NEW DEHLI: Rajesh Khanna, said to be Bollywood’s first superstar, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 69 following a prolonged illness fueled by alcohol abuse and solitude.
Khanna was the symbol of romance. His rise to stardom was often compared to India’s other great actor Dilip Kumar, but Kumar could never achieve what Khanna did: 14 consecutive box office hits.
“I never thought it would end. I had no reference points on how to handle such success. No one had experienced it,” Khanna had told a film magazine during his heydays.
Adopted by a childless couple, Khanna was an engaging youngster when he started his film career in 1965. At the peak of his stardom, he had it all: swooning fans, screaming girls, blood-soaked marriage proposals, a furor wherever he went.
It seemed as if he had filled an apparent void at the time. While the trinity of Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar was on the decline, film-goers saw him as a refreshing new entry. He began his career with Aakhri Khat and later exploded on the scene with hits like Aradhana, Do Raaste, Safar and Anand.
Most people wear a short-sleeved Kurta over pants without knowing it was Khanna that it made it the rage it is today.
After moving away from the entertainment industry, Khanna dabbled briefly in politics and even managed to secure a victory against his Bollywood colleague Shatrughan Sinha in the 1991 by-elections. But a string of defeats later, his appetite for politics waned.
Khanna’s marriage with Dimple Kapadia was a rocky relationship which didn’t last long. The latter part of his life was marked by solitude and he was said to have become increasingly erratic.
Kaka, as he was popularly known, is survived by daughters Twinkle and Rinke.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.
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