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Rajesh Khanna


Dinesh Raheja

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Remembering the time when he was a newcomer while Rajesh Khanna was a phenomenon, Amitabh Bachchan once said: 'I got famous purely because I was working with Rajesh Khanna in Anand. People asked me questions like, 'How is he to look at? What does he do?' '

It is certainly magnanimous of one superstar to speak in such glowing terms of another who was once his chief adversary at the box-office. While there is no denying the apparent modesty peeking through Bachchan's praise, he is not far from the mark in encapsulating the Khanna phenomenon.

The sheer fan following Rajesh Khanna whipped up while riding astride romantic hits like Aradhana, Kati Patang, Dushman, was truly unprecedented.

The pasha of passion had only to park his car for a short while to find it smothered with lipsticked kisses on his return. Sackfuls of love letters written in blood made their way to Dimple, his bungalow at Carter Road, Bandra (a Mumbai suburb). Veteran actress Nadira, who costarred with him in Safar, vividly recalls the premiere of the film held at Mumbai's plush Apsara cinema: 'A sea of humanity lined up on either side of the road. And when Kaka [Rajesh Khanna] got out of his car, there was a deafening roar as they called out 'Rajesh Khanna' in unison.'

But the beginnings of the pimple faced, medium-height-and-build man were a far cry from his superstar days. Rajesh, who real name is Jatin, came from a well-to-do family and was intense about acting, whether on stage or in films.

Rajesh Khanna's Famous Songs
Song Film Singer
 Mere sapno
 ki rani
 Post Box
 Aradhana
 Hemant Kumar,
 Kishore Kumar
 Zindagi ka
 safar
 Safar  Kishore Kumar
 Yeh shaam
 mastani
 Kati Patang  Kishore Kumar
 Achha toh
 hum chalte
 hain
 Aan Milo
 Sajna
 Kishore Kumar,  Lata Mangeshkar
 Zindagi kaisi
 hai paheli
 Anand  Manna Dey
 Zindagi ek
 safar hai
 Andaaz  Kishore Kumar
 Chal chal
 mere saathi
 Haathi Mere
 Saathi
 Kishore Kumar
 Vaada tera
 vaada
 Dushman  Mukesh,
 Kishore Kumar
 Chingari koi
 bhadke
 Amar Prem  Kishore Kumar
 O mere dil
 ke chayen
 Mere Jeevan  Saathi  Kishore Kumar
 Zindagi ke
 safar mein
 Aap Ki  Kasam  Kishore Kumar
 Mere naina
 sawan bhadon
 Mehbooba  Kishore Kumar
 Hazaar rahein  Thodisi
 Bewafai
 Kishore Kumar
 Humme tumse  pyar kitna  Kudrat  Kishore Kumar
 Shayad meri
 shaadi
 Souten  Kishore Kumar,  Lata Mangeshkar

Four years and four indifferent films (Aakhri Khat, Baharon Ke Sapne, Raaz, Aurat) later, the Khanna wave burst through filmdom like an unleashed tornado. Aradhana (1969) and Do Raaste (1969), released within a month of each other and went on to become golden jubilee blockbusters.

As the charm-laden pilot of Aradhana (Khanna in a double role as Sharmila Tagore's lover and son), and the bestubbled unemployed youth in Do Raaste, he became an overnight icon.

Thereafter, Khanna's hits seemed to flow for the next few years, while he clocked two back-to-back Best Actor Awards for Sachha Jhootha and, more deservedly, for playing the heartbreakingly cheerful, doomed man in Anand. For a short but memorable epoch, it seemed the whole nation was taken up with his charismatic smile and those winking-eyed mannerisms.

Cashing in on the romantic windfall, Khanna formed famous love teams with Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz (incidentally, Khanna has done the maximum films, eleven, with Hema Malini). While his pairing with Sharmila proved artistically satisfying (Aradhana, Amar Prem, Safar, Aavishkar), he hit the box-office bull's eye when paired with the live wire Mumtaz (Sachha Jhootha, Roti, Aap Ki Kasam).

The superstar even swept the nation's hottest newcomer, Bobby girl Dimple Kapadia off her feet and married her in March 1973. The marriage unleashed an enormous amount of speculation and kept Khanna in the headlines.

While making films, Khanna teamed up often with his Aradhana director Shakti Samanta. After Kati Patang (a musical about a woman posing as a widow), and Amar Prem (a poignant look at the tantalisingly unconventional relationship between a courtesan and her customer), their films like Ajnabee, Mehbooba and Anurodh were subject to the law of diminishing returns.

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Khanna made memorable films with some of the biggest filmmakers: Manmohan Desai (Sachha Jhootha, Roti), J Om Prakash (Aan Milo Sajna), and Yash Chopra (Ittefaq, where he played the unshaven convict forced to take refuge with an adulterous woman and Daag, where he essayed the role of a twice-married man haunted by his past).

He did some of his best work in the middle-of-the-road cinema of Hrishikesh Mukherjee --- Anand, Bawarchi and Namak Haram, where he was the voice and conscience of the underdog.

Unfortunately, Khanna's ego kept pace with his widening girth. When the flops started making their appearance, filmmakers began to shy away. In 1972, Rajesh had a string of seven disappointments, but he surmounted them with crowd-pleasers like Daag, Prem Nagar and Roti in the next two years.

However, in the mid-seventies, his career hit a deep trough. Khanna favourites like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Yash Chopra and Shakti Samanta shifted sights to the angry young man Amitabh with Mili, Deewar and The Great Gambler respectively. Suddenly, Amitabh, who had played second fiddle to Khanna in both Anand and Namak Haram, was a force to reckon with.

Rajesh Khanna's Landmark Films
 Year  Film  Heroine
 1969  Aradhana  Sharmila Tagore
 1969  Do Raaste  Mumtaz
 1970  Sachha Jhootha  Mumtaz
 1970  Safar  Sharmila Tagore
 1971  Kati Patang  Asha Parekh
 1971  Anand   --
 1971  Haathi Mere   Saathi  Tanuja
 1972  Dushman  Mumtaz
 1972  Amar Prem  Sharmila Tagore
 1972  Apna Desh  Mumtaz
 1973  Daag  Sharmila Tagore
 1974  Prem Nagar  Hema Malini
 1980  Thodisi Bewafai  Shabana Azmi
 1983  Avtaar  Shabana Azmi
 1983  Souten  Tina Munim, Padmini  Kolhapure

A sporting Khanna later stated that he had read the writing on the wall much before Deewar. He says, 'When I saw Namak Haram at a trial show, I knew my time was up. I told Hrishida, 'Here is the superstar of tomorrow'.'

The late seventies were an arid patch in Khanna's career with even major films like Mehbooba, Karm, Bandalbaaz and Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka failing to match upto his earlier blockbusters.

Amardeep (1979) and Thodisi Bewafai (1980) brought about a shortlived reprieve for Khanna, but his much-anticipated comeback finally morphed into reality in 1983 with Avtaar and Souten. Khanna scored in two diametrically different roles --- the stiff-backed patriarch in Avtaar won him acting kudos while his pairing with Tina Munim in Chai pe bulaya hai gave his romantic image a much-needed boost.

The vindication took its own time in appearing but Khanna conclusively proved that the audience still adored him.

Khanna had 11 films released in 1984; but with age catching up, his career was obviously drawing to a close. Whether it was his separation from wife Dimple or his adventure in politics, Khanna remained in the limelight.

Years later, he made his appearance again as a character actor in Aa Ab Laut Chalein and Kya Dil Ne Kaha.

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