Though he appeared in more than 100 films and TV serials of equal volume, actor Viju Khote has been immortalised in the frames of cinematic history for his rendition of Kaalia, the faithful underling of dacoit Gabbar Singh, in Sholay (1975), a film that was a unique masala take on the Spaghetti Westerns. After a foiled attempt to rake in grain from the poor villagers in Ramgarh, Kaalia and his two accomplices return empty-handed to Gabbar’s den. The scene has Gabbar playing a form of Russian roulette with a revolver that only had three bullets, for the three culprits. “Tera kya hoga Kaalia?” asks Gabbar, when Kaalia’s turn comes. Kaalia takes a gulp and utters, “Sardar, maine aapka namak khaya hai”. Gabbar, just about to pull the trigger, responds, “Toh ab goli kha”.
Viju had a 10-day schedule to shoot for the Ramesh Sippy classic, a film that made him a household name. Following the success of Sholay, Khote became a regular in Hindi films. He was a recognisable face in the supporting cast of many mega films, such as Qurbani (1980) and Karz (1980). Viju made a name for himself for his uncanny on liners, said often times with a sad, almost apathetic face. His co-star from Karz, Rishi Kapoor tweeted on his death. “RIP. Viju Khote. Dear friend over the years. Though much elder, we used to bike together along with sister Shobha Khote ji, when I was young. Passionate and well informed about American films. We will miss you.”
Younger brother of actor Shubha Khote, Viju was born into a family, who were closely associated with films. His father was Marathi actor Nandu Khote, a prominent stage name, with many silent movies to his credit. Viju became a known face in the ’80s. He would often appear as a wingman to the main villain. He also dabbled in Marathi theatre. Satish Alekar, Marathi actor and playwright, recalls the late actor. “I met Viju Khote for the first time while shooting for Ventilator (2016). He was a very humble and cooperative person, who always came on time even when he was not in good health. I found that he was an ardent fan of Hollywood films and knew the smallest details of the films of John Wayne. He had acted in a lot of Marathi plays and had fond memories of them all. “Khote repeated his feat of playing the sidekick with Andaz Apna Apna (1994), where he uttered ‘Galti se mistake’ another line that became a pop culture phenomena and is repeated even today. Actor Paresh Rawal, who played Mr Bajaj and Khote’s boss in the film, also tweeted about the actor’s death. “An endearing fellow and a generous co actor. AUM SHANTI VIJU JI.”
Viju is also remembered for his stint on TV, with Zabaan Sambhal Ke. He passed away yesterday, at the age of 77, due to multiple organ failure in his Mumbai home.