indian cinema heritage foundation

"Cricket Se Cinema Tak" - Mac Mohan

01 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Mac Mohan. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

One of the most successful films from the annals of Hindi cinema is, undoubtedly, Sholay which gave Hindi cinema a star villain in Amjad Khan and also brought the long struggling actor Mac Mohan, who had been striving to make a name for himself, untold fame and success. At every important twist in the film, Gabbar’s catchphrase to his main man - Arre O Sambha – electrifies audiences even today. The dacoit Sambha was portrayed by actor Mohan Makhijani a.k.a. Mac Mohan, who I had happened upon formally at a couple of general body meetings of Cine & T.V. Artistes Association – CINTAA. But I got to know him personally during an interview for my Sahara Samay Weekly’s column Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon. This interview took place at his adobe in 4 Bungalows Andheri (West). 

According to Mac Mohan, his foray into films was a mere coincidence. He was a very good cricketer and had come to Mumbai in the hopes of making a career in cricketing. Originally from Karachi, Mac Mohan’s father was a Colonel in the British Army. Mac Mohan was born on 24 April 1938 in Karachi.  In 1940 his father was transferred and he along with his family shifted to Lucknow. Mac Mohan’s education ensued in Lucknow and Mussoorie.
 

Mac Mohan in Aao Pyar Karen. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
On my friend’s insistence at the time, as a leisure activity, I acted in a stage play with an organization called Hindi Parishad. Shauqat Azmi was portraying my mother in the play. The play turned out to be very successful. After a few days, Shauqat Azmi called me to perform in IPTA’s play Election Ka Ticket.
Mac Mohan says, “I was the captain of my school and university’s cricket team. I then started playing in Uttar Pradesh’s team. Suddenly my mother fell ill and my father, keeping in mind the better medical facilities, took a transfer to Mumbai. Looking for a better future in cricket, I too came to Mumbai in 1952. I enrolled in a collage and started feverishly playing Cricket. On my friend’s insistence at the time, as a leisure activity, I acted in a stage play with an organization called Hindi Parishad. Shauqat Azmi was portraying my mother in the play. The play turned out to be very successful. After a few days, Shauqat Azmi called me to perform in IPTA’s play Election Ka Ticket.  Because at the time my focus was cricket, I initially refused to work in the play but eventually I gave in to all the pressure and agreed to be a part of the stage play. That play was well received by the audiences as well.”
 
Haqeeqat (1964). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
On seeing Mac Mohans work in the IPTA stage play, P.D. Shenoy, a coach from the Filmalaya Acting School offered him admission in his school which Mac Mohan accepted. After the 3 year acting course, the first film he bagged was Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat. According to Mac Mohan, during the credits of Haqeeqat, his name was mistakenly written as Brij Mohan instead of Mohan Makhijani. His friends would call him Macky, a shortcut version of Makhijani. Using Macky, the then editor of Filmfare, L.P.Rao, during his review of the film Haqeeqat bestowed Mohan Makhijani with a new name Mac Mohan. As time went, this name became his identity. 


Mac Mohan’s work in film Haqeeqat was well received. In 1964 in Filmalaya’s film Aao Pyar Karein he was seen shaking a leg in the famous song Ye jhuki jhuki jhuki nigahein teri. But then for a long time he didn’t do any more films. On the other hand, cricket had become the past for him. As a result he started working as an assistant director with Chetan Anand in Akhiri Khat (1966). But he kept polishing his acting skills religiously. Mac Mohan says, “I would go to my terrace and practice different characters every day, I would say dialogues out loudly and would scream and shout. My neighbor, director Raghunath Jhalani, had become so fed up of my screaming and shouting that when he had to cast for a mad man for Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke, he thought of no one else but me.” 
 
Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mac Mohan says, “I would go to my terrace and practice different characters every day, I would say dialogues out loudly and would scream and shout. My neighbor, director Raghunath Jhalani, had become so fed up of my screaming and shouting that when he had to cast for a mad man for Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke, he thought of no one else but me.” 
According to Mac Mohan when he had to grow a beard for his character in the film Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke, his Colonel father flatly refused to give his consent for the same. After a lot of begging and pleading, his father finally gave in. After this, Mac Mohan bagged another film, Anhonee (1973), where he played a villain. This film’s director was Mac Mohan’s brother-in-law (his sister’s husband) and actress Raveena Tandon’s father Ravi Tandon. (Mac Mohan was Raveena Tandon’s maternal uncle). In Mac Mohan’s words, “both these films were successful and my acting career took off. Whereas, the beard that I grew for Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke, stayed stuck to my face forever.”
 
In the film Sholay, the role of Gabbar Singh was to be originally played by Danny. But he was busy shooting for Feroze Khan’s film Dharmatma in Afghanistan and couldn’t make it back to India in time for Sholay’s shooting. In such circumstances, newbie actor Amjad Khan was forced to take his place. Mac Mohan played Gabbar Singh’s side kick.
 
Mac Mohan as Sambha in Sholay (1975). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mac Mohan says, “The film was ready and I realized that my role had been mercilessly cut down, I felt very bad. I didn’t go for the film’s premier neither did I go for the after party. I distanced myself from the film. But then suddenly I realized that a mob would gather whenever I would go to public places and for a long time, I just couldn’t understand why."
Mac Mohan says, “The film was ready and I realized that my role had been mercilessly cut down, I felt very bad. I didn’t go for the film’s premier neither did I go for the after party. I distanced myself from the film. But then suddenly I realized that a mob would gather whenever I would go to public places and for a long time, I just couldn’t understand why. One day my father saw me surrounded by a mob outside Colaba’s Army Canteen, he was confounded, and so to disperse the mob he actually had to wave his licensed revolver at the crowd. After 6 months of its release, when I finally went to see the film for the first time, the audience in the cinema hall became aware of my presence there. To save myself from the pandemonium of the audience, on the manager’s request, I had to exit the cinema hall without seeing the climax of the movie.” 
 
Other than Sholay, Mac Mohan acted in 200 films like Hanste Zakhm (1973), Zanjeer (1973), Rafoo Chakkar (1975), Hera Pheri (1976), Khoon Paseena (1977), Shaan (1980), Kala Patthar (1979), Karz (1980), Don (1978), Sawaal (1982), Satte Pe Satta (1982). Stumped produced by his niece Raveena Tandon is also amongst them. Released in 2009, film Luck By Chance was Mac Mohan’s last film. He was also seen on the small screen in serials like Sansaar, Aurat Teri Yehi Kahani, Betaal, Krishna Arjun, Khoj, Commander and Shhhh…Koi Hai
 
Mac Mohan’s family comprises of a wife who is a doctor, two daughters and one son. After the interview, we met a few times again at CINTAAs General body meetings. Then one day, out of the blue, we got to know that Mac Mohan is no more. On 10 May 2010, in Mumbai, at the age of 72, he passed away. 
 
 

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