For ’70s Bollywood audiences, Rajesh Khanna was the ultimate romantic hero. Oscar-winning fashion designer Bhanu Athaiya points out how women of all ages swooned over him, while men aped his style.
“There was a freshness about him that made him different from the other actors of that time. Even today, his style doesn’t appear dated,” says Athaiya.
Designer Manish Malhotra agrees with Bhanu, calling Khanna Hindi cinema’s most copied superstar. “Since every woman in the country was in love with him, guys believed that if they styled themselves after him, it would make them feel like heroes, and help them woo their
sapno ki ranis
(dream girls),” he says.
Manish fondly remembers Khanna’s monotone “blue look” from Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, the hit song from Aap Ki Kasam (1974). “He made monotone, colour-coordinated slim trousers and kurta shirts a much-aped style statement in the ’70s,” says Manish, adding that slim pants are back in vogue, paired with loafers worn without socks.
The guru kurta-shirts, says Manish, will always be associated with Khanna, along with waistcoats and slinky belts. “With Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana (from the 1971 film Andaz), he made scarves and sunglasses fashionable,” says Manish. Bhanu remembers how he would tie a scarf around his neck, knotted on the left.
The Phenomenon is gone… But his style remains!