Film-maker Mahesh Bhatt remembers his friend and actor Vinod Khanna, who passed away on Thursday
“My earliest memory of Vinod is when I was the third assistant director and the production manager on the legendary Raj Khosla’s Mera Gaon Mera Desh. He had just hit the landscape with Mann Ka Meet. I still remember the shot in which, Vinod – who played Jabbar Singh – comes on a horse into a deserted village. He dismounts from his horse and walks menacingly towards a door and kicks it open. The shot was okayed, when Khosla turned to us and said, “This boy is going to be a star. He will set the national blaze.”
Those were the days my friend... We thought they'd never end... We would sing & dance forever & EVER !!! pic.twitter.com/nWMd9mveEB— Mahesh Bhatt (@MaheshNBhatt) April 27, 2017
In his heydays, Vinod was the only person, who was the real contender for the top slot that was occupied by Amitabh Bachchan. In those days, the discourse was, “Is Amitabh better or Vinod?” There’s a belief that had it not been for his spiritual quest that he went on – and aborted his very flourishing film career – he would have perhaps become the number one actor of India.
Not many know that, in a way, I was instrumental in taking him to the Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh ashram, as he was known those days. He was yet to rechristen himself as ‘Osho’. The aftershocks of the sudden passing away of his mother had emotionally devastated him. That kind of worked as a catalyst in his decision to come with me to the ashram. He started reading his books and listening to his discourses on tapes. Finally, we both became sanyasis. We both would be saffron-clad those days.
“Behind the mask, he was a very soft, vulnerable individual, whose quest for finding enduring answers to the magic and mysteries of life remained unfulfilled till the end.”
The industry sniggered and laughed at us. But we were intoxicated with our quest for moksha and enlightenment that was promised by this charismatic Godman. I – after two-and-a-half years of having tried meditation, gimmicks that were being peddled there and reading all books – got disillusioned. I was like, “I have become nearly a wordsmith and I can stand on my head and hang from the trees and meditate, but nothing has changed in me.”
So, I moved away but Vinod, for some reason, was persuaded by Rajneesh to stay on. So much so that when Rajneesh left for the US, Vinod accompanied him. He came back after that circus collapsed and was under depression. Being a stubborn and a resilient individual, he pulled himself out of that quagmire and had a revival in career, but he couldn’t get back the same fire.
For me, it’s difficult to de-link my personal memories of the man, who had a reputation of an action hero and a tough, macho guy. But behind the mask, he was a very soft, vulnerable individual, whose quest for finding enduring answers to the magic and mysteries of life remained unfulfilled till the end. The industry will remember him as a charming, handsome and debonair star, who lit up the entertainment sky and stepped back gracefully when he has had his run and embraced the world of politics. My life would have been poorer without Vinod because his contribution to my life was enormous.”