safi's Urdu novels.[7] Sippy wanted to avoid the clichéd idea of a man becoming a dacoit due to societal issues, as was the case in other Indian films, and focused on Gabbar being an emblem of pure evil. To emphasise the point of Gabbar being a new type of villain, Sippy avoided the typical tropes of dacoits wearing dhotis and pagris and sporting a Tika and worshipping "Ma Bhavani"; Gabbar would be wearing army fatigues.[8]

Danny Denzongpa was the first choice of Gabbar but had to miss out because he was shooting for Dharmatma in Afghanistan.[9] Amjad Khan was almost dropped from the project because Javed Akhtar found his voice too weak for Gabbar Singh's role but was later convinced. For his preparation for the role Amjad read Abhishapth Chambal, a book on Chambal dacoits written by Taroon Kumar Bhaduri (actress Jaya Bhaduri's father).[10] Sanjeev Kumar also wanted to play the role of Gabbar Singh, but Salim-Javed "felt he had the audience’s sympathy through roles he’d done before; Gabbar had to be completely hateful."[11]

Style of speech[edit]

Javed Akhtar said Gabbar "seemed to acquire life and vocabulary of his own" as he wrote the film. His sadism lies in his choice of words like "Khurach, khurach" (scratch) when he talks to Basanti (Hema Malini).[2] Gabbar's style of speech was a mix of Khariboli and Awadhi, inspired by Dilip Kumar's dacoit character Gunga from the 1961 film Gunga Jumna.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

Amjad shot to stardom with the film. His mannerisms and dialogues have become an integral part of Bollywood lexicon.[13] Sholay went on to become a blockbuster, and is the highest-grossing movie in India. Although the film boasted an ensemble cast of superstars including Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, he stole the thunder with his unorthodox and eerie dialogue delivery that was perfectly opposite to the total lack of empathy his character was supposed to convey. Even after four decades, people fondly remember his dialogues and mannerisms.[14] He later appeared in advertisements as Gabbar Singh endorsing Britannia Glucose Biscuits (Popularly knowns as "Gabbar Ki Asli Pasand"), and it was the first incidence of a villain being used to sell a popular product. The role of Gabbar Singh was so deep-rooted in people's mind those days that Amjad Khan was known for the rest of his life by this role alone and wherever he went he had to speak some dialogues from the film to amuse the public[15][16] because the dialogues are very popular among the audiences of Indian cinema.[17]

The BBC have compared the impact of Gabbar Singh on Bollywood to the impact that Darth Vader later had on Hollywood. According to Anupama Chopra, "He’s like Darth Vader in Star Wars, pure evil, utterly terrifying and a cool baddie”.[18]

In 2011, Amitabh Bachchan told a contestant on his Kaun Banega Crorepati TV show that when Amjad Khan visited their home, his son Abhishek Bachchan ran to him and said "Papa, Gabbar Singh aaya hai" (transl. Father, Gabbar Singh is here!), and Bachchan had to convince his son that Gabbar was just a character played by Khan.[19]

Gabbar Singh has been a subject of parodies and jokes innumerable times in the popular Indian media.[20][21] Filmfare named Gabbar Singh the most iconic villain in the history of Indian cinema,[22]

In Jai Hind (1994) comedian Senthil says "Arre O Sambha" while appearing as a dacoit.[23]

In the 2012 film Gabbar Singh, the character has been referenced by protagonist Venkataratnam Naidu (played by Telugu actor Pawan Kalyan), nicknaming himself after Gabbar Singh's character. Constable Ram Prasad (Ali) is nicknamed 'Samba' after Gabbar Singh's sidekick. In the sequel Sardaar Gabbar Singh (2016 film), Pawan reprises his role, albeit with 'Sardaar' in front of his name, referring to the title given by Gabbar Singh's henchmen. Both Telugu films contain dialogues made famous by Sholay's antagonist, e.g.,"Joh darr gaya... samjho marr gaya" (transl. Whoever is afraid... consider them dead).

In the 2015 film Gabbar is Back, the protagonist Aditya Singh Rajput (portrayed by Akshay Kumar) resembles Gabbar Singh and he also nicknamed himself after Gabbar's character.[24]


  1. ^ Sahai, Dissanayake, Malti, Wimal (1992). Sholay, a cultural reading. Wiley Eastern. ISBN 81-224-0394-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b Baghel, Meenal (5 December 1999). "Once upon a time in Ramgarh". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  3. ^ Hogan, Patrick Colm (2008). Understanding Indian movies: culture, cognition, and cinematic imagination. University of Texas Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-292-72167-8.
  4. ^ "'Sholay' completes 35 years". The Times of India. 16 August 2010. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Ramesh Sippy's 'Sholay' remains the best". News18. 28 July 2010. Archived from the original on 27 March 2020. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  6. ^ Khan 1981, pp. 88–89, 98.
  7. ^ "Urdu pulp fiction: Where Gabbar Singh and Mogambo came from". Daily News and Analysis. 10 July 2011. Archived from the original on 3 June 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  8. ^ Chopra 2000, p. 38.
  9. ^ "Danny Denzongpa's loss". The Times of India. 30 August 2008. Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  10. ^ Chopra 2000, p. 60.
  11. ^ Khan, Salim; Sukumaran, Shradha (14 August 2010). "Sholay, the Beginning". Open. Archived from the original on 30 November 2017.
  12. ^ Chopra, Anupama (11 August 2015). "Shatrughan Sinha as Jai, Pran as Thakur and Danny as Gabbar? What 'Sholay' could have been". Scroll.in. Archived from the original on 8 November 2015.
  13. ^ a b "80 Iconic Performances". Article. Filmfare. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  14. ^ Singh, Ruma (12 October 2006). "Tera kya hoga, Gabbar Singh?". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  15. ^ "Amjad Khan — IMDb". IMDb. Archived from the original on 6 March 2018. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  16. ^ Chopra 2000.
  17. ^ "Lines that linger". Article. The Tribune. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  18. ^ Verma, Rahul (14 August 2015). "Sholay: The Star Wars of Bollywood?". Archived from the original on 9 May 2017. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  19. ^ "Sujata Wankhade from Maharashtra on Hot Seat-Episode 35 – KBC 2011 – 12th Oct 2011". Youtube. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Amjad Khan". Archived from the original on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  21. ^ "Kitne aadmi they? for the role of Gabbar Singh". Bollywood Hungama. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  22. ^ Hashmi, Parampara Patil (3 May 2013). "Iconic villains of Indian cinema". Filmfare. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  23. ^ "Jai Hind Comedy". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2016. Clip from 9:30 to 11:30.
  24. ^ "After rowdy, Bhansali turns Akshay into Gabbar". The Times of India. 17 April 2013. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2013.


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