Kader Khan's unique life-script was a blockbuster

Farhana Farook
·7-min read

The scene in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, where Kader Khan’s mystic character consoles the young child weeping at his mother’s grave saying, “Sukh to bewafaa hai… magar dukh to hameshaa ka saathi hai. Dukh ko gale lagaa…aur tu muqaddar kaa badshah hogaa!” was the watershed moment of Khan’s life.

The graveyard was young Kader Khan’s playground.

In order to escape the harrowing world of the living, young Kader, sought refuge amongst the silent dead and learnt certain lessons that helped his art as an actor and writer later. Between the 1970 -1990, he was one of Hindi cinema’s most prolific dialogue writers and scripted the success stories of several superstars. With over 300 roles as an actor and writing credits in over 250 films, he remains Bollywood’s most cherished talent.

Here’s taking a look at Kader Khan’s unique life-script, which itself is a blockbuster.

Kader Khan was born in Pishin (now in Balochistan) on 22 October 1937. His father, Abdul Rahman Khan, was from Kandahar, Afghanistan while his mother, Iqbal Begum, from Pishin. Three of his brothers had died before reaching the age of eight. Fearing the place was unfortunate for her children, when his mother was expecting him, Iqbal begum and Abdul Rahman came to India. They separated when he was four. Khan lived in a chawl at Kamathipura, Mumbai’s infamous red light area, with his mother and abusive stepfather.

Story goes; the stepfather would often send young Kader to his father to ask for two rupees. The father was earning only Rs 15 a month but his love for his son made him part with the money. That one rupee was spent on buying rice, dal and kerosene for the three.

Young Kader sought refuge from the poverty and fights amidst the silent tombs of the Israeli cemetery in the vicinity. There he’d act out all that he had seen during the day. Actor Ashraf Khan (Mehboob Khan’s Roti) spotted the 10-year-old one night. He asked him to perform in his play. Kader played the role of a young prince in his drama Wamaq Azra (a fabled love story).

Khan earned a degree in civil engineering and took to teaching at the M H Saboo Siddik Polytechnic and Technical High School. He simplified dry subjects like Hydraulics, Thermodynamics and Applied Mechanics and made them fun for the students. His dedication won him the Best Teacher Award.

Kader Khan and Dilip Kumar in Kanoon Apna Apna
Kader Khan and Dilip Kumar in Kanoon Apna Apna

But his creative side found fulfilment in doing theatre and in the world of Saadat Hasan Manto, Maxim Gorky, Stanislavsky, Anton Chekhov and Dostoevsky. In the ‘70s, Dilip Kumar expressed his desire to watch his play Taash Ke Patte. While Khan was honoured, he told the superstar that he’d have to adhere to the rules and come before the curtains rose. The gracious Dilip Kumar complied. Kumar was in tears after watching the play. He also offered Khan a role in Sagina (1974).

Filmmaker Ramesh Behl asked Khan to write the dialogue for his new film, director Narender Bedi’s Randhir Kapoor-Jaya Bhaduri-starrer Jawani Diwani (1972). Khan went to Cross Maidan, a sports ground, and wrote the script in four hours. He was paid Rs 1500 for it. For his next film, Khel Khel Mein (1975), he was paid Rs 21,000. His salary as a teacher was just Rs 400 so this was a significant turnaround. For Manmohan Desai’s blockbuster Roti, he was paid Rs 1,21,000.

Khan went on to pen hits for Desai between the ’70s-’80s including Parvarish and Amar Akbar Anthony and Coolie. He also wrote for another titan of the era, director Prakash Mehra. Khan wrote the story and dialogue of Laawaris, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Sharabi. Reportedly, Bachchan was initially baffled by a 16-page soliloquy that Khan had written for him Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. But after listening to Khan’s recorded narration of the same, Bachchan was moved to tears.

Khan also wrote the dialogue for Bachchan’s Mr Natwarlal (1979), Satte Pe Satta (1982) and Agneepath (1990).“Amitabh introvert hai, main bhi introvert hoon. So we shared a good bond,” he once said. “For a 6 am shoot, Amitabh would be there at 6.05 am. I know of actors, who reported at 5 pm for a 10 am shoot. Amitabh never troubled his makers,” he was quoted saying. However with time, reportedly a distance crept between them.


Khan’s innings with Jeetendra’s South films is also notable. He wrote for the scathing Meri Awaz Suno (won the Filmfare Award for Best Dialogue 1982) and Justice Chowdhary and the comedy Himmatwala in the early ’80s. The initial banners of Himmatwala had Jeetendra and Sridevi’s names. But the next round splashed Kader Khan’s name too.


His comic chemistry with ‘chela’ Shakti Kapoor through the ‘90s gave blockbusters like Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri (won the Filmfare Award for Best Comedian1993), Akhiyon Se Goli Maare, Umar 55 Ki Dil Bachpan Ka, Mawaali, Hero No. 1 and Aankhen. Reportedly, the popular duo participated in around 50 shows all over the world from Japan to America to Canada. Shashilal Nair’s mafia saga Angaar (1993) also won him the Filmfare Award for Best Dialogue.

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Director David Dhawan’s relationship with Khan began with Bol Radha Bol in 1992, and continued with Aankhen and Raja Babu. Dhawan-Khan created the Govinda blockbusters like Dulhe Raja, Coolie No.1, Saajan Chale Sasural, Aunty No.1, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Khuddar among others. Dhawan and Khan’s last film together was Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar’s, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004). It’s said that Khan had a two-wheeler, which he would ride himself with his secretary Jamshed on the backseat. He would be dictating the dialogue to Jamshed, who’d be writing it behind!

Kader Khan and Govinda in Dulhe Raja
Kader Khan and Govinda in Dulhe Raja

However, Khan’s verbose and metaphor laden comedy and double entendre dialogue won him flak from critics. “If I had tried to please the critics, then I’d have lost the masses,” was his retort. His last appearances include Tevar (2015) and Masti Nahi Sasti (2017).

In the early 2000s, Khan turned towards spirituality. He took classes in Arabic and Islamic studies in Dubai and also wrote books simplifying the works of Islamic scholars. Later, he underwent a knee surgery, which made him wheelchair bound. He was also suffering from supra-nuclear palsy and diabetes. He spent the last years with son Safaraz in Toronto. His other sons are Quddus and Shahnawaz. Kader Khan passed away on December 31 in 2018, before the New Year could unfold. He was 81. His funeral ceremony was held in Mississauga and he was buried in the Meadowvale cemetery.