Some time back, I ran into Rajesh Khanna in the foyer of hotel JW Marriot, Mumbai. A bunch of photographers were tumbling over each other in the hallway trying to get that perfect shot of a dapper Salman Khan. As they fought over the Khan, the Khanna watched the frenzied scene unnoticed.
The fickle camera with its back towards the old, its focus on the new and the now, did not escape Khanna that day. He said with a laugh, “Yehi toh zindegi ke sach hai…kal hum the, jahaan woh aaj hai! (This is life…yesterday was ours, today belongs to the youth.)”
The passing of youth and beauty is undeniable, but the timelessness of human achievements cannot be ignored either.
On Wednesday, soon after he was discharged from Lilavati hospital, Khanna breathed his last, but his body of work will always be a part of the warp and weft of the vibrant tapestry that is Indian cinema.
And the memory of the superstar with his mannerisms — the way he crinkled up his eyes, dimpled into the hearts of fans, and swayed and sighed — his velvety voice, his fashion sense, will not fade either.
Khanna did not have any rags to riches story to boast of. If at all, it was riches to more riches and fame.
Bollywood’s ‘richest struggler’ was born Jatin in Amritsar in 1942 and was adopted by wealthy foster parents.
He made his debut in 1966 in Aakhri Khat and went on to do some successful films such as Doli, Aurat, Ittefaq and Baharon Ke Sapney. But it was Aradhana, Haathi Mere Saathi, Amar Prem, Safar and Anand that shot him into superstardom.
At a time, when actors were still struggling to get a decent fee, Khanna flaunted his affluence by driving to the sets in his Impala and having expensive drinks. It was clear that he didn’t work for money but it was equally fascinating, say film experts from that era, to see how big money chased just one name — Rajesh Khanna.
In a career spanning almost 20 years, Khanna starred in 165 films, out of which 107 had him playing the solo lead. Khanna’s career was impeccable as far as box office record was concerned, so much so that he was the only actor who gave 15 successive super hits between 1969 and 1972 and created an unbroken record of sorts.
It was the 1980s that weren’t particularly kind to him, and for the first time his charm waned at the BO. He unsuccessfully dabbled in politics, and was also rumored to have done a TV show called Raaz Pichle Janam Ka.
His onscreen charm translated off-screen and he romanced three actresses of the time. Anju Mahendru was his first love and the two spent 13 years together. Then, Khanna met Dimple Kapadia, 15 years his junior, whom he married in 1973. They have two daughters — Twinkle and Rinkie.
After they split, Khanna got involved with Tina Munim. After his separation from Dimple and Tina, Anju, who remained unmarried, returned to his life, but this time as a friend. The two continued to be in touch till the very end.
In 2008, Khanna tried making a comeback in a C grade film Wafaa. He also made an ad film for Havells fans, earlier this year.