Sheikh Mukhtar – The first antihero of Hindi silver screen
Sheikh Mukhtar (1914 – 1980) was a Bollywood actor best known for playing negative shaded roles. He is also credited to be the first villain of Bollywood. With a height of six feet two inches, he was the tallest mainstream actor of Bollywood, before Amitabh Bachchan came into scene. His appearance and looks attributed a lot to his career as a Bollywood villain. Along with his tallest appearance and manly figure, a rugged body of hefty proportions with roughness on his face became tailor-made villain of Bollywood screen. Babar and Changez Khan are among his memorable roles.
He was born in Karachi. His father, a police inspector at railways wanted him to join police or army. But Sheikh loved movies and acting. His younger days were spent near Jama Mosque, Delhi. His chance to join entertainment field came when one of his neighbours opened a theater company in Kolkata, and very soon Sheikh Mukhtar reached there. After being associated with theatre with for a long time, he moved to Mumbai and approached the director Mehbood Khan. Khan got deeply impressed by his acting skills and gave him the first break. Thus Mehboob Khan’s 1939 film Ek Hi Rasta marked his Bollywood debut. Since then he mostly played supporting and villain roles on screen, and worked with Mehboob Khan in numerous movies. Bahan, Badal, Do Bhai, Do Ustad, Ustadon Ka Ustad, Gehra Raaz etc are some of his noted roles.
After earning from Bollywood, he produced several movies in the 1950s with big stars. Deeply impressed with Mughal-E-Azam he produced a movie, Noor Jahan with all his earnings. He also took big loans to fulfill his dreams. The expensive movie was released in 1967 with Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari in lead roles. The film was expected to become another epic like Mughal-E-Azam. But the film’s failure shattered his dreams and he was forced to flee to Pakistan overnight with its original prints.
He hoped to release the film in Pakistan and expected to become a big hit. However after watching its publicity, a person filed a case against the film release. In the big shock, he turned blind. Time passed by and the case got dragged for many years, and Sheikh Mukhtar turned weaker. Finally the film had a theatric release in Pakistan after facing a lot of legal issues, and had a big run at box office too. But he couldn’t see its success because he died of a massive heart attack exactly on the same day of Pakistani release. Some sources say the verdict of the case came out in Sheikh Mukhtar’s favour after his demise. Anyways he was not lucky to see the big success of the movie. He died on May 12, 1980.
Sheikh Mukhtar – Some interesting and less-known facts
1. His debut movie Ek Hi Rasta also marked the screen debut of Arun Kumar Ahuja, Govinda’s father. The actors played friends in this court drama. Sheikh played Mangoo, a pickpocket, but Raja’s best friend (portrayed by Ahuja).
2. Mehboob Khan later casted him in Bahen (1941) and Roti (1942).
3. Do Bhai is one of his best roles in the late 1960s. He played a full-fledged positive role of Jwala Singh with some misunderstandings, and his work is definitely praise worthy.
4. He has appeared aside with comedian Mukri in many movies, and those roles became instant hits. His pairing with actress Begum Para was also appreciated.
5. He played dada and henchman type of roles multiple times.
6. He appeared in more than 70 movies and also produced 8.
7. He was the tallest actor in Bollywood before Big B.
8. He played a rare positive role in Ustadon Ka Ustad and a few more films. He played wicked man and local goon in most films.
9. When his much anticipated project Noor Jahan terribly flopped at box office, he got fully sunk in debts and was not able to repay the loans. He even received abuses death threats for the same reason. He was fully heart broken.
10. With original prints he moved to Pakistan and gave big publicity for the film release. But he had to face legal issues and couldn’t release the film during his life time which made him completely heart broken and turned blind. When it got released and became super hit after fighting the legal battle for more than a decade, Sheikh Mukhtar was not alive to witness it.