KARACHI: Be it a monologue on the existential dilemma of a cancer patient or a drunkard’s confession of love for a singer at a brothel, Rajesh Khanna’s fans felt his character’s anguish. After a prolonged illness, the actor who was lovingly called Kaka by his peers, passed away at the age of 69 at the Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai.
Unlike his Bollywood verve, Khanna’s personal life was turbulent. In the late 60s, he fell in love with little known actor and fashion designer Anju Mehndru, whom he dated for seven years but didn’t marry as she was not ready. Khanna then met Bollywood bombshell Dimple Kapadia, whom he married in 1973, a few months prior to her hit film Bobby. While the actors were among the most dazzling onscreen, they could not capture that chemistry in real life and were separated after 11 years of marriage. According to Indian press reports, their relationship grew estranged as he was busy filming and Dimple wanted to pursue a career in acting. Khanna and Dimple were to work together in a film called Jai Jai Shiv Shankar (named after a popular song) but the movie subsequently got shelved. While the two never completed divorce proceedings, they lived separately. After many years, Dimple helped Khanna campaign for his short and silent political career and was present alongside him in his last interaction with his fans, when he waved at them from his bungalow’s balcony to say he was well at the end of June. Khanna and Dimple had two daughters together, Twinkle and Rinke Khanna, both of whom didn’t have successful careers in Bollywood. Of the two, Twinkle had relatively better success with a few noticeable films such as Barsaat, Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai and Baadshah. Twinkle went on to marry popular Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who remained close to the late actor during his illness and rushed back to Mumbai from a shoot when he was informed about his demise.
Among Rajesh Khanna’s crazy fan stories that became popular, one that was often repeated was about girls who wrote letters to him in blood. He would often be mobbed by fans at public appearances, and his cars would bear lipstick marks of crazy fans. There were even stories about females marrying his photograph. Khanna’s charisma and expressions (along with the trademark pelvic thrusts) gave the songs of RD Burman, SD Burman and Laxmikat Pyarelal a new life. Films like Aradhana, Anand, Kati Patang, Agar Tum Na Hotay andAmar Prem set unmatchable standards in the history of Indian cinema. Khanna made a total of 163 feature films and 17 short films, 106 of which were solo films. To date, Khanna holds the record for releasing the most number of films within a span of two years, as he released 15 films between 1969 to 1971, which was considered by many as the golden era of his career. He was the highest paid Bollywood hero 1970 to 79, and shared the honour with contemporary Amitabh Bachchan from 1980 to 87. On hearing about his death, Bollywood actor Anupam Kher aptly said: “Rajesh Khanna gave us a crash course in romance. He introduced us to a special twinkle in the eye that made us feel good about ourselves.”
1942: Rajesh Khanna, the first superstar of Hindi cinema, was born on December 29 in Amritsar, Punjab, India. As a baby, he was adopted by relatives of his biological parents.
1950: Khanna attended St Sebastian’s Goan High School with friend Ravi Kapoor, who would later become his contemporary, Jeetendra.
1958: Khanna and Kapoor enrolled in Kishinchand Chellaram College (KC) in Mumbai, India.
1965: Khanna first caught the eye of Hindi filmmakers when he won the Filmfare Talent contest, a nationwide talent hunt.
1966: To make a mark in the Hindi film industry, Khanna changed his name from Jatin to Rajesh. That same year, the veteran starred in his first film, the tragic drama, Aakhri Raat alongside actor Indrani Mukherjee.
1966: Following the release of his film, Khanna falls in love with fashion designer and actor, Anju Mahendru.
1969: Following the release of his blockbuster Aradhana alongside Sharmila Tagore, Khanna became a megastar overnight!
1972: Anju and Khanna call it quits after a seven-year relationship when she says she is not ready for marriage.
1973: Khanna married one of his biggest fans and upcoming actor, 18-year-old Dimple Kapadia in March. Dimple gave birth to their first child, daughter Twinkle Khanna on December 29.
1976: Khanna’s box office reign came to an end when films likeMehbooba and Bundal Baaz failed to impress audiences.
1977: Four years later, Dimple and Khanna welcomed their second child, Rinke Khanna on July 27.
1979: Khanna regained his title as the king of the box office with the smashing success of film, Amardeep.
1984: After eleven years of marriage, the couple separated as Khanna’s acting schedule kept him away and Dimple began to pursue an acting career.
1991: Khanna took a break from acting and dipped his toes in politics. Khanna assumed the position of a Member of Parliament in the Delhi constituency.
2001: The actor-turned-politician became father-in-law to now Bollywood star, Akshay Kumar following his marriage to Khanna’s eldest daughter, Twinkle.
2002: Khanna returned to the big screen in the romantic comedy,Kya Dil Ne Kahaa where he plays father to actor Tusshar Kapoor.
2005: Khanna won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his unparalleled contributions to Hindi Cinema.
2008: After taking his talent to the silver screen, Khanna starred in the television drama, “Wafaa”.
2011: In April, Khanna was taken to Lilavati Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai following complaints of weakness and ill-health.
Khanna left hospital after two weeks and son-in-law, Akshay Kumar claims that the actor is “very fine”.
Khanna, known as Kaka to his biggest fans and family members, passed away in his Mumbai residence on July 18.
Remembering Bollywood’s first superstar
To live with intention and walk to the edge. Play with abandon, choose with no regret. Smile and made us do the same. Sir,you defined our era.
The word superstar was used first for Rajesh Khanna. His style. His ada. His charm. His smile. His songs. His films. He. Will always live on.
I have seen old women embrace him with tears in their eyes and young girls actually swoon in his presence, hysterical and manic.
Rajesh Khanna defined an entire era. An era that was distinguished through his style and charisma; the characters that he rendered immortal, and the songs he turned timeless.
Another of Hindi cinema’s giants passes [away], Rajesh Khanna. Our sincere condolences to his family. We will miss him dearly.
Pasha of passion
The lethal combination of stunning Bollywood actor Asha Parekh and Khanna, in the film Kati Patang, received great box office reviews. The movie gave us superhit tracks like “Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai”,” Yeh Shaam Mastani” and “Pyar Deewana Hota Hai, Mastana Hota Hai”
Khanna and Sharmila Tagore’s onscreen chemistry has done wonders. Aradhana released in 1969, was voted the best film of the year by the credible Filmfare Awards. Their song “Roop Tera Mastana” made history in India as the first single-take song.
Veteran actor Hema Malini has acted in epic movies like Prem Nagar, Andaz and Hum Dono with the deceased, Rajesh Khanna. They are also remembered for their superhit song “Hamein Tumse Pyar Kitna”.
Bollywood actor Mumtaz and Khanna performed together in a 1972 movie called Dushman, a superhit at the box office. “Bindiya Chamkegi” is one track that has left the audience reminiscing about the king of romance, Rajesh Khanna.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.
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