Mr India: Mogambo Khush Hua: The creating of Mogambo

Amrish Puri ?immortalized the film Mr India through his pitch perfect playing of Mogambo,?so much that it’s difficult to imagine the much talked about sequel to Mr India without him.

What’s even more startling is the fact that when you look carefully at the film Mogambo actually does not do much in the film ?He talks, he threatens, he clicks his fingers on a globe on his throne, he strides, he builds missiles and threatens to blow up India. He threatens, and he threatens and threatens. But actually does nothing !! ?And out of doing nothing he created along with Gabbar Singh from Sholay?two of most famous villains of Indian cinema of all time.

At least Gabbar Singh cut off the Sanjeev Kumar’s arms, ruthlessly killed 3 of his men, Killed A K Hangal’s ( Sachin) son and sent the body back to the blind father, and worst of all, made Hema Malini dance on broken glass.

But poor Mogambo ? Nothing but empty threats, other than where he causes a few beautiful looking and well fed kids to go hungry. For a couple of nights. And then to add to his misery, he finally gets beaten up by an impoverished violinist (Anil Kapoor without his power to become ?invisible). ? How on earth then did Mogambo become one of the greatest villians on Hindi commercial cinema ?

Before I talk about the incredible performance of Amrish Puri, let me give credit to writer Javed Akhtar. ?I know very few script writers that have such an understanding of how to create mythology through dialogue. It’s no coincidence that both Gabbar Singh (with his then co writer Salim Khan) and Mogambo were his creation. ?Also to Javed Akhtar’s credit, he completely understood the β€˜comic book’ pitch of the film, knowing that in this tounge and cheek film, the villian can be bloodthirsty only in intention, but never in action.

In fact it was I that insisted on the scene where the cute young girl Tina that everyone loved died in a bomb explosion. ?I was worried that the film would not be rooted and would pass us by as a farce. So I was hoping in that scene Mogambo’s threats would become real and the audience get a sense of real jeopardy. ?Just today my 9 year old daughter, (who finally caught up with Mr India in her drama class last week), asked me

“why did you kill the little girl , Daddy ? That was so mean”

” I didn’t ” I protested. ?She dies in the film. Mogambo caused her death.

” But you are the Director, you could have saved her. ?Why didn’t you ? That was really mean !”

Oh well, can’t win em all.

During the making of the film, I remember constantly asking Mr Akhtar if he had nailed down the character that would later become Mogambo. After all we were already begun filming even with scenes of Daga and Teja, Mogambo’s henchmen. ?I was worried that I could be headed to creating a film that was effectively two separate films. One not quite knowing the other. And then one day Javed Sahib (as we call him) triumphantly said he had written the character, and said the following words to me :

“Mogambo Khush Hua”

Hmmm, I thought – there must be more to that. There was of course. He lived on island. with one ambiton, to destroy and take over India. He was building missiles to destroy India too. But all his grandoise and diabolical plans were completely unachievable unless he threw a group of poor orphans out of an insignificant orphanage in Mumbai. No one quite understood why, and I don’t think anyone cared. ?For ?’Mogambo Khush Hua’ ?and Amrish Puri’s performance was the predominant defining characteristic of the character called Mogambo. .

“Shekhar Sahib, when Kapil Dev hits a six over the grounds, people will shout Mogambo Khush Hua, and when people play three card brag (teen patti) and if they get three aces, the will shout “Mogambo Khush Hua. ?You trust me on that”. ?Javed Akhtar assured me. ?Now this from the man who is responsible for some the greatest one liners of all time (β€˜Mere paas Ma hai’ from Dewaar) . So I convinced myself he was right. I had to.

Enter Amrish Puri. We had thought of other actors, but it was clear to me (and to others soon) that if there was an actor that could carry of this very very difficult part, it was Amrishji. He was not easy to convince, but then he did not contend with the charm and persuasive power of producer Boney Kapoor.

Along with my team, we set about designing the sets and the β€˜look’ of Mogambo. Knowing that each high point of the character in the film would be defined by the words “Mogambo Khush Hua”. How many ways could you shoot the lines, so that at the end of each scene , Amrish Puri would say “Mogambo Khush Hua’ and the audience would react both in anticipation of those lines, loving those lines and also sensing that each time there was a different emotion or style to them ? ?Yes we built a globe along with his throne, gave him rings to click the globe with, used every trick in the book. But finally I knew I would have to depend on the actor. ?Amrish Puri.

Rarely does an actor so embrace a part and give it life that I as a director could not have imagined. Amrishji asked me how I wanted him to interpret the part. I was nervous. I could not just say “Mogambo Khush Hua” to an actor of his stature, could I ? After all this was the same man that had done brilliant performances like the ruthless landlord in Shyam Benegal’s Nishant. And many such films. He had an acute understanding and experience of the art of acting.

So I said ” Imagine you are playing Shakespeare to 9 year old kids that have no idea who he was. Imagine you have to make it feel mythic and entertaining”. ?Amrish Ji got it. Never did I have to give him any more instruction, other than stage directions. ?Each time he brought a new flavour, a new emotion, a different resonance in his voice. He became threatening and lovable at the same time. Each time bringing ?something out of the ordinary for those lines that have now gone down in history.

“Mogambo Khush Hua”

And some time later as I was watching Kapail Dev hit a six over the Sharjah grounds I saw a huge banner go up in the Indian supporters. It said :

“Mogambo Khush Hua”

Javed Akhtar was right. But we needed all the performing skills of Amrish Puri to pull that one off.Β  Happy Birthday Amrishji, wherever you are.

37 thoughts on “Mr India: Mogambo Khush Hua: The creating of Mogambo

  1. Sweet remembrance of Amrish Puri Saab. What a Tribute to a legendary Indian actor. Thanks for sharing.

    Shekhar Ji you should have worked with him more. He could have played Baba Mustkin in The Bandit Queen. Given a chance he was even able to pull off the character you gave to Djimon Gaston Hounsou in your very impressive film Four Feathers.

    On that note, hope is there such subjects will inspire artist in you, that creates scope for the actors like Naseer, Om Puri and Pankaj Kapur to work in your projects.

  2. Sir, wish you had done more hindi pot-boiler movies… maybe not rooting at one place comes as an essential evil package to being so creative. An old article in the Hindu captures the angst of your fans :

    BTW, are you in touch with Tina.loved the way she said Bhhhaiya in the movie. Did she act in any other movies later..Was she known to you prior to making Mr India ?

  3. amrish puri remained one of the most underrated actor. what we have seen is just 1% of him.

  4. Sir, What you said is very true. Amrish ji has given life to many such roles and the writer has envisaged the role so well. Whether it is gabbar or mogambo,which movie has succeeded without a strong villian? I wonder why some directors ignore this and make villian look like a joker.

  5. A very beautiful and moving article. Thanks for being on twitter and giving the link. Please do write more frequently.

    Would you please write on your thoughts on the Manipur issue on which you tweeted and also the Maoist thing?

    Thanks and Regards,

  6. We seen Amrish Puri, one of the most effortless actor who never struggled or strived for acting, we may say one of the most gifted, natural actor of cineworld, there’s plenty of example we had.
    He also remained no fuss actor, very focussed to his actor and use to avoid unnecessary media coverage, as most want, we all pray for the his soul a full of peace and almighty’s protection and guidance.

  7. dis is my 1st effort to write for a blogs, tht also frm my hndset, tht hs less visibility and correction option, so pls bear wid me if anythng find wrong, we wish A peacefull heavenly abode for dearest dramatist Amrish ji, he is self made actor, very spontenous,
    Ciao, we shud thnk to Shekhar Kapoor sir for dis blogs, very purposefull tribute,

  8. well said! really amrish puri was the the prefect actor to play ‘mogambo’ just like how amjad khan was for ‘gabbar’ Maybe these men were born to play that role! I cant think of a a sequel to Mr. India without ‘mogambo’ its going to take a lot of searching to find a new mogambo! I think the character of Joker (Batman Fame) was chosen very well and perfectly both the times.. First Jack Nickelson and then we have heath Ledger who upped the standards of villians in the cinema world! Hope we find some one who will do exactly just that coz indian cinema today needs better villians just like Amrish Puri.

  9. Dear Shekhar,

    With due respect to our legendary Amrish Puri, i do hope you dont model your Paani characters on the over-the-top and over-emoting characters of Mr. India. I am concerned at this aspect cause i have heard you plan to cast some bollywood stars in your conceptually-stimulating idea of Paani (like Hrithik Roshan). The danger of going forward with such a decision is that these bollywood stars are genetically imbibed with the notion of wearing their emotions on their cuffs – which makes our movies cartoonish when presented in the world platform.

    As an admirer of your past works in Hollywood, specially The Four Feathers, Elizabeth and its sequel, i admire how you have handled talented Hollywood actors and actresses with aplomb. If you do go forward with casting Bollywood stars in Paani, please train them on subtle acting before your movie goes on floors.

    Hoping for a intense social drama in Paani which will connect emotionally with your audience over the world. After watching recent movies like Raavan and Kites, i am appalled at the level of inadequacy from our writers, reputed directors and actors overall. Bollywood seems to be submersed in technical aspects like cinematography and visuals, but ignoring the basic aspects of good movie-making.

    Hoping for the best from Paani.


  10. Amrish ji on-screen appearance was indeed naturally tough And that was the best to watch.
    HERO – Pasha – another great act.

  11. Well written insider info. Thanks for sharing such enriching details, Shekhar. This makes us movie buffs understand actors, writers and directors in nuances. Javed Akhtar is a genious, I knew, but so sure for the success of his creation!, that was new. You, too had given a marvellous film in ‘Mr India’. All the best. – Kiran Trivedi

  12. Dear Shekar Ji,
    Fantastic to read about a character I would want to play/act before I die. I really wanted to know what you have written in this blog. I will cherish this piece of article which told me a story (like a bed time story for a cranky kid) to satisfy me for the craving I had for Mogambo.

    I should just say Mogambo Kush Hua πŸ˜‰

    Thanks & Chao ~ Sathish

  13. Phenomenal actor, Amrish Kapoor, and a movie apt for its time although its been called everything future, when it released. How you wrote this entire blog brings all visuals right in front of us, now easy to see why you are called The Shekhar Kapoor. One correction to Mogambo’s saying vs doing theory. He does instruct 3 of his soliders to jump into extremely hot and boiling water and kill themselves. So he does ‘do stuff’. This adds to his aura and sure enough, how Mogambo transitions from cynicism to satisfaction in that scene is worth taking notice.

    Good write-up, good memories. I have seen Mr. India at least 20 times. If rumors around the sequel are true, my advice is not to give Salman (purportedly playing Mogambo) a moll or a girlfriend – will completely spoil the show. Long live Mogambo.

    Twitter: @sandeepish

  14. Dear Shekharji
    This reminds me the play “Sari Raat” read by Amrishji and ratna Pathak in ‘Badal Sarkar Natya Mahotsav’ in Pune in 2000.
    The way he bind the audience with only his voice in the entire theater was amazing … though he was not feeling well at that time, still it was fabulous
    Hats off to such a by-born actor !!!

  15. WOW! Amrishji wherever he is must be feeling so good after reading this.. cannot think of anyone who would hv brought a bigger sense of achievement to him today! Thanks for sharing this Shekharji! You are an awesome guy!

  16. Dear Shekhar,

    Can’t forget the role done by Amrish ji. Can’t think of anybody else doing the same role too. I am an avid admirer of fairy tales with good endings. That always makes me feel myself the same kid runnig behind birds and butterflies. πŸ™‚

    Btw i liked the new look of your blog. πŸ™‚

    Warm regards,

  17. hello sekhar ji hw ru plz help me thodi si help meri v kar do aap mere fave….ho sir bahut asha leke mumbai aaya thaa aap se milne ke liye but mumbai mai aake laga aap se milna itna asan nahi h sir mujhe koi chota mota sa kam dila do filam line mai plzzzz plzzzzzz plzzzzzz my request you plzzzzzzzzzz sir 9967967634

  18. He was the most annoying and most lovable person in films, went away quitely…….huge loss!

  19. sat Shri akal shekhar g
    Hats off to all team members who made MR. INDIA,,
    MAGAMBO role was realy unforgettable …
    Javed sahab’s words wer really true… Still we guys used lot of times MKH..
    I wish same sort of stuff from u guys in future…
    All d very best fo ur future 3D projects..


  20. I asked the same question, exactly. Why did you kill Tina?
    Extremely mean.

    Of course we remember why Daga-Teja wanted that house vacant– it was the landing point for contraband aka guns and bombs to enter India.

    It was that wonderfully gravelly voice, and that tiny pause after “Mogambo”- Mogambo Khush hua .

  21. Very interesting reading. It’s history from the source, learning how such a masterpiece came to be created. Your faith in Javed Sahib proved right by fans at Kapil’s six is amazing.

    Best regards.


  22. Awesome Shekhar sir, awesome tribute to the great actor who immortalized Mogambo.
    And thanks for the facts you presented through this write-up, it was such an informative read.

  23. An interesting observation.

    Mogambo did ask three of his men to jump into the acid lake (or whatever that is). However, the only parameter for him to be classified as a “villain” is that he chose to take on Mr. India. This by far has been the yardstick for a character to be judged as the “villain”.

    He also chose to fire the missiles that would have destroyed India.

  24. On Twitter, you’d asked about an ideal new Mogambo..
    I’d think Atul Kulkarni or Manoj Bajpai. They have an intelligent hard/harshness to them. A suave grittiness.
    To fit a nasty, cerebral Mogambo.
    Because to stop the world now, no longer do you need a bomb or gun.
    You need to shut down information.
    (Inspired by President Obama’s internet kill switch.)

  25. respected sir,
    sir, maine MR. INDIA kam se kam 100 baar dekhi hogi. us film se mian itani inspire hun ki main bhi ek aisi jagah banana chahti hun jahan anaath bachche rah saken, padh saken aur ek sammanjanak jivan jii saken. yahi mere jivan ka uddeshya hai.

    filhaal, vittiya rup se aatmanirbhar nahi hone k kaaran main jyada kuchh nahi kar paa rahi hun. ek sanstha hai ISHA YOGA CENTRE jahan main ADOPT A CHILD ke antargat ek bachche ki education ka kharcha uthha rahi hun.

    asha karti hun ki aapke diye sapne aur sadhguru jaggi vasudev ji ke aashirwaad se main admintrative exams iss saal clear kar sakungi aur jyada bade paimane par yeh kaam kar sakungi.

    mere jivan ko ek sarthak sapna dene k liye dhanyawad sir.

  26. Browsing your work has been such a joy that I don’t ever want to stop. Your range of words were ideal and interesting. I look forward to see more from you.

  27. Shekar, you are nuts to think mugambo is on par with Gabbar.

    Gabbar is THE role of indian cinema. Its the biggest character that bollywood ever conjured.

    Amrish Puri is a stellar actor, Mugambo is a great character but it trails Gabbar. The two do
    not stand shoulder to shoulder. Please note that point.

    The one reason I didnt like mugambo personally is cuz you copied that name from hollywood.

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  29. “A film is only as strong as its villan” – Thanks for letting out some secrets with Mogambo… As a budding filmmaker reading your experiences about the gems you gave cinema, its like a free film school here πŸ™‚

  30. I think it is the the tongue-in-cheek style of the creation of Mogambo that has made him such a ,dare I say it, well-loved villain of our films. All villains who have endured in our minds from our films have been ones who are bad but never creepy. We like nasty villains but we don’t like the ones that gross us out. Mogambo was perfect. Hail Mogambo!

  31. i have heard that the little girl in the movie is Anil Kapoor’s daughter. is it true?

  32. Hear Mr India 2 is kicking off, Could the script accommodate Sridevi in a Vamp’s role long-side Salman to make her role more interesting? Would like to see Sri in a strong vamp’s role than a glorious second fiddle. Please try to accommodate the twist!!!

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