Being a stage actor, Viju Khote had a strong footing in acting. It is amazing how he was part of two cult films, one each in Hindi and Marathi. One was Sholay (1975) and the other, Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi (1988). It is a great achievement for any actor. Viju got his acting genes from his father (Nandu Khote). I believe he inherited the nuances and finer details of acting from him.
My association with him goes back to Sholay. I got to know him through Shubhatai (Khote, Viju’s sister). After that he worked in Sava Sher (1983), a film produced by my father (Sharad). He was very close to my family. Viju played Ganu, a notorious character in Gammat Jammat (1987). After that I cast and directed him in Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi, Bhutacha Bhau (1989) and Amchya Sarkhe Amhich (1990). We were in touch after that too and kept meeting. I remember I wanted to cast him in Tu Tu Main Main (television show) too, but his dates weren’t available. So, I had to opt for someone else.
Viju Khote with Amjad Khan in Sholay.
He had an endearing personality and was poles apart from the roles he played. He was very good at comedy, but didn’t get roles that would explore it. He used to feel very bad when he was called for one- or two-scene roles in Marathi films. He often asked, “Why don’t they cast me in running roles?” I always kept that in mind and cast him in full-fledged roles. He was a good human being. Although we had an age gap of 15 years, he was my friend.
He celebrated his birthday in a grand way three years ago at his residence. That was the last time I spent time with him at leisure. Earlier this year, Ashok Saraf, Mahesh Kothare and I picked him for the ‘Lifetime achievement award to the legends of cinema industry’ at a Marathi award show. He was very happy and emotional on receiving it. He totally deserved the recognition, but never got it. He was overwhelmed on receiving it from veteran actor Dharmendra.