When Rajesh Khanna passed away on Wednesday, July 18, everyone — from his fans to TV and radio channels — recalled the young, romantic hero from the ’70s. Clips from his super-hit movies played on loop, as did the super-hit songs from those films.
But the man who had 15 successive hit films to his name, did not end his career on quite the same note. His last was a film called Wafaa in 2008, which was directed by Rakesh Sawant.
Khanna, or Kaka, as he is dearly known, had also worked in a second film directed by Rakesh, called Jaanleva Black Blood. “He plays a CID officer in the film, with Rati Agnihotri as his co-star. It will release in August-September.” Rakesh recalls what it was like working with him.
“Shooting with a superstar like him wasn’t easy. He used to be unwell, yet strong-hearted. He would tell the crew, ‘I’m not old, I’m young.’” Rakesh recalls approaching him with a script for a family drama, something on the lines of Baghban (2003), but Khanna turned it down.
“He told me, ‘I’ve done such films. I’m bored of playing dad. I want to do films like Nishabd (2007) and Cheeni Kum (2007). I want to play a lover... to show the world that I am the same Rajesh Khanna.’ He wanted to recapture his aura, yet do something unexpected.”
Rakesh adds, “In Wafaa, he played an impotent person, who is betrayed.” The film also had intimate scenes, which, Rakesh says, the actor was comfortable shooting. “He said, ‘I have been a lover boy on-screen. I want to show that even today I can do such roles.’”
As for the late actor Laila Khan, Rakesh says, “They would rehearse and even have their meals together. In the 60-70 day shoot, they grew close, they behaved like husband and wife even off-screen.”
Recalling his friendship with Khanna, Rakesh says, “My writer, Kaka
and I would drink late into the night, discussing story ideas. There was no one with him till he fell seriously ill. He used to call me for company. He said he wanted to make his bungalow, Aashirwad, into a museum saying, ‘People should remember me after I’m gone, praise my work and revisit my memories.’”