Bollywood’s biggest tragedy

kamal-sadanahBollywood is replete with stories of real-life tragedies but which is the worst of them all? Well this one undoubtedly qualifies as Bollywood’s worst real-life tragedy.

Without further ado, let me narrate you the tale which is incidentally a tale of courage and comeback as well.

One of the few journalists to speak to the actor, I had earlier told myself that I will never tell the story ever. But somehow, I can’t seem to resist the need. At the time I was quite surprised by the resilience of the actor who’s been through the ordeal when he was just 20 years old.

His name is Kamal Sadanah.

For those who cannot place him, Kamal Sadanah was Kajol’s first hero in Bekhudi; it was his debut film too. Here is a song from the film Bekhudi. The article continues after the video clip.

While Kajol went on to make a great career after Bekhudi (which flopped miserably at the box office), Kamal couldn’t keep his feet planted in Bollywood for long.  He saw moderate success with Divya Bharati in the film Rang. Even though he was hailed by the film press as the next chocolate boy of Bollywood, he couldn’t hold on to the success.

Here is a super-hit song from the film Rang. Till date this song remains the only high point of Kamal’s career. We will talk about the tragedy that struck him after this video clip.

Father from hell

Date: October 21, 1990, Kamal’s 20th birthday, Place: Jal Kamal, their bungalow at 28th Road Bandra, West. Time: Closer to Midnight

The tragedy sent a shock-wave across Bollywood and the country as well. He lost his entire family on his 20th birthday

Kamal’s father always had a problem with alcohol. Friendly and gifted as a filmmaker, Brij Sadanah would transform into a monster after he had a few pegs of aged single malt. There were countless times when he had threatened his wife and children with his newly acquired revolver.

Once when Kamal was eight years old, his dad had fired a shot in the air to scare his wife Saeeda. After that incident, Saeeda lodged a FIR with the Khar Police Station and got the .32 bore Smith and Besson revolver seized. It is said that Saeeda’s good friend Nargis Dutt feared that Brij might end up shooting his family during those drunken brawls and asked her powerful police friends to never return the weapon to Brij. The revolver was kept in the police lockers even though Brij made several requests to retrieve it.

Ten years later, Brij’s requests were finally heeded by the police as he submitted a petition that he was being threatened by Khalistani terrorists for extortion. He said that he needed his licensed revolver back to protect his family. The police finally gave in, paving way for one of the biggest tragedies Bollywood has ever seen.

Those three gun-shots from the same revolver changed Kamal’s life forever. It was his 20th birthday and he along with his friends had just returned from his birthday party. He and two of his friends were in his room on the first floor when he heard gun-shots emerging from the hall-way downstairs. He and his friends ran down to see his mother Saeeda and sister Namrata lying in a pool of blood. The very next moment, he saw his father aiming at him. His father had a good aim. Even though he was drunk, he didn’t miss his shot. The third bullet passed through the left side of his neck even as Kamal tried to duck on the ground. He fired a last shot, the fourth one, which hit his friend on the wrist.

Convinced that he has shot all his family members dead, Brij Sadanah swaggered back to his room and sat on his bed. He closed the door behind him.

Once his father was gone, Kamal got up and called for an ambulance to take his mother and sister to the Bhabha hospital. But by the time, Kamal and his two friends could take them to the hospital, they were already dead. The doctors realised that Kamal had lost a lot of blood and could die if not operated upon immediately. He was immediately shifted to Hinduja Hospital at 3 am where he was operated upon to retrieve the bullet.

The next day saw Kamal Sadanah as the only living member of his family.

After he had walked into his room and closed the door, Brij suddenly realizing the enormity of the incident was overcome by grief and guilt. He put the nozzle of the revolver in his mouth and shot himself through the skull.

Kamal could never reconcile with the incident and couldn’t make peace with himself ever. He knew that he will not be able to live with the scar. Much later, after 20 years,  Kamal made a short film and uploaded it on Youtube that detailed what happened that night.

“Everybody kept asking me about the incident that wiped my entire family away, but somehow I couldn’t muster the courage to tell it. But when I was asked to make a short film, the only thing I could think of was that fateful night,” said the actor during an interview about five years back.

The film happened by accident. Kamal was studying film-making at the prestigious New York Film Academy when his teachers asked him to make a short film. At that time, nothing but that fateful incident came to his mind.

Titled A Moment Of Pause, the short film was just a recollection of events that happened on that fateful night. That film — capturing the seven minutes that could have taken his life away — received a standing ovation from his teachers. Prem Chopra (who knew his dad personally) graciously decided to play the role of his dad in the film.

“It was an extremely painful experience recollecting the chain of events, but I had to get it off my chest somehow. It was a kind of catharsis for me. When I was making the film, I didn’t know that people will like it so much. So I decided to put it up on Youtube,” Kamal had told me.

Before I end this article, I would like to put up the short-film that Kamal made. Don’t go by the quality of the short-film. Just close your eyes and imagine what the 20-year-old boy went through that fateful night and how he lived to tell the tale.

Short-link of the article ->

6 replies »

  1. Good story. Kanal sadanah had a lot of potential but surprisingly did not create the big bang expected of him


  2. Pingback: URL
  3. Kamal is a true hero i’d say..he faced anyone’s worst nightmare and yet surpassed that horrible tragedy and gathered the courage to retell the horrific story of his,work and live on with a scar that nothing would ever heal. hats off to Kamal for sharing this horrific tragedy of his life with us.. its truly a tale of courage and comeback. luv u kamal.. all the best for everything that u’d do.


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