indian cinema heritage foundation

Sanjay Khan

  • Real Name: Shah Abbas Mehndi Ali Khan
  • Born: 3 January 1940 (Bangalore, India)
  • Parents: Fatima and Sadiq Ali Khan
  • Spouse: Zarine Khan
  • Children: Farah Ali Khan, Simone Arora, Sussanne Khan, Zayed Khan

Actor, producer, and director Sanjay Khan is known for his work in Hindi films and television. Making his debut in Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat (1964), followed by a romantic role in the Rajshri blockbuster Dosti (1964) which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi for that year, he would go on to star in several hit films such as Dus Lakh (1966), Ek Phool Do Mali (1969), Intaquam (1969), Mela (1971), and Dhund (1973). He co-starred with his elder brother Feroz Khan in the films Upaasna (1971) and Nagin (1976). Turning producer and director with Chandi Sona (1977) and Abdullah (1980), he starred in and directed the famous historical fiction television series The Sword of Tipu Sultan in 1990.

Born Shah Abbas Mehndi Ali Khan on 3 January 1940 into a well-respected family in Bangalore to parents Fatima and Sadiq Ali Khan, he was one of seven siblings, comprising five sons – including Feroz Khan, Samir, Shahrukh and Akbar, and sisters Dilshad and Khurshid. He was educated at St Germain High School. After coming to Bombay, before joining the Hindi film industry, he assisted John Guillerman, Hollywood film director for the MGM production of Tarzan Goes To India (1962).

He would go on to make his acting debut with Haqeeqat in 1964, which depicted a platoon of Indian soldiers that encounters harsh realities while fighting in the Sino-Indian War of 1962. He went on to make his mark as a leading man in a range of films, such as Dus Lakh (1966), a comedy drama directed by Devendra Goel, in which he starred opposite Babita, and the romantic drama Dillagi (1966) which saw him paired opposite Mala Sinha

His position was cemented by a series of box office hits which included Ek Phool Do Mali, in which he starred alongside Sadhana and Balraj Sahni; the drama thriller Intaquam directed by R K Nayyar; the action drama Mela directed by Prakash Mehra; and the B R Chopra directed drama thriller Dhund which revolved around a traveller who decides to assist a woman involved in a murder. 

He co-starred with his elder brother Feroz Khan in three hit films namely Upaasna (1971), Mela (1971) and Nagin (1976).

He turned producer-director and writer with the 1977 film Chandi Sona, a technically advanced film for those times. He also starred in the film opposite Parveen Babi. In 1980, he directed Abdullah, a romantic drama film in which also starred alongside Raj Kapoor, Zeenat Aman, and Danny Denzongpa in main roles, along with Sanjeev Kumar, Madan Puri, Sujit Kumar, Mehmood, Om Prakash, Kader Khan, and Farida Jalal. With story by George Marzbetuny and dialogues by Kader Khan, it was one of the most expensive Indian films at the time. In 1986, he directed Kala Dhanda Goray Log, which was his final film appearance. A family drama, it starred him alongside Sunil Dutt and Anita Raj.

In 1990 he starred in and directed India's first mega historical television series The Sword Of Tipu Sultan, based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Bhagwan Gidwani. The series was one of the best-pictured and most popular of its time. It told the tale of Tipu Sultan, a highly skilled general and warrior, who is credited with the invention of rockets and the navy in India. His small army was able to hold the combined forces of the British East India Company and the Marathas away and held sway over the Deccan, till he was killed in the battle of Srirangapatna.

He went on to direct the historical drama television series Great Maratha, based on the life of Mahadaji Shinde. It depicted the epic story of the third Panipat war fought between the courageous Maratha forces and the Afghans in 1769. 

He also produced the top rated TV serial Jai Hanuman, which was highly appreciated and applauded worldwide. It ran on Doordarshan as a top ranking show for over three years. He also produced 1857 Kranti, Jai Mahakavya Mahabharat and Maharathi Karna.

Diversifying into business, he built and owned the five-star luxury Golden Palms Hotel and Spa in Bangalore. 

In a major fire accident, which took place on 8 February 1989 in the Premier Studios of Mysore where the serial The Sword of Tipu Sultan was being shot, he suffered 65% third-degree burns. He had to spend 13 months in hospitals and undergo 73 surgeries. He also survived a helicopter crash in 2003. 

In 2018, Penguin Books released his autobiography titled The Best Mistakes of My Life. It recounted the wonderful things that happened in his life, the important people he met, the tremendous fan following he garnered, and the successes he enjoyed. In the book, he also thanked his wife Zarine for not divorcing him “despite some of the unjustifiable wrongs I have done.” He did not allude to his alleged second marriage and violent showdown with Zeenat Aman

In 2018, he had also announced that he would build a theme park in Agra. In 2020, he launched his second book Assalamualaikum Watan. It provides a unique perspective into the role that the Muslim community has played in the nation building of India through the passage of history and the potential it has in moulding India’s future further.

Among the many awards he has won are the Uttar Pradesh Film Journalists Association Award 1981, the Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award 1993, the Udyog Ratna Gold Medal Award 1994, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Screen Star 2009. 

On the personal front, he married model-actress Zarine Khan in 1964. They have three daughters—Farah Ali Khan, Simone Arora and Sussanne Khan—and a son, actor Zayed Khan