The character -- who simply mouthed the words "Sardar maine aapka namak khaya hai" before being shot dead by the iconic villain -- fairly or unfairly became Khote''s second identity.
It is hard to believe that every scene and dialogue from a film that is 44 years old still resonates but the pop culture imprint of Ramesh Sippy''s 1975 film runs deep. As Khote, who went on to do some 300 films but was known mainly for one, knew only too well.
"''Sholay'' is a phenomena and no one can explain it," said director Sippy while remembering Khote as one "hell of a nice guy".
Khote, who died of multiple organ failure in his Mumbai home, was 77.
"The simple lines became popular but they fit in so perfectly. The lines lifted the characters and sequences, becoming a part of folklore. His dialogue has an important place in the film.
"It is used in so many different contexts, socially and even on screen there are so many references made to this film," Sippy told PTI.
In the sequence that lasts no more than a couple of minutes, Amjad Khan as Gabbar asks his three sidekicks about the failed attack on Jai and Veeru, the film''s two protagonists played by Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra.
"Kitne aadmi the?" he asks his men and is told there were two. When he points his gun at them, a quivering Kalia appeals to Gabbar and says he has always been loyal to him. The ruthless dacoit is unmoved and shoots them all dead.
Khote''s dacoit act in "Sholay" is so popular on the internet that there are multiple iterations of people mouthing, "Sardar maine aap ka namak khaya hai".
Arriving in good-old textbook joke format in the pre-internet era to finding its way to the Tik Tok world, Kalia remains a favourite subject.
Video platform YouTube is full of spoofs on Gabbar and Kalia.
One such short video shows a bunch of friends giving the scene from "Sholay" a funny spin with the man as Kalia saying, "Sardar, I swear on your pizza and burger. I have eaten your noodles."
Another shows the entire "Sholay" sequence in Bhojpuri. And there is also one which imagines Gabbar as a computer techie threatening to sack Kalia, which eventually leads to this dialogue, "Sarkaar, maine aapka code likha tha."
Another meme imagines the scene in the post-internet era with Gabbar asking Kalia "kitne admins the?" after finding out that people have exited his WhatsApp group. A scared Kalia replies, "Sarkaar maine aapka 3G use kiya hai."
Sippy said Khote''s elder sister Shubha recommended his name for "Sholay".
"We tried different get ups and it worked. He fit in well for the role. All those characters hardly had lines but they had to fit in well, look right and perform well, they are all immortalised," the director added.
Sippy said Khote loved the attention he got as Kalia.
"Every time he would meet me, he would say, ''This film has made my life. My life changed''.
"Sorry to have lost him so soon. I will always remember him fondly," the director added. PTI KKP/JUR RDS BK