Remembering Iftekhar on his 97th birth anniversary.

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Sayaddana Iftekhar Ahmed Shareef, often mononymously credited as Iftekhar (22 February 1920–4 March 1995) was a character actor in Bollywood films, especially known for his roles as a police officer. Note: It is stated that actress Veena was Iftekhar’s sister. Their individual biographies are conflicting and there is no indication that these two persons are related.

Iftekhar was born in Jalandhar and was the eldest of four brothers and a sister. After completing his matriculation Iftekhar did a diploma course in painting from Lucknow College Of Arts. Iftekhar had a passion for singing and was impressed with the famous singer Kundanlal Sehgal. In his twenties, Iftekhar traveled to Calcutta(Kolkata)for an audition conducted by the renowned music composer Kamal Dasgupta who was then serving for HMV. Dasgupta was so impressed by Iftekhar’s personality that he recommended his name to M.P. Production as an actor. Iftekhar made his debut in the 1944 film “Taqraar” which was made under the banner of “Art Films-Kolkata. Many of Iftekhar’s close relative including his parents and siblings migrated to Pakistan during partition. Iftekhar preferred to stay in India though due to the riots he was forced to leave Calcutta. He, along with his wife and daughters migrated to Bombay(Mumbai) where they struggled to make ends meet. Iftekhar had been introduced to actor Ashok Kumar during his time in Calcutta. He contacted Ashok Kumar in Mumbai who not only recognized Iftekhar but also gave him a role in the Bombay Talkies movie “Muqaddar” which released in 1950. Iftekhar acted in over 400 films in a career that spanned from the 1940s through to the early 1990s.

Like many of the older character actors who populated the Bollywood universe of the 1960s and 1970s, Iftekhar had been a lead actor in his youth during the ‘golden age’ of Bollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. His roles ranged from the father, uncle, great-uncle, grandfather, police officer, a police commissioner, courtroom judge and doctor. He also did negative roles in Bandini, Sawan Bhadon, Khel Khel Mein and Agent Vinod.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Iftekhar graduated to playing uncle, father, and what came to be his specialty: police inspector roles, doctor or senior advocate. Generally, he played ‘sympathetic’ characters but, on occasion, he played the heavy. One of his most memorable roles as a heavy was as Amitabh Bachchan’s corrupt industrialist mentor in Yash Chopra’s classic Deewaar (1975). Another of Iftekhar’s classic roles was as the police inspector in Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer. It was a small part, but the scene where Iftekhar reprimands the near hysteric Amitabh Bachchan for taking the law into his own hands is incredibly powerful. Another important role as a police officer was played by him in 1978 hit film Don.Some of his major roles came in Rajesh Khanna films like Joroo Ka Ghulam, Mehboob Ki Mehndi, The Train, Khamoshi, Safar, Raja Rani, Ittefaq, Rajput, Awam.

Besides Deewaar and Zanjeer Iftekar had character roles in many of the classics of 1960s, 1970s, 1980s Bollywood cinema: Bimal Roy’s Bandini, Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, Manoj Kumar’s Shaheed, Teesri Manzil, Teesri Kasam, Johny Mera Naam, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Don, The Gambler and Sholay to name but a few.

Apart from Hindi films, he appeared in two episodes of the American TV series Maya in 1967 as well the English language films Bombay Talkie (1970) and City of Joy (1992).

His sister Veena, original name Tajour Sultana (1926–2004) was an actress and acted in movies like Taj Mahal for which she got the ‘Best Supporting Actress Award, Pakeezah, Do Raaste, Ashirwad, Parichay, Shehzada and others.

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