Remembering the enigmatic Rajesh Khanna, on his 4th death anniversary today.939 views
Remembering the enigmatic Rajesh Khanna, the first true superstar and heartthrob of Hindi cinema, on his 4th death anniversary today.
Rajesh Khanna’s charisma remains unmatched to this day. Coined as India’s first superstar, a certain Jatin Khanna from Amritsar in Punjab went on to achieve something that most people can only dream of. Kaka starred in 15 consecutive solo hit films in the period between 1969 and 1971 that got him the title of India’s first ‘original superstar’. Not only that, in the year 1974, BBC made a film on him, titled Bombay Superstar. He was regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actors in the history of Hindi cinema. No superstar is complete with his share of super crazy fans and Rajesh Khanna fans too ranged from the aggressive wrist-slitting variety to the thousands of women who secretly had a crush on him.
Widely called the first superstar of India, Rajesh Khanna emerged like a tidal wave which towered above everything else in Bollywood, for a three-year period.
The passing away of Rajesh Khanna on July 18, 2012 brings the curtain down on an astonishing success story. He had a string of 15 successive hit films between 1969 and 1972 and won three Filmfare awards. Winner of a talent contest in 1965, Rajesh Khanna literally drove into the industry in a Chevrolet Impala. There were no days of struggle for this youngster, who was raised by his affluent foster parents. An impressive debut in 1966 with Akhri Khat ensured that he was noticed despite a heroine-oriented script.
The following year saw Rajesh Khanna in Raaz, a movie made in colour and acknowledged by the man himself as his “big break”. Before the year ended, he had caught the eye of the discerning with his intense performance in the social drama Baharon Ke Sapne opposite Asha Parekh.
It was the year 1969 that truly established Rajesh Khanna at the top. If films such as Khamoshi and the song-less Ittefaq reinforced his place in the industry as a serious performer, the roles in Doli, Do Raaste and, most significantly, Aradhana made him a star.
Rajesh Khanna almost monopolised the cinema halls throughout 1970 with movies such as Kati Patang, Safar, The Train, Sachcha Jootha and Aan Milo Sajna. His domination continued unchallenged in 1971 with Mehboob Ki Mehendi, Maryada, Dushman, Andaz, Choti Bahu, Haathi Mere Saathi and the path-breaking classic, Anand.
Rajesh Khanna gave a memorable performance in Anand. The climax of the story, narrated in flashback, is considered among the most touching sequences seen in Hindi cinema. Anand, played by Rajesh Khanna, losing the battle against cancer left the audience grieving as though they had lost one of their own dear ones. His lines in the film were laced with great recall value.
By this time, Rajesh Khanna had swept the nation’s film fans off their feet. The songs of his films dominated the charts. He was a household name, with several parents naming their sons after him.
During the prime of his illustrious career, Rajesh Khanna gained immensely from the quality of music and the meaningful lyrics of his films. Movies such as Akhri Khat, Raaz, Baharon Ke Sapne, Khamoshi, Doli, Do Raaste, Safar, The Train, Sachcha Jootha, Aan Milo Sajna, Mehboob Ki Mehendi, Maryada, Dushman, Andaz, Anand, Haathi Mere Saathi, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Bawarchi, Apna Desh, Daag, Namak Haraam, Prem Nagar, Ajnabi, Roti, Mehbooba and his last hit film, Avtaar, had songs with recall value.
The success of Aradhana, largely attributed to the music by Sachin Dev Burman, also resurrected the careers of Kishore Kumar and Sachinda’s composer-son Rahul Dev Burman, who stepped in when his father fell ill and recorded the song “Roop tera mastana” in his own inimitable style.
The Rajesh-Kishore-RD trio went on to give several big hits like “Ye shaam mastani ( Kati Patang), “O mere dil kechain” ( Mere Jeevan Saathi), “Chingari koi bhadke” ( Amar Prem), “Main shayar badnaam” ( Namak Haraam), “Karvaten badlte rahe” ( Aap Ki Kasam), “Ek ajnabi haseena se” ( Ajnabi), “Mere naina sawan bhaadon” ( Mehbooba), to name a few. Composers such as Salil Chaudhary, Kalyanji Anandji and Laxmikant Pyarelal were among those who contributed to the popularity of Rajesh Khanna’s films.
His popularity soared with the success of Mere Jeevan Saathi, Bawarchi, Apna Desh and Joru Ka Gulam, but the biggest hit of 1972 remained Amar Prem. In this film, Rajesh Khanna delivered the famous line “Pushpa, I hate tears”, recalled by his fans and mimicry artists even after four decades.
The following year, when Rajesh Khanna gave another example of his “impulsive” actions and announced his decision to marry a teenaged Dimple Kapadia, Daag and Namak Haraam kept him at the top.
In 1974, Aap Ki Kasam, Prem Nagar, Ajnabi and Roti hinted at a decline in his career graph. This was also the phase when Rajesh Khanna faced the first major threat to his popularity and stardom. Amitabh Bacchan, the notable supporting actor in Anand and Namak Haraam, had truly arrived following the success of the 1973-release, Zanjeer. The script by Salim-Javed was to alter the definition of “hero” forever. The changing genre of films was hard to miss. Romance and Rajesh made way for action and Amitabh.
Action was not Rajesh Khanna’s forte. His attempts at action with films such as Chalta Purzaa and Maha Chor bombed at the box office. Success began eluding him faster than anyone would have thought. He once said: “I thought the days of stardom were here forever. I was wrong. Amitabh, perhaps, learnt from the mistakes I made during my prime. I had none to learn from when the bouquets stopped coming.” Later, rather reluctantly, Rajesh Khanna agreed to act in Avtaar and received overwhelming acclaim for his part as the head of the family who makes a comeback in life after being deserted by his grown-up sons. The box-office success of this 1983 tear-jerker brought the smile back on the face of Rajesh Khanna. But he could never come to terms with the fact that his days of superstardom were long over.
He almost stopped acting by the end of the 1980s. In 1992, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from New Delhi on the Congress ticket. After the completion of his term in 1996, he returned to the life of a man past his prime and longed for the recognition he once enjoyed. His liking for alcohol took a toll on his health.
Looking frail, he appeared in a commercial earlier this year for a fan manufacturer. It evoked nostalgia, but his fans felt sad to see their hero looking helpless. His health had deteriorated by then as he was fighting a losing battle against cancer.
As in reel life, when he succumbed to cancer in Safar and Anand and millions of his fans shed tears seeing those films, thousands of in Mumbai, braving the rain.
Rajesh Khanna received nominations for a record 27 times for Best Actor Award in Bengal Journalists Film Awards and won it the most number of times which was 4.
Rajesh Khanna won the best actor award three times in filmfare awards and was nominated for fourteen times.
He missed out being nominated for films like Awam, Amrit and Redrose in Filmfare functions as there was no filmfare function held in 1987 and 1988.
Rajesh Khanna enjoyed a lot of popularity, mass appeal and stardom. He left behind a great deal of good work and lots of memories for his fans to cherish.
Rajesh Khanna’s charisma remains unmatched to this day. Coined as India’s first superstar, a certain Jatin Khanna from Amritsar in Punjab went on to achieve something that most people can only dream of. Rajesh Khanna starred in 15 consecutive solo hit films in the period between 1969 and 1971 that got him the title of India’s first ‘original superstar’. Not only that, in the year 1974, BBC made a film on him, titled ‘Bombay Superstar’. He was regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actors in the history of Hindi cinema.
Rajesh Khanna’s legacy will continue. The impact of his films, his mannerisms and mesmerising charm on a generation of film goers is more than what words can describe. To have lived in the era suffused by the aura of Rajesh Khanna is an experience that will be cherished.
(Courtesy: ‘Heart-throb of an era’, a printed article by Shri.Rakesh Rao @www.frontline.in)