Anees Bazmee’s Welcome was the second highest-grossing film of 2007, after Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om. Despite the film’s ensemble cast that included Anil Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Nana Patekar, Katrina Kaif and Paresh Rawal, it was Feroz Khan as the underworld don RDX, his last appearance on screen, who stole the show, and it was thanks in no small part to his trademark flamboyance and style.
Born Zulfiqar Ali Shah Khan on 25 September 1939, to Afghan father and Iranian mother, Khan wanted to be an actor right from childhood. But not just any actor. Feroz Khan probably always knew he was meant to be a style icon.
In an interview to film historian Bhawana Somaaya, he recalled that he even rode his new motorbike to school to show it to his friends, earning the wrath of his teachers. He was also in love with horses, and fascinated with the classic Hollywood Western film, a fact that influenced his filmmaking hugely.
He entered the film industry in 1959 with Didi, but went on to play supporting roles for a few years. It was only after 1965’s Oonche Log that he began to be more conspicuous. He soon made a name for himself as an actor, director and producer, with films like Safar (1970), Apradh (1972), Khote Sikkay (1974), Dharmatma (1975), Qurbani (1980), Janbaaz (1986) and Yalgaar (1992), among others.
Guns, horses, bikes, leather jackets, bold, gorgeous women in slinky dresses singing in nightclubs, cowboy hats — on his 11th death anniversary, a look back at how Feroz Khan redefined Bollywood style.
Clint Eastwood of the East or desi James Bond
Inspired by The Godfather, Dharmatma was the first Bollywood film to be shot in Afghanistan, and was a milestone in Khan’s career as producer, director and star. But in true Feroz Khan style, he did not just shoot in that country, but also managed to explore his love of riding horses, even managing to impress local Pathans and earning their respect with his equestrian skills.
Palatial houses, fancy foreign locales, horse races, sleek cars and sensuous women were a regular feature in most of Khan’s films, and much like James Bond, he also had the equivalent of Bond women, be it Zeenat Aman in Qurbani, Hema Malini in Dharmatma, Sridevi in Janbaaz or Celina Jaitley in Janasheen.
It sounds reductive, in a way, but he also brought about a kind of sensuality that had not been portrayed earlier on the screen. Be it Mumtaz in a bikini or Rekha’s first item number, he helped the woman actors of his time reinvent themselves with roles they had never done or seen before.
In an interview after his death, Zeenat Aman, reminiscing about the Qurbani shoot, had said, “He wanted to be and do the best. He did everything larger-than-life. When he didn’t like a set for Qurbani, he actually got it dismantled and built a new one. He wouldn’t compromise on his vision. What he made was what he was in real life.”
He wanted to remake Qurbani with son Fardeen Khan in the lead, but before he could complete his dream project, he passed away on 27 April 2009.