On Vinod Khanna’s 3rd death anniversary, a look at how joining Osho became the most defining moment of his life
Vinod Khanna’s life can easily be divided into two even halves - life before Osho and one after. On his third death anniversary, a look at how Osho’s philosophy was to become the central light in the actor’s life.Updated: Apr 27, 2020, 14:04 IST
On April 27, 2017 when Vinod Khanna died in a Mumbai hospital, Indian cinema lost one of its most handsome and successful stars. Vinod was unlike any other in the Indian film firmament - a star who quit it all at the height of success only to return five years later to reclaim much of what had been lost. As a successful actor, handsome star, with a successful career in politics later on, Vinod had it all but nothing defined his life the way his association with Osho would. On his 3rd death anniversary, here’s a look at how can be such a big part of his life.
Vinod as born in Peshawar in 1946 in undivided India. A year later, when Partition happened, his family comprising his parents, three sisters and a brother moved to Bombay (now Mumbai). His younger days - school and college - were spent in Mumbai, Delhi and Deolali, near Nashik in Maharashtra. Though Vinod made his film debut in 1968 with Sunil Dutt in Man Ka Meet, his heart truly was in cricket. He loved the game and played a fair bit of it while in Bombay. “The public may think I am just another filmstar but there was a time when I played fair cricket with (test player) Budhi Kunderan. Later, I played with Eknath Solkar at the Hindu Gym. I used to bat at No 4 but settled for films the moment I realised I couldn’t be Vishwanath! Even so cricket not films, is my first love,” he had written in The Illustrated Weekly of India in 1979.
Yet films would be where he would earn name, fame and money. In the 70s era, he was one of the highest earning stars alogwith Amitabh Bachchan. Starting off playing the roles of villains, Vinod soon graduate to playing hero. Between the late 70s and early 80s, he had starred in a string of successful films such as Kuchhe Dhaage, Gaddaar, Imtihaan, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Inkaar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Rajput, The Burning Train, Qurbani, Kudrat, Parvarish and Khoon Pasina.
In his personal life too, life couldn’t have been better - he married his college sweetheart, Gitanjali Taleyarkhan and a proud parent to two boys - Rahul and Akshaye - both of whom would go on to become actors. Life couldn’t have been better and yet, in early 1980s he quit it all and moved into Rajneeshpuram with his spiritual guru Rajneesh. He had become his disciple in 1975. The developments shocked India.
Speaking about it, his younger son Akshaye in an interview to Mid Day had said how he was only about five or six years old when his father left them. At that time, it meant nothing to him. It was only when Akshaye turned 15 or 16 that he began to learn and listen about the man who influenced his father so much that he was willing to renunciate life and take ‘sanyaas’. Akshaye said, “To not only leave his family, but to take ‘sanyaas’ (renunciation). Sanyaas means giving up your life in totality — family is [only] a part of it. It’s a life-changing decision, which he felt that he needed to take at the time. As a five-year-old, it was impossible [for me] to understand it. I can understand it now.”
It is indeed life coming a full circle when one’s child, most impacted by one’s decisions, turns empathetic. Akshaye went on to explain how he now understood what his father must have felt. “In the sense that something must have moved him so deeply inside, that he felt that that kind of decision was worth it for him. Especially, when you have everything in life. And when life doesn’t look as though there’s much more that you can have.”
“A very basic fault-line/ earthquake has to occur within oneself to make that decision. But also stick by it. One can make the decision and say this doesn’t suit me — let’s go back. But that didn’t happen.”
Akshaye explained how Vinod’s renunciation was complete and had it not been for the unfortunate developments vis-a-vis Rajneeshpuram and the US government then, Vinod would never have come back. “And circumstances in America with Osho and the colony, friction with the US government — that was the reason he came back.”
There were constant murmurs that Vinod was disillusioned; Akshaye thought the contrary. He added, “From whatever memories I have about my father talking about that time in his life, I don’t think that was a reason at all. It was just the fact that the commune was disbanded, destroyed, and everybody had to find their own way. That’s when he came back. Otherwise I don’t think he would’ve ever come back.”
By the time Vinod returned to India, he and Gitanjali had divorced. He went back to working in Bollywood, working in films like Dayavan. Vinod married again, this time to Kavita Daftary, daughter of industrialist Sharayu Daftary and had two more children. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and won four Lok Sabha elections from Gurdaspur and remains the most successful Bollywood star in politics. He successfully launched his son Akshaye’s film career too. All his life, Osho’s philosophy remained central to his existence.
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