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Gabbar Singh is a fictional character, the antagonist of the 1975 Bollywood film Sholay. The character was born in 1926 in Dang village of Bhind district, a Gujjar by caste.[1][2][3] He was written by the duo Salim-Javed, consisting of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar.

Gabbar Singh
Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh in Sholay
First appearanceSholay
Last appearanceRamgarh Ke Sholay
Created bySalim Khan
Javed Akhtar
Portrayed byAmjad Khan

Played by Amjad Khan, he is depicted in Sholay as a dacoit with an evil laughter who leads a group in looting and plundering the villages in the region of Ramgarh. He has a sadistic personality and insists on killing whenever required to continue his status and to take revenge on his enemies.[4][5][6]The character is considered to be one of the most iconic villains in Indian Cinema.[7] He was featured in the 1991 spoof Ramgarh Ke Sholay, with Amjad Khan portraying a parody version of the character.



"Gabbar", the distorted nickname for "Gabra", comes from the word "Gabru". The term "Gabru", also spelled "Gabroo", means "a young, strong and handsome man",[8][9] or "a masculine handsome guy", i.e. "dude" in english.


The character Gabbar Singh was modelled on a real-life dacoit of the same name who had menaced the villages around Gwalior in the 1950s. Any policeman captured by the real Gabbar Singh had his ears and nose cut off, and was released as a warning to other policemen.[10] Gabbar Singh was also inspired by larger-than-life characters in Pakistani author Ibn-e-Safi's Urdu novels,[11] and by Dilip Kumar's dacoit character Gunga from the 1961 film Gunga Jumna.[12]

Danny Denzongpa was the first choice of Gabbar but had to miss out because he was shooting for Dharmatma in Afghanistan.[13] Amjad Khan was almost dropped from the project because Javed Akhtar found his voice too weak for Gabbar Singh's role but was later convinced. For his preparation for the role Amjad read Abhishapth Chambal, a book on Chambal dacoits written by Taroon Kumar Bhaduri (actress Jaya Bhaduri's father).[14] Sanjeev Kumar also wanted to play the role of Gabbar Singh, but Salim-Javed "felt he had the audience’s sympathy through roles he’d done before; Gabbar had to be completely hateful."[15]

Style of speechEdit

Gabbar's language was a mixture of North Indian Khariboli and Hindi, which was something new for the audiences so the dialogues were an instant hit and are still popular in India. Javed Akhtar says that Gabbar seemed to acquire life and vocabulary of his own as he wrote the film. His sadism lies in his choice of words like "Khurach, khurach" (scratch) when he talks to Basanti (Hema Malini).[16] His style of speech was inspired by Gunga from Gunga Jumna. In that film, Gunga speaks with a similar dialect, a mix of Khariboli and Awadhi.[12]

In popular cultureEdit

Amjad shot to stardom with the movie. His mannerisms and dialogues have become an integral part of Bollywood lexicon.[17] Sholay went on to become a blockbuster, and is the highest grossing movie in India. Although the movie boasted an ensemble cast of superstars including Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, he stole the thunder with his unorthodox and eerie dialogue delivery that was perfectly opposite to the total lack of empathy his character was supposed to convey. Even after four decades, people fondly remember his dialogues and mannerisms.[18] He later appeared in advertisements as Gabbar Singh endorsing Britannia Glucose Biscuits (Popularly knowns as "Gabbar Ki Asli Pasand"), and it was the first incidence of a villain being used to sell a popular product. The role of Gabbar Singh was so deep-rooted in people's mind those days that Amjad Khan was known for the rest of his life by this role alone and wherever he went he had to speak some dialogues from the film to amuse the public[19][20] because the dialogues are very popular among the audiences of Indian cinema.[21]

The BBC have compared the impact of Gabbar Singh on Bollywood to the impact that Darth Vader later had on Hollywood. According to Anupama Chopra, "He’s like Darth Vader in Star Wars, pure evil, utterly terrifying and a cool baddie”.[22]

In 2011, Amitabh Bachchan told a contestant on his Kaun Banega Crorepati TV show that when Amjad Khan visited their home, his son Abhishek Bachchan ran to him and said "Papa, Gabbar Singh aaya hai" (meaning: Father, Gabbar Singh is here!), and Bachchan had to convince his son that Gabbar was just a character played by Khan.[23]

Gabbar Singh has been a subject of parodies and jokes innumerable times in the popular Indian media.[24][24][25] Filmfare named Gabbar Singh the most iconic villain in the history of Indian cinema,[26]

In Jai Hind (1994) comedian Senthil says "Arre O Sambha" while appearing as a dacoit.[27]

In 2012 film Gabbar Singh, the character has been referenced by protagonist Venkataratnam Naidu (played by Telugu actor Pawan Kalyan), nicknaming himself after Gabbar Singh's character. Constable Ram Prasad (Ali) is nicknamed 'Samba' after Gabbar Singh's sidekick. In the sequel Sardaar Gabbar Singh (2016 film), Pawan reprises his role, albeit with 'Sardaar' in front of his name, referring to the title given by Gabbar Singh's henchmen. Both Telugu films contain dialogues made famous by Sholay's antagonist, e.g. "Joh darr gaya... samjho marr gaya" (Whoever is afraid... they are dead).

In the 2015 film Gabbar is Back, the protagonist Aditya Singh Rajput (portrayed by Akshay Kumar) resembles Gabbar Singh and he also nicknamed himself after Gabbar's character.[28]


  1. ^ "Samba's boss was for real". The Hindu. 18 November 2009.
  2. ^ Gulzar; Govind Nihalani; Saibal Chatterjee (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. pp. 388–. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  3. ^ Kishore Valicha (1988). The moving image: a study of Indian cinema. Orient Longman. pp. 68–71. ISBN 978-0-86131-681-6. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  4. ^ Sahai, Dissanayake, Malti, Wimal (1992). Sholay, a cultural reading. Wiley Eastern. ISBN 81-224-0394-8.
  5. ^ Baghel, Meenal. "Once upon a time in Ramgarh". Retrieved 5 December 1999. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  6. ^ Hogan, Patrick Colm (2008). Understanding Indian movies: culture, cognition, and cinematic imagination. University of Texas Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-292-72167-8.
  7. ^ "'Sholay' completes 35 years". The Times of India. 16 August 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  8. ^ Gabroo meaning.
  9. ^ Gabru meaning in Hindi.
  10. ^ Khan 1981, pp. 88–89, 98.
  11. ^ "Urdu pulp fiction: Where Gabbar Singh and Mogambo came from". Daily News and Analysis. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  12. ^ a b Chopra, Anupama (11 August 2015). "Shatrughan Sinha as Jai, Pran as Thakur and Danny as Gabbar? What 'Sholay' could have been". Scroll. Archived from the original on 8 November 2015.
  13. ^ "Danny Denzongpa's loss". Article. The Times of India. 30 August 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  14. ^ Chopra, Anupama (2000). Sholay: The Making of a Classic. Penguin Books, India. ISBN 0-14-029970-X.
  15. ^ Khan, Salim; Sukumaran, Shradha (14 August 2010). "Sholay, the Beginning". OPEN Magazine. Archived from the original on 30 November 2017.
  16. ^ Meenal Baghel (5 December 1999). "Once upon a time in Ramgarh". Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  17. ^ a b "80 Iconic Performances". Article. Filmfare. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  18. ^ Singh, Ruma (12 October 2006). "Tera kya hoga, Gabbar Singh?". The Times of India. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Amjad Khan — IMDb".
  20. ^ Chopra, Anupama (2000). Sholay, The Making of a Classic. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-029970-0.
  21. ^ "Lines that linger". Article. The Tribune. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  22. ^ Verma, Rahul (14 August 2015). "Sholay: The Star Wars of Bollywood?".
  23. ^ "Sujata Wankhade from Maharashtra on Hot Seat-Episode 35 - KBC 2011 - 12th Oct 2011".
  24. ^ a b "Amjad Khan".
  25. ^ "Kitne aadmi they? for the role of Gabbar Singh".
  26. ^ Hashmi, Parampara Patil (3 May 2013). "Iconic villains of Indian cinema". Filmfare. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  27. ^ "Jai Hind Comedy". YouTube. Retrieved 3 November 2016. Clip from 9:30 to 11:30.
  28. ^ "After rowdy, Bhansali turns Akshay into Gabbar". Times of India. 17 April 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2013.


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