The other day, in response to my q-and-a session with Sharmila Tagore, I got an email from an irate reader who was upset that the actress had not mentioned Rajesh Khanna even once in the course of the talkathon.. this despite the fact that Kaka and she were once a superhit jodi who had given several jubilee hits like Aradhana, Amar Prem and Daag. I was told that to make amends I should try and get an interview with the ‘Phenomenon’ of the swinging ’70s..
Believe me, I tried.. I really did. Kaka with his guru kurtas, slanting smiles and playful babumoshais has given me moments of pure anand too. So several years later, when I became a journalist, I volunteered to bell the one-time box office king in his den.
It’ll never happen, I was told by skeptical seniors. One of them, a die-hard Rajesh Khanna loyalist, had pursued him relentlessly for months. The fast fading superstar always had an excuse.. he was going out of town. My colleague refused to give up the chase.
Finally, frustrated by the endless wait, she landed up at his bungalow, Ashirwad. Saab, was in. Smiling, she walked into a crowded living room that resembled a waiting room in a railway station. There was several others, like her, she quickly realised, who were hoping for a darshan.
After about an hour, Kaka walked in. She immediately jumped up and dashed to introduce herself, suggesting that since he as back in town, they could do the interview, then and there.
The actor flashed her his trademark smile and continued towards the door. When they reached it he told her, “Rajesh Khanna is going out of town again”.. and zoomed off. She surrendered!
I wasn’t deterred by such movie lores. For three weeks, I called him every day. He responded to my first call by acknowledging pleasantly that he was Rajesh Khanna and yes, we could meet in a day or two.
The days passed.. the promised meeting didn’t happen. Kaka was always zipping “in” and “out” of town. Same old story, my colleague tut-tutted. I wasn’t disheartened. At least we remained connected. In the third week, the connection broke. It was the same voice but now he refused to acknowledge that he was Rajesh Khanna. “Saab bahargaon gaye hain,” I was told. I acknowledged defeat.
Walk of honour
I switched jobs. The film magazine I was working with was hosting the annual awards. We had embarked on a journey through Hindi cinema post 1947. Each decade was represented by its superstars who had agreed to take the walk of honour to the tunes of their famous hits.
For Kaka we had Jai jai shiv shankar in mind. He promised to be there.. in a dhoti-kurta.
D-day dawned. One by one, matinee idols from down the decades took centrestage. Only Rajesh Khanna was
The next day, he apologised saying he had been on his way when a mishap occurred and he went back home.. another dead end.
Today, on my way to work, I was driving down Bandra’s Linking Road when my eyes fell on a building that housed Tanishq Jewellers. I’m told the top two floors are Kaka’s abode now. I looked up and hoped that one day I would be invited there for the elusive interview. And this time Rajesh Khanna would be “in”.