He was born in a gujarati family as Haribhia Jariwala in 1938. He was a true actor capable of fitting into any character. He remained a bachelor forever. He died in 1985 due to a heart ailment. He acted in numerous good and hit movies. His notable performances include Koshish, Aandhi, Trishul, Sholay and Mausam among others.
Sanjeevji as he was known in the bollyhood as 'Haribhai', remained a bachelor till the end of his life.
Although he had acted with many heroines and sometime it was rumoured that he would tie the nupital knot. A versatile and prolific actor and equally epitome of humble nature who had many successful films to his credit.
Sanjeev Kumar's first film as hero, Nishana (1965),was a B-grade swashbuckler and many of his earlier films were of the same ilk opposite starlets like Kum Kum. But they were popular nevertheless and Sanjeev more than made his mark in them. He was first noticed in a big way in Sanghash (1968) where he was pitted against Dilip Kumar and more than held his own in the scenes they did together. (In fact many thought he scored over Dilip Kumar in the scenes they did together) Slowly he began getting leading roles opposite top actresses like Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha.
Khilona (1970) made Sanjeev Kumar into a star. But again what stood out in the film was was his outstanding acting. He was absolutely spot-on as a mentally imbalanced man who is helped back to sanity by a prostitute hired to nurse him. The same year also saw him deliver a fine performance in Dastak, matching Rehana Sultan's National Award winning performance scene for scene and winning his first National Award as Best Actor.
In spite of being a star, Sanjeev Kumar still opted for roles that were off the beaten track in films like Anubhav (1971) though it must be mentioned here that good as he was in the film, it was Tanuja who walked off with the film. He also consolidated his position meanwhile in the mainstream with hits like Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) and Manchali (1973).
Parichay (1972) and Koshish (1972), which won him a second National Award, brought him into contact with their director, Gulzar. Thus started a mutually beneficial partnership that saw some of Sanjeev Kumar's finest work as an actor. He played a deaf and dumb man in the latter and it is amazing to watch him emote having internalized his feelings without the help of dialogue and his performance is screen acting at its very best. The scene where he thinks his child is also deaf since he is not responding to a faulty rattle or the scene where he castigates his son for refusing to marry a handicapped girl show a supreme actor at the peak of his histionic talent. The Gulzar - Sanjeev Kumar partnership resulted in such fine films as Aandhi (1975), Mausam (1975), Angoor (1981) and Namkeen (1982) with strong Sanjeev Kumar performances in each of them.
Sanjeev Kumar was one actor who improved his performance tremendously at the dubbing stage with his marvelous voice control. The quiver in his emotionally saturated voice was as important an element of his acting as small casual getsures like running his hand down his neck. He never minded dyeing his hair if the role required it and even played much older men in films like Aandhi, Mausam, Sholay (1975) and Trishul (1978). In fact in Sholay he played Jaya Bhaduri's father-in-law. This after playing her lover in Koshish and Anamika (1973) and her father in Parichay! And despite making his reputation as a serious actor, he showed a great flair for the light-hearted in films like Manchali, Manoranjan (1974), Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978) and Angoor. Films like Naya Din Nayi Raat (1974) wherein he played multiple roles further showcased his acting talent and versatility.
In 1977 Sanjeev Kumar had an opportunity to work with the great Satyajit Ray when the latter made his first film outside Bengal, Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977). The film features delightful performances by Saeed Jaffrrey and Sanjeev Kumar as Mir and Mirza respectively, so utterly absorbed in their game of chess that Mirza neglects his wife while Mir's wife has an affair right under his unsuspecting nose! When Lucknow falls to the British, they leave for an abandoned mosque on the outskirts of the city to play in peace! It is a delightfully nuanced performance under a great director.
Unfortunately by the 1980s, Sanjeev Kumar had grown extremely careless with his looks and had let himself bloat up. Among his later lot of films the only two that really stand out are Vidhaata (1982), which again brought him face to face with Dilip Kumar (Again he scored over the thespian in the one major confrontation scene they had in the film) and Hero(1983), both directed by Subhash Ghai.
A bachelor, Sanjeev Kumar died of an acute heart ailment in 1985. It is ironic that someone who had played so many elderly roles, himself didn't even live to be fifty.