By Atul Mishra Last Updated:
If asked to name the most iconic Hindi film of all time, what would you choose? We’re sure many of you would name Sholay, right? After all, the cult classic is everyone’s favourite and rightly so. And one of the film’s characters has gained so much popularity over the years that even after 4 decades of Sholay’s release, today he can be seen in thousands of memes, Boomerangs and GIFs across the internet.
Yes, we’re talking about our beloved Thakur! The legendary character portrayed on-screen by the legendary actor, Sanjeev Kumar. Winner of two National Film Awards for acting, Sanjeev Kumar made his debut with the 1960 film, Hum Hindustani. After that, he acted in hundreds of Hindi films- Dastak, Koshish, Trishul, Arjun Pandit, to name a few.
But not much is known about Sanjeev Kumar’s personal life. Not many know that he remained unmarried throughout his life, and died a bachelor on November 06, 1985 due to a heart attack. It’s so ironic that a man who played so many elderly roles died at the age of just 50 years.
However, behind the stardom and the noble filmography lies an undercurrent of a tragedy of love. In 1973, Sanjeev Kumar proposed to Hema Malini to marry him but she denied. Later, he was involved with his co-actor of many films, Sulakshana Pandit. But even that didn’t materialise and in fact, both of them remained unmarried throughout their lives.
In a memoir on a leading portal, Sulakshana Pandit can be found penning down her eternal love for her Mr Right and her emotions on failing to marry Sanjeev Kumar. Starting off with revealing how she felt about Sanjeev’s affair with Hema Malini, she writes:
“It was during the film Uljhan (1975) that I fell in love with Sanjeev Kumar. We had struck a wonderful rapport with each other. He was madly in love with Hemaji, during those days. So, naturally, he would come to me with all his problems! I FELT TERRIBLE BUT I USED TO CONSOLE MYSELF, THINKING THIS WAS JUST A PHASE! Once he got out of it, I wanted to tell him how I felt about him. But I never did get the chance. My co-artistes would tell me, `Sulakshana, you are what this man needs! You will change his life’”.
Adding further about Sanjeev Kumar and Hema Malini’s marriage and that it didn’t happen, she writes:
“Then I heard that Hemaji and Sanjeevji were to marry. It would have materialised if Jeetuji had not proposed to Hemaji! It was a rather dramatic situation. Ultimately, it was Shobha Sippy who walked down the aisle with Jeetuji. Hema and Jeetu would have been married, had Shobha not staked her claim on her childhood sweetheart. She told Hemaji, ‘I have been with him since the age of 14. He belongs to me alone’”.
On her feelings for Sanjeev Kumar and the fact that they both shared a lot in common, Sulakshana reveals:
“Sanjeevji and I shared a lot in common. He was a Cancerian like me and also a very emotional person. Together, we worked in a lot of films — Waqt Ki Deewar, Chehre Pe Chehra, Uljhan, Apnapan…We acted in seven films. Sanjeevji was basically a lonely man. He was destined not to marry! I firmly believe that marriages are made in heaven and Sanjeevji’s marriage was not destined to be. I have never loved anyone as much as I loved him”.
But Sanjeev Kumar’s health started deteriorating. Reason being- alcohol. In spite of knowing that he had a heart ailment, he would drink heavily. On this Sulakshana add:
“At the time I was involved with him, his doctor told me, ‘DON’T CARE SO MUCH FOR THIS MAN. I GIVE HIM JUST TWO YEARS TO LIVE.’ But what can you do when your heart is involved? Sanjeevji’s biggest weakness was his drinks. Despite being a heart patient, he continued to drink heavily. It was like putting acid on a raw wound. No one cared enough to help him He was constantly surrounded by people and that is the reason I could not help him. His friends, who were also drunkards, took advantage of him. Had I been with him, I would have got rid of all his bottles, one by one”.
And finally, she reveals that she went into acute depression after Sanjeev Kumar died aged 50. She confesses:
“After Sanjeevji died, I went into acute depression. I ALMOST KILLED MYSELF! But it was God’s will that I lived and so here I am, still leading my life, though I haven’t yet recovered totally. I have locked the connecting door to my room and the whole day I watch beautiful films, listen to beautiful music and write poetry. I am gathering the courage to face life and the world again!”
So, here we are! Sanjeev Kumar and Sulakshana Pandit’s incomplete love story distresses the heart so much, right? An unrequited love is the most painful of all. And the fact that Sulakshana never married proves her eternally strong love for him.