New Delhi: Rajesh Khanna, the man synonymous with the word superstar in Hindi cinema in the 1970s with immortals such as ‘Anand’, ‘Kati Patang’ and ‘Aradhana’, died at his Mumbai home Ashirwad on Wednesday after a long battle with kidney problems.
His demise brought back memories of the charmer, lover and hero that he was to his family, fans and well-wishers. For them, his magic will remain forever.
“He has gone to a nice and heavenly place, we are happy about that,” Rajesh’s son-in-law Akshay Kumar, married to his elder daughter Twinkle, said after his death around 10 am.
In his career spanning almost five decades, the actor featured in about 160 films, starting with ‘Aakhri Khat’ in 1966.
Between ‘Aradhana’ in 1969 and ‘Prem Kahani’ in 1975, he enjoyed god-like status. Women would line the road for a glimpse, chant his name, cover his car with lipstick marks and even write him letters in blood.
Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore, who paired in a number of hits with Rajesh Khanna, said no other actor ever had a fan following like the superstar. “He was most certainly the first superstar and with due respect to other actors, nobody created that kind of a craze after him,” Sharmila says.
Melody queen Lata Mangeshkar said she was saddened by Khanna’s death. “Aaj humari filmi duniya ke bohot mashhoor kalakar rajesh khanna ji, humare bich nahi rahe, mujhe bohot dukh hai, main dimple ji, unki betiyaan aur daamad in sab ke dukh me shamil hun, ishwar rajesh khanna ji ki aatma ko shanti pradan kare (Film industry has lost a famous artist today in Rajesh
Khanna. I am deeply saddened by his death. I share the grief of Dimpleji, his daughters and his son-in-law and pray that his soul rests in peace),” Mangeshkar tweeted.
Overcome with emotions after Rajesh Khanna’s death, yesteryear Bollywood star Mumtaz, who acted with him in many hits, said the actor was “very close” to her even though he came across as an introvert to others. Mumtaz said she was “crying the whole morning”, but was happy that she had met the ailing Khanna – ‘Kaka’ to his fans – in Mumbai last month, when the two discussed their respective battles with cancer.
Music contributed immensely to Rajesh Khanna’s stardom and the credit goes to his successful association with singer Kishore Kumar and composer RD Burman. The trio, which churned out evergreen hits like ‘Kuch to log kahenge’ and ‘Ye shaam mastani’, established the golden era of Hindi film music.
Many of the hit songs, in films such as “Aradhana”, “Kati Patang” and “Amar Prem”, were penned by Anand Bakshi.
The songs ‘Roop tera mastana’ and ‘Mere sapno ki rani’ from the film “Aradhana” saw Rajesh and Kishore come together for the first time. RD had to finish the film’s sound track after his father, legendary composer SD Burman, fell ill.
The film also saw the resurgence of Kishore Kumar, who eventually became the official playback voice of Khanna and the actor-singer-composer trio delivered a number of hit songs subsequently.
Later films like “Kati Patang”, “Amar Prem”, “Apna Desh”, “Aap Ki Kasam”, “Namak Haraam”, “Agar Tum Na Hote”, “Awaaz”, “Hum Dono” and “Alag Alag” saw Rajesh, RD and Kishore weave magic together.
‘Yeh Kya Hua’ and ‘Chingari koi bhadke’ from “Amar Prem” is an all time favourite despite it being a melancholy song. ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’ from “Kati Patang”, another masterpiece from the hit trio, let Rajesh display his charismatic charm.
‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’ from “Aap Ki Kasam” was full of oodles of fun, while ‘O Mere Dil Ke Chain’ from “Mere Jeevan Saathi” is probably one of the most romantic songs of all time. ‘Yeh Jo Mohobbat Hai’ from “Kati Patang” is another heart-touching number delivered by the trio of Rajesh, Kishore and RD.
Born as Jatin Khanna on December 29, 1942, Khanna was adopted and raised by foster parents. He began taking interest in acting while in school and performed in a number of plays. It was his uncle who changed Khanna’s first name to Rajesh.
A pall of gloom descended on the film industry with Khanna’s death with artists calling it the end of an era in Bollywood.
Saira Banu, who missed a chance of working with Khanna during his stardom days, said the actor was very humble. “I was supposed to work with him in ‘Choti Bahu’ but I could not because I was ill. I shot with him for two days and found that he was very charming, humble and a shy person. May his soul rest in peace,” Banu said.
His contemporary Manoj Kumar was planning to meet Khanna. “I had called Dimple but she told me not to come as Rajesh Khanna was not in a position to talk…I miss him a lot and I have shared some of the best memories with him.”
Veteran actress Vyjayanthimala said, “His death is a big loss to the industry. It’s my bad luck that I didn’t have the chance to work with him because he came much later. I remember when he came to Chennai for some film shoot the college girls went crazy to catch a glimpse of him when he was going to his studio.”
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan said Khanna’s smile will be missed forever. “To live with intention and walk to the edge. Play with abandon, choose with no regret. Smile and made us do the same. Sir, you defined our era. Whenever life felt tough u made us feel how love could change it all. RIP,” SRK tweeted.
Rajesh Khanna epitomised a range of emotions on the big screen–from melancholy to romance-with a rich bouquet of lilting songs like ‘Zindagi ek safar hai suhana’ and ‘Mere sapno ki raani’ making his movies and characters immortal.
Bollywood’s first superstar, the 69-year-old actor’s mannerism, his unique style of dancing, dialogue delivery, disarming smile and the signature nod of his head added to his onscreen persona that made many a young woman’s heart skip a beat.
Despite his heartthrob status as a romantic hero, Khanna essayed a variety of roles–the terminally ill Anand in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, a romantic airforce officer in “Aradhana”, a chef in “Bawarchi”, a lonely husband in “Amar Prem” and a poor medical student in “Safar”.
Khanna also had a brush with politics after he stopped acting from early nineties. He won the Lok Sabha seat from New Delhi constituency in the 1991 elections.