Vinod Khanna: Gentleman actor who was unfazed by FTII snobbery | bollywood | Hindustan Times
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Vinod Khanna: Gentleman actor who was unfazed by FTII snobbery

Vinod Khanna had immense professional respect for his son, Akshaye Khanna. He rated highly his performance as Harilal Gandhi in the film Gandhi, My Father and in Dil Chahata Hai with Aamir and Saif Ali Khan.

bollywood Updated: May 09, 2017 17:56 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Khanna with his wife campaigning in the Village Manesar as he fought for Gurudaspur Lok Sabha Constituency in Punjab in 1998. (HT Photo)
Vinod Khanna with his wife campaigning in the Village Manesar as he fought for Gurudaspur Lok Sabha Constituency in Punjab in 1998. (HT Photo)

He was a friend in the sense that for me he was always a phone call away: as Member of Parliament; as junior external affairs minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime and, of course, as a hero in my sophomore years.

I’d forever remember our long conversations in Parliament’s central hall, especially his recollections of the filming of Gulzar Saab’s Merey Apne. For I walked up to him for the first time as a film buff, in awe almost of the handsome man who left a deep impression as an actor in Gulzar’s 1971 remake of Tapan Sinha’s Bengali film, Apanjan.

Vinod’s character Shyam was pitted against Shatrughan Sinha’s Chhenu and Danny Denzongpa’s Sanju in the movie. Caught in that war between politically-driven gangs of students and unemployed youth was the ageing Anandi played by the great Meena Kumari.

From Vinod I learnt that there was as much on-the-sets competition between the young actors for best footage during shooting. Nostalgic without being bitter, he said Shatrughan, Danny and others were from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) while he wasn’t.

“They treated me as an outsider….,” he reminisced as we talked some three decades later. Other FTII alumni in the film included Asrani and PaintalZ: “It was a real life play of the film’s script. They seemed to have ganged up against me.”

Shatrughan’s Chhenu was the precursor of course to his Shotgun aura. But Vinod, a neophyte as much, showed his repertoire in some very poignant scenes with Meena Kumari.

The actor was a simpleton without starry airs. He took me to his circular road bungalow in Lutyens Delhi on becoming minister for external affairs. “You have to help me as it’s a sensitive ministry,” he said, making room for us in a corner as helpers moved furniture to set up décor befitting his portfolio.

My simple advice to him was: never shy from asking questions even when briefed by the brightest in the ministry; always draw from the foreign office’s institutional memory that’s comparable with that of the country.

A couple of times his second wife Kavita accompanied him to our frequent rendezvous---the central hall. He was a contended man, having experienced fame, renunciation and power in a short life.

Vinod had immense professional respect for his son, Akshaye Khanna. He rated highly his performance as Harilal Gandhi in the film Gandhi, My Father and in Dil Chahata Hai with Aamir and Saif Ali Khan.

The actor-politician was four-time MP from Gurdaspur since 1998, barring 2009. In 2014, he almost lost the party ticket to a rich businessman patronized by an influential BJP lobby. Wiser counsel prevailed largely because the Gurdaspur electorate would’ve none other than him.

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