The world knows him best as Sambha, his character in Ramesh Sippy’s cult movie, Sholay. According to Anupama Chopra’s book, Sholay — The Making of A Classic, MacMohan is perhaps the only actor in the history of Indian cinema to become famous for three words, “Poore pachaas hazaar,” (Full fifty thousand) uttered on-screen.
That was his response to Gabbar Singh’s (Amjad Khan) poser: “Arre o Sambha! Kitna inaam rakhe hai sarkar hum par?” (Hey Sambha, what is the reward the government has placed on me?) But for Raveena Tandon, he was always her favourite uncle, Mohan mama. ‘Mohan mama was my fave’ In a candid conversation, the actress reveals the exact opposite of the man we have, more often than not, seen as a villain in most of the films he acted in.
“Mohan mama was my favourite uncle and it was he who gave me the pet name Munmun. Whenever he travelled anywhere, he would always bring some gift for me. Never did it happen that he went some place and return without a present for me. Since he was a bachelor for the longest time, we were all very thrilled when he got married. I remember dancing the most at his wedding ceremonies.” The actress goes on to add, “Even though he played a bad man in a majority of the movies he acted in, Mohan mama was one of the kindest and gentlest souls I’ve ever known. The words, ‘He’d never hurt even a fly’ fit him perfectly. At the same time, he was also honest and noble, full of sincerity and integrity. And in contrast to his serious image, he was full of joie de vivre, and the life of every party.” “Considering his image, resulting from the characters he played on screen, people would be very surprised to see that he was not only kind and generous in real life, but also very helpful and compassionate towards others. For someone who played a villain in the movies, in real life, he was a hero for many people.”
“Mohan mama was a man of immense integrity. He would never hesitate to speak the truth. And that speaks a lot for him as a human being.” It may be believed that some relations drift apart, but we were always very close to Mohan mama and his family. My dad’s friendship with him goes way beyond, and started much before my parents’ wedding. I share wonderful relations with his wife and children too. We will miss him a lot.”
- As told to Hiren Kotwani