I first met Vinod Khanna on the sets of Purab aur Paschim (1970), in which he had a very small role. He was very young, good looking, and calm in his demeanour. Manoj (Kumar) ji had given him the best role in that film, and he did that really well. From then on, we worked in several films in which he was the villain or had a small role. So, I didn’t get the chance to spend time with him.
But then Aarop (1973) happened, in which he was the hero and I was the heroine. That’s when I got to know him better, not just as a co-star, but as a person as well. People talk about how good he looked, but not many know how good he was as a person as well. He was extremely caring and respected people who worked with him.
If I ever got late for shooting, he used to call me and say, ‘if you are getting late, then I will send my driver to pick you up. You can tell your driver to bring in your stuff to the shooting location later.’ I will always remember him for the gentleman that he was.
We also worked in Hera Pheri (1976) which starred Amitabh Bachchan too. That was the first film which kick-started the Jodi of Vinod Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. They went on to work in many films together.
When we were shooting for Nehle Pe Dehla, (1976) which was an action film, he taught me a lot of things. He was so good in action movies, he knew how to ride bikes, how to do karate. He used to look at me riding a bike or learning karate, and he would come and tell me how I could improve. Sometimes he would come and practice with me as well. He was never unassuming.
He wanted me to work with him in Raj Mahal (1982), and he was quite adamant about it. But then eventually I opted out for various reasons, but he never held any grudge about it. That’s the kind of man Vinod was —never held a grudge, never had any regrets.
Speaking of regrets, we all remember when he left to work as a gardener at Osho ashram. He was a superstar, who was praised for his extremely good looks. He did not care for that and went ahead to be a gardener. We used to ask him, ‘why are you doing this and sabotaging your career this way?’ We used to tease him and call him a ‘maali’ (gardener). He never took it to heart or felt bad. He just smiled and said, “but this what gives me peace, and I am finding a lot of peace with it”
It’s shocking that he is no more. Just a day ago, a very close family friend had informed me that he was getting better and was responding to medication. Not just the film industry, but the world has lost a kind, loving and a wonderful human being. May his soul rest in peace.
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